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Ramen Burger To Be Sold at Brooklyn’s Dassara For One Month

Ramen Burger To Be Sold at Brooklyn’s Dassara For One Month

Keizo Shimamoto has collaborated with the ramen spot to feature his brainchild burger

Keizo Shimamoto's famous ramen burger will be available at Dassara Ramen for one month.

The highly-coveted ramen burger touched down in San Diego and Los Angeles last week, and now it will make its way to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, but only for a limited time.

Ramen burger mastermind Keizo Shimamoto of Smorgasburg, where the burger first went on sale a few weeks ago, is teaming up with Dassara Ramen for one month to feature the novelty burger, according to Eater.

Last month, Dassara celebrated their 1-year old birthday by creating their own take onf a ramen burger, with Shimamoto’s blessing. According to Dassara’s Facebook page, the ramen-ya created a Bootleg Black Label Burger (inspired by the famous one sold at the Minetta Tavern) with shortrib, brisket, and caramelized onions smothered in a white Cabot cheddar and secret sauce, wedged between two ramen buns.

This is not the first time that Dassara is collaborating with a well-known chef. Last month, the resto restaurant collaborated with Angelo Romano of The Pines to create a specialty ramen with fermented turnip, pickle milkweed, smoked guanciale, and quail egg in a green tea-dashi.


Farewell, Smith Street: In Memoriam of Brooklyn’s Restaurant Row

F or Brooklynites of a certain age who have watched approvingly as Brooklyn has taken its first steps from infancy to full-blown gentrification, the last few weeks have been nothing short of a waking nightmare.

The Grocery, the most iconic of the restaurants along Smith Street, aka Restaurant Row, was closing. A farewell note was affixed to the window:

“It’s been a great run,” the note began, “but The Grocery’s final dinner service will be Saturday, June 27.” (The owners did not return Commercial Observer’s calls by press time, and emails bounced back.)

The Grocery arrived at 288 Smith Street in the 1990s when the strip was still rundown and dumpy (the prison on Atlantic Avenue didn’t help) but this artisanal, 30-seat eatery run by husband-and-wife alums of Savoy and Gotham Bar & Grill established a beachhead. Somehow, The Grocery elbowed its way to the seventh-highest ranked restaurant in New York City in the 2004 Zagat’s guide after only Le Bernadin, Daniel, Peter Luger, Nobu, Bouley and Jean Georges. In the next few years, restaurants galore started sprouting in the nearby soil of Smith Street running from Downtown Brooklyn through Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. No other block in Brooklyn, save, perhaps, Fifth Avenue in Park Slope or Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, seemed a better symbol of the borough’s desirability—and The Grocery was its progenitor.

Now it’s gone. Mostly. Charles Kiely and Sharon Pachter said in their farewell note that after the summer they will be hosting private events in the space.

If that slug to the gut didn’t stun, the next bit of information certainly did: Char No. 4 was closing shop as well.

In its own way, this was an even greater shock. Char No. 4 at 196 Smith Street was a little more in tune with the spirit of hipster Brooklyn by 2015. New York magazine’s critic Adam Platt gushed over its bourbon menu and named it one of the 101 best restaurants in the city in 2012. (He left The Grocery off that list altogether.) Diners raved about its brunch and lamb pastrami. Waits were oftentimes an hour for a table.

Char No. 4 had its final service on Sunday.

Looking around Smith Street now, it’s a shadow of its former self.

Burger on Smith at 209 Smith Street is closed. (Prospective tenants should call Glenn Vogel from Thor Equities, whose contact info is papered in the windows.) The Irish pub Ceol at 191 Smith Street is now closed. Savoia at 277 Smith Street is closed.

Even places that didn’t necessarily die at the hand of a rent hike or low foot traffic or a building sale or whatever else causes a business to fail, left for a better situation, like Saul, the Michelin-starred restaurant at 140 Smith Street, which pulled up stakes for a new home at the Brooklyn Museum back in 2013.

Of course, it’s not only restaurants that have given Smith Street the air of a graveyard—other food businesses have closed, too. The Nut Box, a dry goods store, which offers gourmet coffee, marzipan and dried fruit (oh, yeah, and nuts), just opened a branch on Broadway between West 104th and West 105th Streets in Manhattan about a month ago, and has another location at Chelsea Market, but it closed its 163 Smith Street location last year. (Its signage is still up.) The Met supermarket is being demolished to make way for bigger, splashier, more expensive two-story retail. According to The Real Deal, Jackson Group, Aurora Capital and ACHS Management bought the site at 205 Smith Street for $18.5 million last year.

There are several things occurring at once. Certainly, a good part of it has to do with rising rents.

According to Ofer Cohen, the president of TerraCRG, rents on Smith Street have climbed to the $90- to $130-per-square-foot range.

