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Volume 79, Number 8 | July 29 - August 4, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

The Meat Market
A special Villager supplement

Villager photos by Lincoln Anderson

The former Florent restaurant will reopen as the Gansevoort St. Cafe.

Restaurants, fresh food and pizza are on the menu

By Barbara Thau 

Amid the fresh buzz of the completed High Line park, the Meatpacking District is ushering in a new wave of eateries brushed with a tony sheen, and headlined by star chefs befitting the hyper-chic, upscale neighborhood.

At the same time, several new entrants, including food merchants and cocktail lounges, are tailoring their venues to the times with an accent on affordable fare to match the mood of the recession.

“You’ve got to be flexible and adjust your concept to what the market will bear,” said David Rabin, co-owner of Double 7, which is expected to reopen in the former Rhone space this November at 63 Gansevoort St. 

The swank cocktail lounge, which closed in 2007 at 418 W. 14th St., was known for its $16 drinks made with hand-cut ice, freshly pressed juice and top-shelf liquor.

Today, “It’s a very different world,” Rabin said. “Now is not the time to be defining yourself in the market by being ‘most expensive in New York City’ — which is weighing our decisions about pricing.”

The new Double 7 will re-create the “dark, sexy living room” vibe of the old space with chocolate brown leather furniture and amber lighting, but a light, 10-item food menu will be added to the equation, as well as outdoor seating.

Rabin called the long-awaited arrival of the elevated park on the former railway, as well as the Standard Hotel, “total game-changers.”

The High Line appears to have extended the Meatpacking District’s restaurant/bar scene from a weekend to a weeklong business, he said.

In 2007, Rabin opened a Mexican restaurant, Los Dados, at 71-73 Gansevoort St. in anticipation of the park.

Two years later, “We’ve finally reached our original projections,” he said. Since the High Line opened, “business has nearly doubled.”

At the old Lotus nightclub space, Abe & Arthur’s restaurant and Simyone lounge are slated to open soon.

Bion Bartning, founder and chief executive officer of food distributor Basis Foods, also expects traffic from the High Line to have a halo effect on the company’s new retail concept, Basis Markets, opening at the end of the year on W. 14th St.

“As a future retailer in the neighborhood, it’s exciting,” he said.

The company, which counts Gramercy Tavern and Murray’s Cheese Shop among its clients, plans to grow Basis Markets into a chain with more than 100 stores. 

The mission of Basis is “good food for all,” with a farm-to-chef/retailer operating model.

And the new small-format Basis Markets store will build on that theme. 

“Why should only wealthy people have good food?” Bartning said. “We’re really focused on affordable price points.”

 Bartning described the upcoming store as a cross between Trader Joe’s and a farmers market. But whereas Trader Joe’s sells processed foods, Basis Markets will not, he said.

Basis defines good food as that which is grown by small-and mid-sized farmers, as well as prepared goods made from fresh ingredients versus processed in factories.

For example, Basis Markets will sell a $2 quart of milk that was bottled at a local farm 24 hours earlier.

The new Gaslight Pizzeria is also claiming bragging rights for the freshness of its food.

The owners of Meat Market lounge staples Gaslight and G2 opened the pizza restaurant this spring in the former meat locker of the old Diamond Meats building at 39 Ninth Ave.

It’s clearly one of the more foodie-worthy pizza places, serving up slices made with fresh mozzarella kneaded from scratch on the premises, boasts co-owner Matt de Matt.

And it’s affordable: A slice is $2.50. 

“We don’t want to gouge people,” de Matt said, noting that’s never what Gaslight has been about.

Gaslight Pizzeria’s décor combines elements of a Tuscan bistro — brick walls, wooden beams — with Gaslight’s 1800s bar aesthetic.

The place attracts a regular crowd, including people who work in the area.

Then, there are the openings marked by boldface-name chefs and at least one high-profile hotelier.

The Standard Grill in André Balazs’s new Standard Hotel, which looms above the High Line like a modernist beacon, promises a “straightforward and accessible” menu that takes its cue from traditional chophouses and “new American grill sensibilities.”

The menu by former Union Square Café chef Dan Silverman changes daily, with dishes such as sweet pea ravioli with pistachios and mint for $15, and “demi-vache” (half cow) dry-aged rib-eye steak for two for $65.

New high-end restaurants will be opening on 14th St.

Alex Guarnaschelli, the Butter chef/Food Network star, will headline the kitchen at Supper Club, slated to open on the site of the now-defunct Nell’s nightclub at 246 W. 14th St., just east of Eighth Ave. The restaurant will reportedly include live performances.

And Abe & Arthur’s will open this summer at 409 W. 14th St. in the space of former “it” club Lotus, next door to the Matthew Williamson and Alexander McQueen designer boutiques.

Franklin Becker of Brasserie and Capitale fame has been named the executive chef. He will serve up American bistro classics made from “the freshest ingredients” at the 180-seat, two-level restaurant, according to press materials.

Abe & Arthur’s is named after the grandfathers of Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum, the owners of Meatpacking lounge/celebrity hangout Tenjune, who are backing the launch.

A few blocks away at 69 Gansevoort St., the empty space that once housed the Meatpacking District’s iconic, revered and endlessly eulogized restaurant, will be filled.

A “Gansevoort St. Café Coming Soon” sign hangs on the storefront of the former Florent, the neighborhood pioneer that closed last year after two decades in the area.

This is not the first attempt to replace the institution.

R&L Restaurant quickly took Florent’s place after it closed. (The restaurant was launched by the building’s landlord, whose father opened the original R&L in 1955 at the same address.) But the place shuttered.

It’s been reported that the upcoming Gansevoort St. Cafe will hold on to a bit of Florent’s trademark décor, such as the quilted stainless-steel paneling.

But whether or not the new restaurant will manage to rise above the stubborn shadow of Florent remains to be seen. 

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