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  • Mac & Cheese Frites

    Union Square Events in the New York Post | April 9, 2015

    CITI FIELD'S MAC-AND-CHEESE FRIES ARE THE ULTIMATE FRANKENFOOD by Hailey Eber   The Mets are putting a new spin on ballpark dining with tasty Mac & Cheese Frites (left). Since Mr. Met (right) is hungry for a winner, he may find it in new food like that — and more — at Citi Field. Photo: Tamara Beckwith; Paul J. Bereswill   The Mets will have an exciting new lineup for their Monday home opener. No, we’re not talking about Michael Cuddyer and Wilmer Flores.   We’re talking about the rookie star in the concession stands — Mac & Cheese Frites ($9.25 at Box Frites, in the center field food court area).   While there’s a whole roster of exciting edibles debuting at Citi Field this season — hearty gourmet panini and grilled cheese sandwiches from Pressed by Lure chef Josh Capon; s’mores-dipped bacon (as disgusting/delicious as it sounds) from Pig Guy NYC; a trio of seafood sliders from Esca chef Dave Pasternack — this cheesy Frankenfood is the player to watch.   “We are anticipating a strong season,” says John Karangis, the executive chef for Union Square Events, an offshoot of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group that handles several concessions at the ballpark.   The frites feature elbow pasta coated in a rich sauce made from local Five Acre Farms milk and freshly grated Gouda and Cheddar.   The resulting mac and cheese is formed into thick “fries,” coated in ground Arborio rice and deep-fried. They’re served with a homemade smoked-tomato ketchup and an Aleppo-pepper cheese sauce.   Getting them just right took a lot of practice.   “I must have changed and made the recipe 20 times until I was happy with it,” Karangis says. “I felt something was missing, and I remembered an Arborio rice coating I once used for coating scallops a few years back, where I put the rice in a coffee grinder.”   All those hours of spring training have paid off with a perfect ballpark treat, one that should appeal equally to children and adults, drunks and teetotalers, junk-food lovers and artisanal-ingredient snobs.   In short, a perfect play.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    DANNY IN INC.