Rent “more than doubled since we first opened in 2004,” said Lexy Funk, the chief executive officer and founder of Brooklyn Industries, the apparel shop at the corner of Smith Street and Atlantic Avenue, who lived above her Smith Street location for a number of years before moving to the Rockaways. “It’s been such a rapid expansion of rent, it becomes very difficult” to keep up, Ms. Funk said.

Doubling the rent is apparently not even that bad. “What you have is restaurateurs would take a 10-year lease…and now that the lease is [expired], they have to pay triple, not double the rent,” Mr. Cohen said.

“If you are a sushi place and you can move three blocks further out and pay 50 percent less in rent and be close enough [to where you were], you’re going to move further down,” Mr. Cohen continued.

But it’s not simply rising rents that are killing the establishments of yore. In the last few years Smith Street became a destination for national brands. Retailers like Lucky Brand opened at 135 Smith Street Intermix took the space abandoned by Saul at 140 Smith Street. The luxury eyeglass store Anne & Valentin has outlets in Paris, Soho and at 200 Smith Street. The next phase of gentrification (the national brands starting their invasion) is apparently upon us.

“Today, more people are signing apparel deals—it’s lululemons,” said Ryan Condren, a managing director of retail leasing for CPEX. “It’s not as many bars and restaurants. …It’s more retail than restaurant.”

Which is not to say that no restaurants are coming, or there won’t be some sort of afterlife for Restaurant Row.

“You have restaurants that are currently in Williamsburg at double the [rent] of what Smith is” that are looking at Smith Street, said Joey Terzi of TerraCRG. “A lot of those guys are looking into Park Slope and Cobble Hill because Smith is similar to Bedford [Avenue in Williamsburg] in [its] footprints.”

To be sure, there are still interesting dining options on Smith Smith—from ramen joints like Dassara, to fine dining like Battersby, to old-school Italian restaurants like Vinny’s, to celeb chef outposts like David Chang’s Milk Bar. But the other part of the story is that Smith Street has become a victim of its own success it is suffering from an oversaturation in restaurants.

“I think there’s far more competition than there used to be when we first opened,” said Sean Josephs, one of the co-owners of Char No. 4. “The Brooklyn dining scene has expanded so much—and to other parts of Brooklyn, from the area around Barclays, to Downtown Brooklyn, to Fort Greene to Bushwick.”

Back in 2012, Char No. 4’s business was going gangbusters. But starting in 2013, Mr. Josephs said there has been a slow but steady decline.

“We were the same restaurant,” Mr. Josephs said, “but we became less consistently busy. I think the demographics have changed a lot—a lot of people who were here were pushed out not by higher commercial rent but by higher residential rent.” The Met supermarket across the street “generated a lot of foot traffic” from locals, he noted. And while Char No. 4 got its share of destination diners, locals were the backbone of his business. With many more options (and a much higher income) locals didn’t feel the need to eat at his restaurant as much.

Another nail in Smith Street’s coffin has been how much more desirable Court Street, a block away, has become—for both restaurateurs and retailers.

“It’s tough for [clothing store] Rag and Bone to be on Smith” given the smaller available floor plates, said Mr. Terzi. “That’s why they’re on Court. A J. Crew is going to Court. Jacadi Paris is going to Court—and they’re paying $150 per foot.” Apparently, they’re willing to suffer higher rents to be on the more desirable block.

“Barneys [at 194 Atlantic Avenue, just off of Court Street] became such an anchor [for the neighborhood’s retail] and Trader Joe’s [at 130 Court Street] became an anchor” for other stores, Mr. Cohen said. “It took a few years, but if you’re a high-end boutique you want to be near Court Street.”

Mr. Josephs largely agreed.

“Five years ago if Chipotle wanted to come into this neighborhood they would go to Smith,” said Mr. Josephs. “Now they’re on Court near Trader Joe’s. Five Guys, same thing. I think that represents a shift.”

Mr. Josephs reported that most of his customers were stunned to learn that he was closing his place. Since the announcement his dining room has been packed with his best customers, who were reminiscing on the good of times for Char No. 4.

To a certain extent, this story of rise and fall is the same for most New York City corridors. Smith Street will doubtless take on another incarnation in the future. But to the establishments that gave this street its mojo and that seemed to personify so much of the Brooklyn renaissance, one has to shed a tear. We’d raise a glass of whiskey to their memory but Char No. 4 is no more. To try one of Mr. Josephs’ selections, you will now have to go to Maysville—his bourbon-focused restaurant in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. That area is doing very well.


