A lot of local places describe themselves as ‘neighborhood restaurants’. But, aside from location, what does this actually mean? That a place is affordable? Has good food? Friendly service? Lots of regulars? Staying power?
Recently I met with some of the team behind the soon-to-open restaurant on the corner of Franklin and Kent streets. They told me all about their plans to create their own take on the ‘neighborhood restaurant’ in Greenpoint and it sounds as though they could be on track to get the formula just right.
The restaurant, which currently goes by the working title of ‘Clouet’, is headed up by Henry Rich, owner of Italian restaurants Rucola in Boerum Hill and Fitzcarraldo in East Williamsburg. Henry is teaming up with Perry Chen, the founder of Kickstarter, with the pair having become friends after meeting at a barbecue.
“Perry used to work at Diner back in the day, and mentioned he thought it could be fun to open a restaurant together.” Henry tells us. “He’d already seen this place on Franklin Street whilst seeking potential Kickstarter spaces (Kickstarter is next door), so we agreed it was a great location and just went for it.”
“I’ve always liked Greenpoint” Henry says. “It has a nice energy and it has the perfect balance of industrial, commercial and residential buildings, as well as being by the water. I really like this moment in time in Greenpoint and we want to create a restaurant that encapsulates this feeling.”
After getting Rucola chef Joe Pasqualetto on board, the trio settled on a Southern French-Catalonian style of food. Joe has previously worked at Michelin-starred Daniel under Daniel Boulud, so is well versed in the art of first-class French cuisine.
“I’m excited about doing the lighter side of French faire” Joe enthuses. “Everyone assumes that French food is about tonnes of butter and fat and foie gras, but down in the south of France it’s not really like that. Instead it’s a real Mediterranean tomato and beans and olive oil type of area…really simple.”
“We’ll be making farm-to-table, ingredient driven, vegetable-focused food,” says Henry. “We want people to be able to come in 3-4 times a week, without having to spend a lot of money, and without having a heart attack or getting diabetes. I want to recreate that feeling you get when you go on vacation somewhere, and the first night you have such a good experience at a restaurant that you want to go back again the next night.”
“Good service is important too”, adds general manager Aron Kelly. “We don’t want to have the usual Brooklyn ‘ignore you’ service. Instead we’re going to be really hospitable, and make sure people feel comfortable and have a good time.”
Wine from the south west of France will be heavily represented on the menu. “It’s my favorite region for wine, buts it’s generally not very well understood or widely featured, so I think we’re going to have the strongest South Western French wine list ever in the US!” laughs Henry.
The space itself will have a large bar and dining area and a separate, private dining room at the rear. The plasterwork will be done by the team behind Maison Premiere and Hotel Delmano, so with this in mind we can already get a sense of the kind of aesthetic they’re after.
“We tried to lay the restaurant out in a way that feels full of nooks and privacy, but so that there’s still a lot of seats” Henry tells us. “We’re using a lot of wood and glass to let the light in, and we’ve just put in new oak floors and a beautiful walnut bar. I want it to be bright and beautiful during the day and cozy and romantic in the evening.”
There will also be outdoor seating on the sidewalk, running the length of the vast 40ft facade.
The restaurant is situated right next door to Ramona, which the Clouet team are really happy about: “Ramona is a really nice complimentary business to ours” Henry says. “People can go there for a drink before a meal, or pop in for a nightcap afterwards. Being on Franklin street is a real opportunity for us. ”
‘Clouet’ (name soon to change) is at 113 Franklin Street, and is set to open in September.They will be open early morning until late evening every day.