    Danny Meyer on Inc.com | April 8, 2015

    THE RISE (AND FALL AND RISE) OF SHAKE SHACK'S DANNY MEYER by Liz Welch   When Danny Meyer opened Union Square Cafe in 1985, the then 27-year-old had no idea that he'd someday be at the helm of one of the most successful restaurant companies in New York City.   Starting a business is like any other beginning: The first task is survival. But even in those early days, what founder doesn’t dream of doing something really huge--like building a business that rapidly remakes a fusty sector, as Warby Parker’s Neil Blumenthal has, or seizing an early opportunity to dominate an industry, the way Whole Foods’ John Mackey has? The entrepreneurs who fulfill such dreams are the ones we call icons, and we know them when we see them: Barbara Corcoran slyly grilling a supplicant on the hit show Shark Tank, for instance, or Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer, as he succeeds on his mission to boldly transform American dining. How does one proceed from frantic founder to ultra-successful entrepreneur? We've taken a close look at four icons to find out.   A Change of Plans   The world came close to being without a Shake Shack or Gramercy Tavern; Danny Meyer almost became a lawyer. In the early ’80s, after he had moved to New York City, he took the LSATs, and then realized he didn’t want that career. “But I didn’t know what else to do,” he recalls. He knew he loved good food, so he got a job as a host at Pesca, a seafood restaurant. Two years later, he opened his first restaurant: Union Square Cafe.   That’s where Meyer began to realize that the role of a restaurant was more than putting good stuff on the plate and in the glass. “It’s also to make sure people are a little happier when they leave than when they came in,” he says. As Union Square Cafe racked up awards for its spectacular food and service, Meyer was there every night, working the room. “The thinking back then was, to have a successful restaurant, the owner had to be there 24/7,” Meyer recalls. “If you wanted a day off, you should close the restaurant. And if you wanted a vacation, you should close for two weeks.”   Going Slow   It took nine years and a death in the family for Meyer to open his second restaurant, Gramercy Tavern, in 1994. He had seen what had happened to his father, a serial entrepreneur who had owned hotels, restaurants, and a travel agency--and who had filed for bankruptcy at age 42 and again in his 50s. “I waited until he died to give myself permission,” Meyer says he concluded later on. “I equated expansion with bankruptcy. He did too much--so I wanted to do one thing really well.”   Within one week of opening Gramercy Tavern, the managers started talking about opening a third restaurant, which made Meyer panic. “This was already the scariest thing I’d ever done in my life,” he says. “I was completely convinced that I was an imposter--that Union Square was somehow a fluke.” To his mind, Gramercy Tavern wasn’t as successful as Union Square had been, and Union Square was suffering because of his divided focus. “That caused me huge anxiety,” he says. “I couldn’t sleep. Union Square Cafe dropped from No. 2 to No. 3 in the Zagat survey of New York City’s best restaurants, and I said to myself, ‘See? You failed.’ ”   It took time for Meyer to realize he was being too hard on himself. “Some people are near- or farsighted--I’m thorn-sighted,” he explains. “The thorns on the rose are in really sharp definition for me, the rose petals a little fuzzier.”   Admitting Defeat   In the first paragraph of Meyer’s 2006 memoir, Setting the Table, he lists the 11 restaurants he had opened by then and states, “So far, I haven’t had the experience of closing any of them, and I pray I never will.” But the 2007 recession caused Tabla, an upscale Indian restaurant that Meyer had opened in 1998, to struggle. “I learned that you shouldn’t take your most esoteric concept and fit it into the largest space with the highest fixed costs,” Meyer says. “It puts too much pressure on the restaurant to hit grand slams every day when there just aren’t enough people who want to watch that sport.”   Meyer felt a deep loyalty to his staff, and some of the managers had agreed to pay cuts to keep the restaurant going. As Tabla continued to lose money, Meyer personally subsidized it for two years to keep the doors open. Finally, his leadership team at Union Square Hospitality Group, which Meyer had launched in 1998 to oversee his properties, staged an intervention. “They argued that keeping a sinking ship afloat was the worst possible way to take care of the staff,” recalls Meyer. “They said, ‘If you truly want to take care of these people, you need to close the place. It’s actually being selfish not to.’ ”   Meyer shifted his focus from saving the restaurant to saving the people who worked there. “I started thinking, ‘What if we could get these people more uplifting job opportunities either within or outside of our company?’ ” Meyer says. “Still, I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard in my life as the day that I went to our managers to tell them it was over.” He felt better once he was able to find other jobs for most of the team. The former general manager and assistant general manager of Tabla now run other Danny Meyer restaurants.   Fostering Entrepreneurs   As Meyer’s company took off, he started to see there wasn’t enough room for people to grow within it. “If you rose to a certain level, there came a point when we were almost forcing you to take the off-ramp, because there weren’t entrepreneurial opportunities for you,” he says. So when Nick Anderer, the chef from Maialino, Meyer’s Roman trattoria on Gramercy Park, wanted to open a pizzeria called Marta, Meyer backed the idea and let him take the lead. And when Mark Maynard-Parisi, the managing partner of Meyer’s barbecue joint, Blue Smoke--who used to take reservations at Union Square Cafe--wanted to open a Southern bar, Meyer met with him.   He looks for fresh ideas that can attract a fervent following--and talented, passionate leaders. “Once I greenlight an idea, the leadership team meets to decide if the numbers add up,” says Meyer. They did for the Southern bar; Porchlight opened in March. Over the years, Meyer has seen his role change dramatically. “Earlier in my career, I needed to be the writer, casting director, set designer, leading man, and producer,” Meyer says. “I’ve been eliminating a lot of those jobs. I’m an executive producer right now. I still get to pick the best screenplays.” From Hot Dogs to Hot IPO   Shake Shack started as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park--part of a community art project to support the park. It was so popular that Meyer received a permit to open a permanent kiosk there, and he expanded the menu and introduced a “fast food” concept that adhered to his rules of excellence--the hamburger meat was from Pat LaFrieda (the same butcher who supplied some of Meyer’s high-end restaurants), the “special sauce” was made in the kitchen of Meyer’s upscale Eleven Madison Park, and the frozen custard is something Meyer says he’d be proud to serve at any of his establishments. “My job is to give and get pleasure from delivering this great food to you,” he explains. “That shouldn’t apply only to the rarefied experience of fine dining and the small population that can afford that.” Word spread, and the lines grew.   By February 2015, Shake Shack had opened more than 60 locations worldwide, spun off from Union Square Hospitality Group, and raised $112.3 million in an IPO with Randy Garutti as CEO. “I first interviewed Randy in 1999 for a job at Eleven Madison Park,” Meyer recalls. “He then became general manager of Tabla--and he’s now running Shake Shack in a way that is far better than I ever could.” This makes Meyer happy. “I never had a desire to be COO of a chain,” he says. “Shake Shack really taught me how to let go to the right people.” The long-term plan is to expand to 450 locations in the U.S. Still, the sheer volume of restaurants feels surreal at times. “Today, we opened a Shake Shack in Boston, and I’m not there for the opening,” he says. “It’s a big deal. I’ve come a long way from having to be able to watch all the restaurants. Can you imagine not going to the opening of a restaurant?”   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    OUTSIDE THE STEAMER