Marilyn Hagerty tries ramen burger, other food trends

“You just wonder, who would ever think of a ramen burger?” she told TODAY.com after taking a taste. “It is a good combination of flavors with the ramen flavor and the burger… a very clever way to serve a burger. It does hold up well … it’s a tiny bit oily, you need the napkin, but I think it’s got to be the way it is to taste as good as it does. It would be something that would make it for me at lunchtime or maybe in the middle of the afternoon when you’re just about ready to eat something, at 4 o’clock.”

Unfortunately, she’d be out of luck by 4 p.m.

People start lining up at 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays for a chance to get just one ramen burger, which Shimamoto, who is of Japanese descent and grew up in Los Angeles, says is made with fresh ramen from Sun Noodle in New Jersey.

“I’ve been surprised by how excited, curious and interested people are about this — their anticipation is really cool,” said Michael Fox, who is producing a documentary short about the fervor around the ramen burger for Edit Beach, his video production company. “It’s weird — people have decided they want this and they’re resigned to waiting — they have a fear of missing out so they make sure to get there early.”

To assure that people aren't standing in line on blind faith alone, Shimamoto and crew count up how many patrons they'll likely be able to feed, and give the final person a sign pointing out they are the lucky last customer. Even so, they always sell out, so several hopefuls go home empty handed.

The fanfare is encouraging for Shimamoto, who quit his job as a computer programmer and moved to Japan to study ramen for four years.

“Basically, I’ve loved ramen since I was a kid,” he said. “I’ve been eating it my whole life … I just wanted a [career] change. I wanted something new and interesting, so I decided to just quit my job and go study it. I took a trip around Japan and in 28 days, I ate 55 bowls of ramen and visited 21 different cities, and every one had a regionally different style so that really interested me and I wanted to learn more about it.”

Shimamoto came across something similar to the ramen burger in Japan and fell in love with the creation, which perfectly combines his Japanese and American cultures. He wanted to improve upon it and bring it to the U.S. — making the bun stay together and using a beef patty instead of pork.

Hagerty told TODAY.com that she hopes the ramen burger will make its way to the Midwest. While that may not happen anytime soon, Shimamoto does have dreams of expansion.

“As long as we can get production up, we’d like to do other markets and collaborate with other restaurants,” he said. “And possibly, in the future, open up a restaurant of our own, I’d like to open a restaurant on both coasts.”


NYC’s Best Burgers from the Top Burger Lists

Think you’ve had the best burger in New York already? Think again! With so many new restaurants—and so many opinions—there’s always a new list featuring the top burgers in every borough. It’s a lot to sift through, so we’ve simplified the burger search process. Now you can spend less time reading, and more time eating.

Between the 10 burger roundups listed below, there are over 100 recommendations to choose from. We decided to make your quest to find the ultimate New York burger easier by taking both a qualitative (picking one burger from each of the lists, to represent CHOW’s top 10 burgers in New York) and a quantitative (tallying the number of times each burger is mentioned on one of the 10 lists, as shown in the infographic above) approach.

CHOW Pick: MINETTA TAVERN The rumors are true: The obscenely expensive burger ($28) at Manhattan’s Minetta Tavern is as good as you’ve heard. I didn’t believe it until I’d tried it, but the juiciness and velvety Pat LaFrieda beef is the stuff meat dreams are made of.

CHOW Pick: JOSEPH LEONARD Joseph Leonard: A juicy burger with tomato marmalade, ricotta, and a grilled brioche bun tastes just right at this cute West Village restaurant.

CHOW Pick: THE DRAM SHOP Head to Brooklyn for one of the best “elevated fast-food” burgers: The Dram Shop in Park Slope lets you decide between one or two thin patties with ample condiments and amazing fries. For an extra-special treat order one of the side sauces: chipotle mayo, garlic aioli, ranch, or bbq.

CHOW Pick: THE SPOTTED PIG April Bloomfield’s Roquefort burger at the Spotted Pig is truly decadent. Served with shoestring fries, the chargrilled cheeseburger is made from a special blend of Pat LaFrieda’s best, and if you eat at least a half of one you should consider it a personal victory—it’s that rich.

CHOW Pick: MILE END DELI The smoked meat burger at Mile End Deli (now with two locations in Boerum Hill and NoHo) is something special. Not quite a burger, not quite a pile of smoked meat, Mile End’s burger is ground from their own house-smoked meat, and with the addition of a fried egg it’s unbeatable.

Check it out on Tuesday’s Burger Night: burger with choice of fries or small poutine (for those of you unfamiliar with this Canadian delicacy, it consists of fries, cheese curds, and roasted chicken gravy) with a Labatt for only $19!

CHOW Pick: WHITEHALL — CLOSED Whitehall’s generously sized Angus brisket patty is enough to bring burger fanatics to this British pub, but it’s their house-made toppings (poppy-seed brioche bun, red-wine-vinegar-pickled beet root, and caramelized onions) that really make it worthy of our best burgers list. Oh, did I mention that there’s also an over-easy egg slipped into the mix? Sold.

