When Mexican restaurant Papacitos abruptly closed its shutters at 999 Manhattan Avenue last summer it was unclear what had happened and what, if anything, would be taking its place.
Now, happily, the space has been taken over by the team behind The Exley who are already well on their way to transforming it into a bright and airy all-American bistro in time for summer.
We caught up with co-owner Matthew Ricke who told us more about what we could expect from the new venture.
“We want it to be very neighborhoody”, he told us, “a place where everyone can come and enjoy themselves. I’ve lived here for four years and although there’s some really great spots nearby I’ve struggled to find a place where I feel I want to eat once a week.”
“We want to create a place you can rely on for a great brunch; somewhere you can drop in for a beer and burger after work; bring parents when they’re visiting from out of town; as well as a destination for a nice date. We won’t try to be everything to everyone but we’ll try to have something for everyone.”
General Manager will be The Exley’s Brandon Chamberlain (previously of Sam Mason’s Tailor), whilst the executive chef will be Paul Myers, who did a stint under Wiley Dufresne at WD-50 before opening 515, his own James Beard nominated restaurant in Missoula.
The team also includes Exley co-founder (and Matthew’s brother) Nathan Ricke. They will be consulting with Kerry Sano of Tar Pit Cafe who’ll be overseeing their coffee program.
Matthew, whose pre-Exley life involved opening international retail outlets for art publisher Taschen, has designed the entire restaurant space himself. He says he’s taken his inspiration from mid-century kitchens and is planning on keeping the space very open and light with big windows and a raised seating area up front.
The working title for the restaurant is Esmé.
“We named our first bar after Frederick Exley”, says Matthew, “so we wanted to give this a literary themed name starting with a the letter ‘E’ as well. There are lots of Esmés in literature but our Esme comes from Nine Stories by JD Salinger. My dad gave the book to me and my brother when we were 14 and that story was one of the reasons we ended up going to college.”
If all goes to plan, Esmé will be introducing herself to the neighborhood in early June.