    North End Grill's Eric Korsh in The Wall Street Journal | April 8, 2015

    FOUR SPRING ARTICHOKE RECIPES THAT THINK OUTSIDE THE STEAMER by Kitty Greenwald   When artichokes return to farmers’ markets in mid-spring, our hearts skip a beat. These recipes are really four mash notes to the vegetable from chefs around the country.   Clockwise from top left: Spaghetti with Artichokes and Bottarga, Shaved Raw Artichoke Salad, Quick Braised Artichokes with Peas, Carrots and Fresh Ricotta, Five-Spice Fried Artichokes. Photo: Victor Prado for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Heather Meldrom, Prop Styling by Carla Gonzalez-Hart   Quick Braised Artichokes with Peas, Carrots and Fresh Ricotta   Total Time: 35 minutes Serves: 4   Peel off and discard dark outer leaves of 8 medium artichokes. Use a chef’s knife to remove remaining tough leaves and skin until tender artichoke heart is exposed. Rub exterior with flesh of half a lemon. Halve artichokes lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove hairy chokes from centers of artichokes, then rub interiors with lemon. Quarter hearts, then transfer to a bowl filled with ice water and juice of 1 lemon. Set aside.   In a medium lidded pot over medium-high heat, bring 2 quarts chicken stock, zest of 1 lemon, 1 cup olive oil, 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, 6 cloves garlic, 1 cup white wine, 1 sprig rosemary, 1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds and 1 tablespoon toasted fennel seeds to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer until broth is flavorful, about 15 minutes.   Add artichoke hearts, cover, and gently simmer until just tender, 10-15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked artichokes to a plate.   Add 4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced, to pot of simmering water and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Return artichokes to pot, along with 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas. Simmer until peas are bright green, about 2 minutes more. Turn off heat and season to taste with salt.   Ladle vegetables into a deep serving dish or individual bowls. Strain remaining cooking broth and pour it over vegetables until they are about ⅓ submerged. Garnish with 2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley and 2 tablespoons roughly chopped tarragon. Dollop 1 cup fresh ricotta (total) over top. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Serve with country bread.   —Adapted from Eric Korsh of North End Grill, New York   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    TABLE FOR TWO

    Marta in The New Yorker | April 3, 2015

    PIZZA, PIZZA More

    TOP MUSEUM RESTAURNTS

    The Modern on Conde Nast Traveler | April 3, 2015

    10 MUSEUM RESTAURANTS WORTH TRAVELING FOR More

    POSH PIZZA

    Marta in Conde Nast Traveler | April 2, 2015

    5 NEW YORK FOODIE HOTSPOTS More

    MONEY MONTH

    Danny Meyer in Lucky Peach | April 1, 2015

    THE 3 REASONS I STARTED CARING ABOUT MONEY More

    WHISKEY & COLA

    Porchlight in Men's Journal | March 31, 2015

    REDEFINING THE CLASSIC WHISKEY AND COKE More

    NEW OPENINGS

    Michael Anthony and Untitled on Eater | March 26, 2015

    THE MOST ANTICIPATED NEW YORK CITY RESTAURANT OPENINGS OF SPRING/SUMMER 2015 by Marguerite Preston   our guide to the restaurants everyone will be talking about for the next five months.   Spring is always a big season for restaurant openings, and now that the air is finally getting warmer, it's time to start looking ahead to the major restaurant openings coming down the pipeline. Between now and the end of summer, New York will get all kinds of exciting new places. There will be solo projects from big-name chefs, new restaurants from Danny Meyer and Mario Batali, major transplants from other cities, and so much more. Below are 23 of the biggest openings ahead, listed in order of projected opening. Get familiar.   UNTITLED   Photo: Daniel Krieger   Location: 99 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District Key Players: Danny Meyer and Michael Anthony Projected Opening: May 1   When the Whitney reopens in its new Renzo Piano digs along the High Line, so will Untitled, Danny Meyer's restaurant within it. The reopening will be a momentous one, because now Michael Anthony, the talented chef behind Gramercy Tavern is at the helm. He’ll serve as the executive chef for both restaurants, but for Untitled's first few months back in business, expect to see him in the kitchen quite a lot. The menu should be totally new, and though it hasn’t been finalized yet, expect vegetable heavy dishes like citrus-cured arctic char with sugar snap peas and yuzu dressing, and shaved asparagus salad with pickled carrots and crispy quinoa.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    OUTSTANDING CHEF