CHOW Pick: BURGER JOINT At this classic spot (behind the red velvet curtain at Le Parker Meridien), the retro booths are always packed and the fries are fantastic. Be prepared to wait in line at peak times.

CHOW Pick: THE DUTCH The Orwasher’s bun is what distinguishes this hefty burger with special sauce at the Dutch, in SoHo. The spicy pickle is a nice touch (not available at dinner).

CHOW Pick: SHAKE SHACK I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t include Shake Shack’s Shack Burger on the list. Although there are numerous Shake Shacks all over the East Coast now and even one in Dubai, the chain’s simple, classic cheeseburger is an old friend. Black Angus beef with a just-squishy-enough potato bun and American cheese go great with “Shack Sauce” no matter what time of day it is.

A favorite of the post-college Manhattan frat scene on the Upper East Side, J.G. Melon’s cheeseburger is a consistently reliable pick.

This post was updated on November 30, 2017 to reflect Whitehall’s closure.


The NYC ramen revolution

Ramen is, in a way, the new sushi. Just like its rice-wrapped sister, ramen is reveling in its growing popularity, developing its creative side and morphing into something new and updated.

Beyond Keizo Shimamoto’s ramen burger, which is the hours-long line foodie hit of the moment, restaurants like Yuki Ramen are turning out amped-up, often seasonally appropriate dishes.

Helmed by inventive and forward-thinking chefs, the new ramens range from Yuji’s Mazeman ramen — noodles served without broth — to Ganso’s “Summer” ramen, with cold noodles and toppings like avocado, arugula, summer corn and sesame-miso vinaigrette.

Yuji Haraguchi, the mastermind behind Yuji Ramen, a pop-up that originally opened in 2012 and is currently housed in the Bowery Whole Foods, says his newfangled, broth-free dish, and the shift toward adventurous ramen, is practical as well as enlightened.

“First of all ? hot soup with noodles, it’s very difficult to eat,” he said.

And his seafood-focused daily Omakase menu is locavore focused, another dining trend that’s catching on with foods not just American in origin.

“Ramen is generally all about using the same ingredients every single day, whether its pork or chicken. I wanted to change that … and make it local, about what’s special today.”

Haraguchi wants to “push the boundary,” and make traditional Japanese cooking palatable and accessible to American diners, all while impressing the New York City crowd.

“Sushi in America is very unique because of the styles people created here, that we don’t have in Japan,” he said. “It’s very difficult to find something new in New York City because people are doing everything. This is the hardest city to be the first one.”

Haraguchi isn’t alone. Chefs at Dassara and Zen 6 share his passion for imaginative takes on ramen. Dishes like Dassara’s matzo ball ramen and American-Japanese “pub-style” bowls with kimchee and clams at Zutto are also pushing the envelope, taking ramen to higher levels still.


Spicy Korean Kimchi Ramen

Done in under 45 minutes, this quick and easy Spicy Korean Kimchi Ramen with pork belly, poached egg, and scallion is beyond legit!

Ramen has exploded here in NY. For the past year or two, the ramen scene in the city has been growing at a crazy awesome rate. Ramen masters from Japan have been setting up shop all over, and you better believe we have been taking full advantage of it. Asheley literally can’t get enough of the stuff. Even during a heat wave (when hot, steamy soup is the last thing on a normal person’s mind), Asheley craves ramen.

But who can blame her… the stuff is freaking magic. And if you are thinking this real deal ramen is anything like those sad $.20 packets you survived on during your college years, think again. They are nothing alike.

Traveling into the city has been pretty rare lately… you know, with the whole having a 3 month old and everything. Although Olivia has been to Brooklyn twice so far for some food (or, more accurately, watching mommy and daddy eat food), she has yet to experience her first bowl of ramen-watching. This obviously needs to change.

And in the meantime, I decided to step up and try to make Asheley a big ole’ bowl of comforting ramen at home. With a spin, of course.

I’ve been really loving Korean flavors lately, and there was some kimchi in the fridge that was staring me down for several weeks now. Boom. This quick and easy Spicy Korean Kimchi Ramen was born.

You know when someone says something is spicy, and then you’re like… uhm, yea not at all. This is not one of those times. This is SPICY. In the best way possible. It’s not going to burn your face off (it’s a flavorful spicy), but it gives me a runny nose every time… truly spicy food always makes my nose run for some reason.

One of my favorite spicy bowls of ramen has to be Ivan Ramen’s Red Chili Pork Ramen. It’s so flavorful, so intense, so perfect. And although the flavor profile for this creative ramen is completely different thanks to the help of some key players in the Korean flavor department, it’s just as comforting when you’re stuck at home and need to get your spicy ramen fix.

