Esme fans, rejoice! The New American restaurant at 999 Manhattan Ave. is reopening after a months-long winter hibernation on Wednesday, April 14. The dining room is reimagined, the shady backyard is reopen, and soon, a curbside seating area will offer even more room to gather over small plates, shareable entrees and weekend brunch.

“Closing the restaurant was fairly devastating, not so much from a business perspective, as 2020 took its toll on most businesses like ours to a point where revenue wasn’t our prime consideration in the decisions we were making, but from the perspective of having to close the doors again, for the second time in a year to our guests, our staff and our friends, that was a challenge,” said Esme co-owner Matthew Ricke. “As it got colder outside and our ability to create a comfortable, conditioned and safe space for our guests grew more and more difficult, we realized that it was becoming impossible to provide any kind of genuine dining experience.”

The backyard patio at Esme (Carlos Andres)

After being open seven days a week since 2014 without a scheduled break, Esme took the hibernation period as an opportunity to reimagine the space and the business for the current challenges laid out in the pandemic. “Not only did we want to recreate the dining room for our guests and their considerations leaving the COVID-19 era, we also wanted to recreate it for ourselves, all the little tricks and details we wish we had thought about before opening seven years ago,” Ricke said. “We tried to incorporate them into the new layout so that we can be the very best version of ourselves upon reopening for what we hope will be a lively and healthy spring for everyone!”

Nearly all of Esme’s staff from before the shutdown has rejoined the team. The dining room has been reimagined to help make the ceilings feel higher, the windows feel bigger, and the walls and floor feel brighter. Lighting will offer a warmer, all-day feel. “We wanted the space to feel brand new and ready for a fresh start,” Rick said. “The menu is tweaked to be a faster and more shareable version of our best and most loved dishes. We think dining is going to be a real event this year, and we wanted to create an experience where people can feel like they have an opportunity to work through our menu in a more holistic and casual way than in the past.”

Esme’s grilled salmon (Carlos Andres) Credit: Carlos Andres

As Greenpoint continues to change, Ricke wants Esme’s legacy to continue as a neighborhood restaurant. “New buildings are built and new folks move in, but by and large Greenpoint attracts neighbors,” Ricke said. “It’s been very meaningful to us to be able to create a shared space and experience for the residents. Greenpoint is also a community of entrepreneurs, makers and craftspeople – some things we also imagine ourselves to be. Hopefully our little restaurant is not only a reflection of that spirit, but also of the neighborhood itself as it has evolved and continues to do so.”

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