    Michael Anthony in The New York Times | March 24, 2015

    2015 JAMES BEARD AWARD NOMINEES More

    NEIGHBORHOOD ROOTS

    Union Square Cafe and Danny Meyer in The New York Times | March 19, 2015

    BLOCK BY BLOCK: UNION SQUARE (VIDEO SERIES)   (ORIGINAL VIDEO)   Union Square is the focus of the next video in our new monthly series, “Block by Block.” Watch for future installments from neighborhoods around the city.   Union Square is about as centrally located as a neighborhood can be in New York City. Seven subway lines converge at the 14th Street-Union Square station, and about half a dozen bus lines run through the area.   The park at the center of the neighborhood, Union Square Park, is a bustling place, as are the streets around it. On days when the park’s Greenmarket is open, about 350,000 pedestrians converge on the area on Mondays and Wednesdays, slightly fewer on Saturdays, and last summer, a record-breaking 383,000 visited on Fridays, according to the Union Square Partnership. Beyond the market, park amenities include new bistro tables, chairs and umbrellas, an expanded playground, new restrooms, enhanced Wi-Fi and solar-powered docking stations for electronic devices.   But it was not always such a welcoming place. From the time the park opened to the public in 1839, it has served as a gathering place for parades, political rallies and other meetings. In the 1970s, though, the park became rundown and a place to be avoided. Renovations started in the mid-1980s, right around the time when construction began on the Zeckendorf Towers condominium complex, a project credited as another factor in the area’s resurgence.   Real estate prices in the area have subsequently risen as well, with rents and sales prices registering at rates higher than the city’s overall average.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    LEADERSHIP AWARD

