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Beechers, Via Tribunali test the waters in NYC

For big Seattle restaurants, New York can seem like the next-best place for an outpost. But as one local favorite proves, that's not always the case.
Cheese floor at Beecher's Cheese in New York

Cheese floor at Beecher's Cheese in New York

"A brand new start of it in old New York" was lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green's promise in the 1944 musical On The Town.

The lure of the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps. The notion that "making it" is up to New York itself. Well, so be it. 

Starbucks has been in Manhattan since 1974 with a long-term love-hate relationship with its customers just like on its home turf. Nordstrom's has two dozen outposts in the New York suburbs, and there's a Rack outlet near Union Square. Amazon, of course, doesn't need bricks and mortar.

But what about some newcomers? Here's a look at four popular Seattle restaurants and their luck beating Seattle's "little town blues": Beecher's, Via Tribunali, Fonté Café and Wild Ginger. 

The most successful of the recent emigrés has been cheese entrepreneur Kurt Beecher Dammeier. And what a handsome building he found, at Broadway and E. 20th, in New York's famous Flatiron District, when he expanded his Beecher's Handmade Cheese  operation from Seattle to the Big Apple a bit over a year ago. It's on the same street as Gramercy Tavern, three blocks from Eataly, two blocks from James Beard's  "Restaurant of the Year" ABC Kitchen. "We didn't realize that the Flatiron District was going to be such a big part of the foodification of Manhattan," Dammeier told me earlier this month, "but we're loving it."

The New York Beecher's has 8,500 square feet of space, more than double the footprint of the store at Seattle's Pike Place Market. There's room for Beecher's signature cheese-making "factory," along with a cheese counter and a cafe. There's additional seating on the mezzanine, and a cheese cellar and cocktail bar in the basement.

"We get a lot of business from foodie tourists who've heard about Beecher's because of the national awards we've won," Dammeier said, "and we're a touchstone for Seattle visitors."

In June, 2011, Beecher's opened to good reviews  and "got even better," Dammeier said. "But I didn't realize how really slow things are in Manhattan in summer, especially on weekends. I'd thought of New York as this beehive with 7 million people, but in fact it's a whole bunch of neighborhoods, even more insular than Seattle."

Via Tribunali has had a harder row to hoe. Mike McConnell, who started with Caffè Vita in 1995 and expanded to a chain of pizzerias in 2004, found a storefront on Ludlow Street a couple of seasons back. “New York seemed like an obvious next move, and the neighborhood fits our audience perfectly,” he told a New York reporter. His fiancée and business partner, Elizabeth Weber, said that the lower East Side reminded her of Seattle's Capitol Hill. “We’ve very much found a sense of home here,” she said.

Via Tribunali in New York features the same sort of handmade ovens as the Seattle stores —  fashioned by hand from Vesuvius bricks, which crank up to a blazing 1,000 degrees and can flash-bake pizzas in under a minute. There's room for 40 diners on site plus take-out and, coming soon, neighborhood delivery. There's also a Caffè Vita outpost next door. Early reviews were mixed, with Yelpers, especially, complaining about the sauces. "Don't go out of your way for this," was one comment on Eater.com.

The Tribunali organization has matured since its early days, with a new Seattle-based operations manager, Deborah Hermansen, taking charge of the four Seattle pizzerias and the new ones in Portland and Manhattan. McConnell himself spends every other week in the Big Apple, according to New York GM, Mario Franck (who worked at How to Cook a Wolf and Osteria La Spiga in Seattle). "Now that the slow season, summer, is over, we look forward to being busy again," he said.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Oct 10, 4 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm doubtful about the accuracy of the "On the Town" premise but not about the lyrics. The line is from "New York, New York" by Kander and Ebb as are the subsequent references to making it, up to you, etc.

Along the lines of the article - too bad Portland's Pok Pok is having it's NYC problems too. I guess it's the case of "little town blues."

psnewman

Posted Wed, Oct 10, 10:15 p.m. Inappropriate

Reader psnewman is absolutely right. Bernstein's "NY-NY" music, with the Comden & Green lyrics, was for "On the Town." Must have been inhaling the subway fumes.

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