Best of all, this ramen comes together in under 45 minutes. That’s right… just 45 minutes stands between you and this quick and easy Spicy Korean Kimchi Ramen. That’s a whole lot better than the typical multi-day process with a bajillion steps it takes to create the authentic, real deal ramen.

What’s better than slurping up noodles out of a spicy Korean kimchi broth… studded with pork belly, scallions, and of course… a velvety, perfectly poached egg. Heck to the yes.


GO RAMEN!®

A week ago I had a dream that my mom would be able to try a Ramen Burger™, not an imposter but a REAL Ramen Burger™, the same one I debuted at Smorgasburg five weeks ago. Today that dream will come true. But not only will my mom be able to eat one, my fellow Angelinos who come early will also get to try one.

So get ready California. Get ready Los Angeles. 500 hundred Ramen Burger's (and maybe some more) will be first come first serve for $8 beginning at 11am this Saturday (9/7).

Where?? At Mitsuwa Market in Torrance. 21515 S. Western Ave., Torrance,CA 90501

And to my fellow Brooklynites, don't worry we'll still be at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg this Saturday too.

Ramen Burger™!! On both coasts. What's next? Global??

12 comments:

I think you should come to Chicago next cuz we always get left behind. :P


Ramen Burger less of a sensation at L.A. County Fair

Ramen Burger draws long lines at food events in Los Angeles and New York where foodies rave about the taste, and novelty, of an Angus beef patty between Japanese noodles formed into a bun.

The chain sells them on a daily basis at only two places in Southern California: a stand in L.A.’s hip Koreatown neighborhood and a tent at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona.

What’s hot among hipsters in L.A. and Brooklyn may not translate so well to a county fair environment. One week into the Fair, and one day after Ramen Burger got a boost on Conan O𠆛rien’s show, the stand had no line.

“It’s a lot slower than we’re used to,” acknowledged manager Basil Banks during dinnertime on Friday. “The line at 626 Market is around the block.”

Well, you don’t see a lot of porkpie hats and waxed mustaches in the 909. There was one person ahead of me at the window, and she took her burger to go. (She did not place it in a vintage lunchbox doubling as a purse.)

I paid for a burger, the $10 original ($10.90 with tax), and enjoyed it at a nearby picnic table. It was 15 minutes before someone else ordered.

Last month I was both excited and proud to learn from LA Weekly that Ramen Burger was coming to the Fair about the same time the first L.A. restaurant was opening. Not only does it save us a trip west, its presence here increases our coolness factor.

At a media preview event two days before the Fair opened, Ramen Burger was handing out sample-sized burgers with toothpicks in them. I had one sample and went back for a second, enticed by the unusual combination of flavors: not just the burger and bun but the soy-based Shoyu sauce, arugula and green onions.

Jeff Shimamoto was overseeing the table. His brother, Keizo, created the burger. A computer programmer, Keizo moved to Japan to study ramen, then started a blog, GoRamen.com, while experimenting with ways to get ramen to stay together in a bun shape.

He debuted his ramen burger in August 2013 at a Brooklyn flea market, where it sold out and launched a viral sensation akin to the croissant-donut mashup the cronut. Time magazine named the ramen burger one of the � Most Influential Burgers of All Time.”

Ramen Burger has three locations in Brooklyn and has been sold in Southern California at such foodie events as 626 Market in the San Gabriel Valley and DTLA Night Market and Ktown Night Market in L.A.

“They’re always the most popular vendor at any event they’re at,” said Kristie Hang, a food writer who follows the brand avidly.

Jeff Shimamoto said his brother, who grew up in Huntington Beach, may return one day he’s newly married and has a baby.

“There’s a huge demand for it in L.A. I want to get the groundwork laid for him here,” said Jeff, a hedge fund attorney. He’s also busy fending off copycats like the ramen burger from the L&L Hawaiian chain, which has a location in La Verne.

On Aug. 1 he soft-opened Ramen Burger’s sole non-Brooklyn location, a walkup window at 239 S. Vermont Ave. in L.A.

Keizo Shimamoto was on 𠇌onan” last Thursday, the night before the grand opening, and the two participated in a cooking segment.

�sically, what you’ve done is combine two of the greatest things in the world: ground hamburger meat, which is fried, and ramen noodles,” O𠆛rien declared.

Sherry Flores, the food and beverage manager for Fairplex, saw the Ramen Burger stand at a market event in L.A., got in line for one and the next day contacted Jeff Shimamoto about coming to the Fair, Shimamoto told me.

He said he really didn’t know what to expect.

“We’re prepping for 500 a day. We do 1,200 to 1,400 a day at events,” Shimamoto said.

Banks, the manager, declined to say how many they were selling, but clearly it was below expectations.

“It’s a different crowd here. But it’s the same quality,” Banks said. “We’re sticking it out.”