    Danny Meyer in Restaurant Business | March 17, 2015

    RESTAURANT LEADER OF THE YEAR: DANNY MEYER   He’s built an empire putting employees first. Now that he’s taken Shake Shack public, will shareholders be OK with staying in the backseat?   by Peter Romeo, Director of Digital Content   Photo by Melissa Horn   Danny Meyer on the challenges all leaders face3/17/2015 Danny Meyer, fast-casual afficionado3/17/2015 As CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, arguably the most respected and successful group of fine-dining restaurants in the country, and now chairman of Shake Shack, the publicly owned string of high-volume burger spots, the 56-year-old Danny Meyer voices a business philosophy that would fit the teachings of a commune leader named Moonbeam.   But there’s no long beard or sandals on Meyer. The arch capitalist is more likely to show up for a taping of Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money” or CBS’ “MoneyWatch” in a smart suit or business-casual slacks and sweater, his salt-and-pepper hair neatly trimmed. The possibility of a beret seems stronger when he explains how he changed the business starting at age 27, opening a serious restaurant with only a year of industry experience under his belt.   Meyer has admitted that he didn’t know what a cash-flow statement was when he fired up the stove at Union Square Cafe in 1985, inviting customers to brave its then-seedy New York City neighborhood. All he had was the conviction that food, service and decor weren’t the keys to success. They were just elements of the make-or-break distinction, the simple but hard-to-deliver real key to drawing a large, loyal clientele. “When you walked in our front door, I wanted the two hours we had with you to make you feel a little bit better,” Meyer told industry folk last June at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. “It was all I knew … There was no strategy until I opened Gramercy Tavern.”   That was 10 years later. In the meantime, “we had a lot of people who came in happy, and we screwed it up,” he admitted.   Meyer realized that “people can sense authenticity.” Service that pleased needed to come from people committed to pleasing, not poseurs going through the motions for a good tip or to keep their jobs. Meyer’s focus shifted to employees as a means of delighting guests, and he developed the well-articulated philosophy he would coin “enlightened hospitality.”   The St. Louis native saw validation in the success of companies like Southwest Airlines, he recounted later to Cramer on “Mad Money.” Cramer grouped it and other service exemplars into a cadre of stock picks he christened the “Danny Meyer Index.”   “They are companies that want to make more money than any other company, but to do so not by putting the interest of their shareholders first, but by putting the interests first of the people who work there, then the people who do business there, then the communities in which they do business, and then their suppliers,” Meyer explained. “That virtuous cycle, what we call enlightened hospitality, creates a much more sustainable profit cycle.”   The employee-first philosophy is not unknown to other restaurant brands or leaders, but few have acted so boldly on it. For instance, in 2011 Meyer transferred his Eleven Madison Park restaurant to its chef and manager because they had a hankering to run their own place. Rather than lunge for the publicity, Meyer quietly revealed the change in ownership in the intro of Eleven Madison Park’s cookbook.   Meyer says the need to nurture employees’ ambitions is a key reason why USHG has expanded to nine concepts and more than 15 restaurants in multiple cities, excluding now-public Shake Shack. “Increasingly, I found [that] to get the best cooks, the best wine captains, the best maître d’, it was important to have for them a place to grow,” he said in Aspen.   Only when you have the best at each job do you get such deep benefits as securing better ingredients, selecting the best wines, trying harder to make the best meal and doing the best job at reading customers, Meyer says. Only then, he has stressed in his numerous public appearances, do you get the best business results.   His philosophy will get its true test as capitalistic principle in coming months, now that Shake Shack is public. Shareholders tend to talk in terms of what’s best for them, not for employees, suppliers or a restaurant’s neighborhood.   In securities documents filed before the blockbuster stock offering on Jan. 30, Meyer and team showed no signs of backing off their approach. Amid the usual language about AUVs, CAGR, COGS and EBITDA, they offered this assessment of the magic behind Shake Shack’s success (average sales of $5 million per store on an investment averaging $1.9 million.) “We believe that the culture of our team is the single most important factor in our success,” they wrote.   Would-be shareholders were introduced to Meyer’s corollary that the best employees—known inside his companies as “51 percenters”—come to the job with more heart than skill. They’re the ones who rely more on emotion than on flawless-but-disconnected execution to impress customers. And he provided a high-resolution depiction of those fitting the bill when he was asked on that Aspen panel to recall the low point in his 30-year career. Hands-down, he replied, it was 9/11, when Union Square Cafe became a haven for the weary who’d trekked the mile or so from Ground Zero.   “Seeing our staff automatically making sandwiches for everybody, seeing our staff going into a gear that no one told them to except their heart, to setting up a kitchen in the armory on Lexington, which is where the families went to see if there were survivors, where there weren’t any survivors …” he recalled in a quiet voice that trailed off.   So far, investors are buying Meyer’s employees-first approach. They bid up the value of Shake Shack, then a 63-unit operation with a net profit of $5.4 million for its last full fiscal year, to about $1.6 billion. Meyer’s personal holdings, a 21 percent stake, amounted to about $390 million.   But a people orientation can’t shield USHG or Shake Shack from dynamics beyond the staff’s control. At Union Square Cafe, the rent of “$8 a square foot turned into something like $300 a square foot,” Meyer recently told ABC News. He feels he has no choice but to close the eatery at the end of 2015 and find a new location.   Closings, Meyer has asserted, are the ultimate measure of how well a restaurant succeeded. “If every restaurant we opened can stand the test of time as an experience, then our guests would say, our staff would say, our community would say, ‘My life got better because that place existed.’ It [closing] would actually feel like a loss,” he said.   Being the leader who helps a team build a restaurant of that caliber is what Meyer has said he most enjoys. “The greatest satisfaction I get [is] on those rare days when I come home from work and feel like I was a leader worth following,” he told Crain’s New York. “On those rare days when I know I’ve nailed it, I love that.”   Danny Meyer's year at a glance   Began 2014 with 39 Shake Shack locations   January 2014   USHG’s NFL pop-up kicks off: The NFL taps Meyer’s USHG to launch and run Forty Ate, its Super Bowl-theme pop-up restaurant at the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel for one week leading up to the big game.   February 2014   Blue Smoke ribs take flight: Delta Air Lines starts serving ribs by Blue Smoke on flights from JFK to Europe; more options arrive in August.   Red Kitchen comes to theaters: The full-service, dine-in movie theater concept, a partnership between Union Square Events and AMC Theaters, opens in Aurora, Colo.   June 2014   Shake Shake marks 10 years: The chain celebrates its 10th anniversary with a week of special burgers created by famed New York City chefs, including David Chang and Daniel Boulud.   Meyer wins on OpenTable buy: Priceline announces its $2.6 billion buyout of online reservations site OpenTable, of which Meyer is an original investor and board member.   Union Square Cafe to close: USHG declares that it will close and relocate the restaurant in 2015, due to skyrocketing rents in the space it has occupied for nearly 30 years.   July 2014   Gramercy Tavern turns 20: Meyer’s second concept hits a milestone.   November 2014   Meyer invests in health: Meyer is part of a group with Daniel Boulud and others to invest $18.5 million to help fund the expansion dreams of healthy fast-casual chain Sweetgreen.   January 2015   Shake Shake goes public: The chain files for a blockbuster IPO.   Danny Meyer currently has 64 Shake Shack locations.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)