The stand is hard to find, and the first person at an information booth gave me the wrong location. When I returned, a second person told me exactly where it was, and even then I walked past it and had to double back.

In short, it’s near the east side of the grandstand and barns and the rear of the Grinding Gears nightclub building. The stand is a black tent with a grill in back.

Also, long lines at the Fair are unusual. You can get a hot dog within minutes at the Pink’s stand, whose Hollywood location often has a two-hour line.

Finally, a couple got one to split and sat at the next picnic table. I let them finish and then introduced myself. Chris and Jennifer Anaya had driven up from Rancho Santa Margarita to explore the Fair and try food.

“If I had a choice between this and a regular burger, I𠆝 take this,” Chris said. “The flavor of it was really good. Really different. I could actually eat two of these things. The noodles held together really well.”

Jennifer, who𠆝 said the burger was too salty for her taste, said Ramen Burger needed more �-ons” besides bacon, cheese and a fried egg, naming avocado and gorgonzola. Chris said sweet potato fries would be a good side dish.

“I think people in Orange County would like it,” Jennifer said of the concept.


What’s In and Out at Berg’n

SAMESA When Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler last year opened Berg’n, a beer hall with food booths, they figured that some of the tenants would rotate. So in place of Pizza Moto, the Sussman brothers, Eli and Max, both chefs, now have a spot of their own. The name sounds vaguely Middle Eastern, but it is a mix of family initials (pronounced sah-MEE-sah). It suits their specialty, chicken shawarma. The brothers are from the Detroit area and grew up eating Middle Eastern food. The chicken, sliced off a spit, is served in fresh pita baked in what was the pizza oven, and lashed with a verdant, fiery Yemeni sauce called zhug. “We like the way Middle Eastern food is vegetable-heavy, healthy and easy to share,” said Eli Sussman, who cooked at Mile End. Though the Sussmans are looking for a restaurant space, they expect to be at Berg’n for the long haul. “We’re not treating this as a pop-up,” said Max Sussman, who was formerly at the Cleveland and Roberta’s. For another change, in late June, Ramen Burger will be replaced by Bunk’r with Vietnamese food: 899 Bergen Street (Franklin Avenue), Crown Heights, Brooklyn, 718-857-2337, bergn.com.

CARNEM PRIME STEAKHOUSE In Brooklyn, steakhouses are in short supply. This one, taking the Latin word for meat as its name, has two levels and a garden. Along with beef, the chef, David DiSalvo, who spent four years at a top steakhouse in San Diego, offers other meats, seafood, small plates like filet mignon sliders, salads and a few pastas, including one with kale. California dominates the wine list: 318 Fifth Avenue (Second Street), Park Slope, Brooklyn, 718-499-5600.

SUMMER SHIFT What was Rockaway Taco will reopen as a Latin-themed place for takeout with guest chefs preparing food that can be brought to the beach or to the Palms, a new seating area across the street. First on the chef lineup are Leyla and Ximena Yrala of Chicks to Go, a Peruvian rotisserie nearby, along with Carlos Varella, a local surfer and chef. Camille Becerra of Navy, Nick Morgenstern of Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream and El Rey, and Gerardo Gonzalez, also of El Rey, are some of the others scheduled through Sept. 7. (Opens Friday): 95-19 Rockaway Beach Boulevard (Beach 96th Street), Far Rockaway, Queens, thempshift.com.

SEAPORT SMORGASBURG Vendors return for the season through mid-October after a debut in 2013 and no market last year. In this year’s lineup are Cemitas El Tigre for Mexican sandwiches, Milk Truck’s grilled cheese, Lumpia Shack for spring rolls, Pizza Moto’s Neapolitan pies, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Ramen Burger, Schnitz with breaded cutlet sandwiches, and Lonestar Empire selling Texas-style brisket. Beer, wine and cocktails are also sold. (Opens Thursday): Fulton Street (between South Street and Front Street), 212-732-8257, smorgasburg.com.

Around the Hamptons

Of the many new restaurants opening in and around the Hamptons this summer, three stand out and intend to become part of the landscape year-round: Wölffer Kitchen, Momi Ramen and Circo. Next month, the owners of Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, N.Y., will establish WÖLFFER KITCHEN on Main Street in Sag Harbor. The chef, Deena Chafetz, will give her local market basket a Mediterranean accent. A branch of MOMI RAMEN of Miami will serve homemade noodles and also izakaya fare in what was the Turtle Crossing barbecue spot just past East Hampton village. And a branch of Manhattan’s CIRCO is moving into what was Delmonico’s in Southampton.

Also in Southampton, the Capri hotel, which has housed outposts of Manhattan restaurants before, will maintain the pattern with BEAUTIQUE, a clubby place where Alain Allegretti is the culinary director and Greg Grossman, who was at the restaurant Georgica in Wainscott last season, runs the kitchen. The mansion that housed Georgica is the new home of OSTERIA SALINA of Bridgehampton, which moves east. PHILIPPE, the Upper East Side Chinese restaurant, will open in East Hampton on Three Mile Harbor Road, where it was a few years ago. It will also have a late-night club component. LDV Hospitality, a national company that owns Scarpetta restaurant and others, is running Gurney’s in Montauk this season, and adding SCARPETTA BEACH for Italian fare and TILLIE’S for comfort food. Seafood is featured at THE SALTBOX RESTAURANT AND BAR in downtown Montauk. And RED MAPLE will be the restaurant in the historic Chequit, an inn on Shelter Island that is now run by Salt Hotels of Massachusetts.

Looking Ahead

CARBONE A branch of the Major Food Group’s slick old-school Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village will open in Las Vegas in October, bringing 1960s Rat Pack-style back where it belongs: Aria Resort and Casino, Las Vegas.

Chefs on the Move

ADAM LEONTI, the chef de cuisine at Vetri, an esteemed Italian restaurant in Philadelphia, has left to become the chef for the restaurant, as yet unnamed, in the Williamsburg Hotel, opening in Brooklyn this year.

MASA SHIMIZU, the executive sushi chef at 15 East, will leave at the end of June to join his wife in Thailand. A replacement has not been named.


Farewell, Smith Street: In Memoriam of Brooklyn’s Restaurant Row

F or Brooklynites of a certain age who have watched approvingly as Brooklyn has taken its first steps from infancy to full-blown gentrification, the last few weeks have been nothing short of a waking nightmare.

The Grocery, the most iconic of the restaurants along Smith Street, aka Restaurant Row, was closing. A farewell note was affixed to the window:

“It’s been a great run,” the note began, “but The Grocery’s final dinner service will be Saturday, June 27.” (The owners did not return Commercial Observer’s calls by press time, and emails bounced back.)

The Grocery arrived at 288 Smith Street in the 1990s when the strip was still rundown and dumpy (the prison on Atlantic Avenue didn’t help) but this artisanal, 30-seat eatery run by husband-and-wife alums of Savoy and Gotham Bar & Grill established a beachhead. Somehow, The Grocery elbowed its way to the seventh-highest ranked restaurant in New York City in the 2004 Zagat’s guide after only Le Bernadin, Daniel, Peter Luger, Nobu, Bouley and Jean Georges. In the next few years, restaurants galore started sprouting in the nearby soil of Smith Street running from Downtown Brooklyn through Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. No other block in Brooklyn, save, perhaps, Fifth Avenue in Park Slope or Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, seemed a better symbol of the borough’s desirability—and The Grocery was its progenitor.

Now it’s gone. Mostly. Charles Kiely and Sharon Pachter said in their farewell note that after the summer they will be hosting private events in the space.

If that slug to the gut didn’t stun, the next bit of information certainly did: Char No. 4 was closing shop as well.

(Photo: Max Gross/ Commercial Observer)

In its own way, this was an even greater shock. Char No. 4 at 196 Smith Street was a little more in tune with the spirit of hipster Brooklyn by 2015. New York magazine’s critic Adam Platt gushed over its bourbon menu and named it one of the 101 best restaurants in the city in 2012. (He left The Grocery off that list altogether.) Diners raved about its brunch and lamb pastrami. Waits were oftentimes an hour for a table.

Char No. 4 had its final service on Sunday.

Looking around Smith Street now, it’s a shadow of its former self.

Burger on Smith at 209 Smith Street is closed. (Prospective tenants should call Glenn Vogel from Thor Equities, whose contact info is papered in the windows.) The Irish pub Ceol at 191 Smith Street is now closed. Savoia at 277 Smith Street is closed.

Even places that didn’t necessarily die at the hand of a rent hike or low foot traffic or a building sale or whatever else causes a business to fail, left for a better situation, like Saul, the Michelin-starred restaurant at 140 Smith Street, which pulled up stakes for a new home at the Brooklyn Museum back in 2013.

Of course, it’s not only restaurants that have given Smith Street the air of a graveyard—other food businesses have closed, too. The Nut Box, a dry goods store, which offers gourmet coffee, marzipan and dried fruit (oh, yeah, and nuts), just opened a branch on Broadway between West 104th and West 105th Streets in Manhattan about a month ago, and has another location at Chelsea Market, but it closed its 163 Smith Street location last year. (Its signage is still up.) The Met supermarket is being demolished to make way for bigger, splashier, more expensive two-story retail. According to The Real Deal, Jackson Group, Aurora Capital and ACHS Management bought the site at 205 Smith Street for $18.5 million last year.

There are several things occurring at once. Certainly, a good part of it has to do with rising rents.

According to Ofer Cohen, the president of TerraCRG, rents on Smith Street have climbed to the $90- to $130-per-square-foot range.

(Photo: Max Gross/Commercial Observer)

Rent “more than doubled since we first opened in 2004,” said Lexy Funk, the chief executive officer and founder of Brooklyn Industries, the apparel shop at the corner of Smith Street and Atlantic Avenue, who lived above her Smith Street location for a number of years before moving to the Rockaways. “It’s been such a rapid expansion of rent, it becomes very difficult” to keep up, Ms. Funk said.

Doubling the rent is apparently not even that bad. “What you have is restaurateurs would take a 10-year lease…and now that the lease is [expired], they have to pay triple, not double the rent,” Mr. Cohen said.

“If you are a sushi place and you can move three blocks further out and pay 50 percent less in rent and be close enough [to where you were], you’re going to move further down,” Mr. Cohen continued.

But it’s not simply rising rents that are killing the establishments of yore. In the last few years Smith Street became a destination for national brands. Retailers like Lucky Brand opened at 135 Smith Street Intermix took the space abandoned by Saul at 140 Smith Street. The luxury eyeglass store Anne & Valentin has outlets in Paris, Soho and at 200 Smith Street. The next phase of gentrification (the national brands starting their invasion) is apparently upon us.

“Today, more people are signing apparel deals—it’s lululemons,” said Ryan Condren, a managing director of retail leasing for CPEX. “It’s not as many bars and restaurants. …It’s more retail than restaurant.”

Which is not to say that no restaurants are coming, or there won’t be some sort of afterlife for Restaurant Row.

“You have restaurants that are currently in Williamsburg at double the [rent] of what Smith is” that are looking at Smith Street, said Joey Terzi of TerraCRG. “A lot of those guys are looking into Park Slope and Cobble Hill because Smith is similar to Bedford [Avenue in Williamsburg] in [its] footprints.”

To be sure, there are still interesting dining options on Smith Smith—from ramen joints like Dassara, to fine dining like Battersby, to old-school Italian restaurants like Vinny’s, to celeb chef outposts like David Chang’s Milk Bar. But the other part of the story is that Smith Street has become a victim of its own success it is suffering from an oversaturation in restaurants.

“I think there’s far more competition than there used to be when we first opened,” said Sean Josephs, one of the co-owners of Char No. 4. “The Brooklyn dining scene has expanded so much—and to other parts of Brooklyn, from the area around Barclays, to Downtown Brooklyn, to Fort Greene to Bushwick.”

Back in 2012, Char No. 4’s business was going gangbusters. But starting in 2013, Mr. Josephs said there has been a slow but steady decline.

“We were the same restaurant,” Mr. Josephs said, “but we became less consistently busy. I think the demographics have changed a lot—a lot of people who were here were pushed out not by higher commercial rent but by higher residential rent.” The Met supermarket across the street “generated a lot of foot traffic” from locals, he noted. And while Char No. 4 got its share of destination diners, locals were the backbone of his business. With many more options (and a much higher income) locals didn’t feel the need to eat at his restaurant as much.

Another nail in Smith Street’s coffin has been how much more desirable Court Street, a block away, has become—for both restaurateurs and retailers.

“It’s tough for [clothing store] Rag and Bone to be on Smith” given the smaller available floor plates, said Mr. Terzi. “That’s why they’re on Court. A J. Crew is going to Court. Jacadi Paris is going to Court—and they’re paying $150 per foot.” Apparently, they’re willing to suffer higher rents to be on the more desirable block.

“Barneys [at 194 Atlantic Avenue, just off of Court Street] became such an anchor [for the neighborhood’s retail] and Trader Joe’s [at 130 Court Street] became an anchor” for other stores, Mr. Cohen said. “It took a few years, but if you’re a high-end boutique you want to be near Court Street.”

Mr. Josephs largely agreed.

“Five years ago if Chipotle wanted to come into this neighborhood they would go to Smith,” said Mr. Josephs. “Now they’re on Court near Trader Joe’s. Five Guys, same thing. I think that represents a shift.”

Mr. Josephs reported that most of his customers were stunned to learn that he was closing his place. Since the announcement his dining room has been packed with his best customers, who were reminiscing on the good of times for Char No. 4.

To a certain extent, this story of rise and fall is the same for most New York City corridors. Smith Street will doubtless take on another incarnation in the future. But to the establishments that gave this street its mojo and that seemed to personify so much of the Brooklyn renaissance, one has to shed a tear. We’d raise a glass of whiskey to their memory but Char No. 4 is no more. To try one of Mr. Josephs’ selections, you will now have to go to Maysville—his bourbon-focused restaurant in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. That area is doing very well.

A version of this story originally appeared in the July 15, 2015 issue of the Commercial Observer.


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