Comings & Goings: Going nuts for Balkan StrEAT; Village is Cannabis Central as dispensaries open

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BY CAROLINE BENVENISTE | The themes this month were Italian, Mediterranean, cannabis and fast-casual. Asian restaurants opened and closed. There are also a couple of French restaurants in the works.

Cevapi with yogurt sauce at Balkan StrEAT. (Photo by Max Flatow/Balkan StrEAT)
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Top Restaurant Openings:

In October 2021 I walked by the empty storefront on Sixth Avenue that used to house the Tri-Rite Deli and saw two gentlemen outside collecting signatures for a liquor license application. I struck up a conversation and learned that they were planning to open a Balkan restaurant called Balkan StrEAT at 353 Sixth Ave. (between W. 4th Street and Washington Place) and were shooting for the first half of 2022. The opening finally happened on Jan. 24, 2023, and it was definitely worth the wait. One of the owners, William Djuric, had a Serbian father and spent his summers there growing up. He said that even then he had a dream of opening a restaurant in New York where the ćevapi (grilled Serbian sausage) would taste like the ones in Serbia. To this end he attended culinary school and spent time working in restaurants. He decided on the West Village because his father, who was an artist, had a studio on Greenwich Street and when William was young he spent time in the area. He was also looking for a place with energy, and one that would survive the pandemic and he felt the East and West Village fit the bill. With his partner, Jason Correa, who also worked in the restaurant industry, they decided on a fast-casual format. Inside the restaurant are screens with four menu categories: Grill (Roštilj), Bakery (Pekara), Balkan Specialties and Salads. In the grill section, in addition to ćevapi, there are hamburgers served on lepinja rolls, which were described to me as a cross between a pita and an English muffin and are baked fresh in-house. (On my way out I got a plain lepinja to go and was given some kajmak, a Serbian clotted cream, which they make in-house, to eat with it.) The baker hails from Belgrade, and if you sneak to the back, you can see him preparing filo. It starts in a ball that looks like pizza dough, but then gets expertly stretched until you can read a newspaper through it. After this magic has been performed, the filo is used to make the bureks. Bureks come in many shapes and sizes (and spellings, since sometimes they appear as boureks), but these are made in a round mold and cut into four wedges and are sold whole or by the slice. There are a number of fillings, including cheese, spinach and cheese and potato and onion, as well as other vegetarian and meat options. The dough is crispy on the top and chewy in the middle, and they are maybe the best bureks I’ve ever had. Other baked goods include jelly donuts, hot dog rolls that look like giant pigs in blankets, and a spiral ham and cheese roll. On their second day of business there was a steady stream of customers in spite of the wintery mix outside. On their opening day, they had to close early when they ran out of food. They are already working on their second project, which will be in the East Village and will have table service.

Pljeskavica, a beef Balkan-style burger, at Balkan SrtEAT. (Photo by Max Flatow/Balkan StrEAT)
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele (2 Bank St., at Greenwich Avenue) has opened in the space that used to previously house three restaurants: Barraca, a tapas restaurant, Macondo, a tapas/taco spot, and LIPS, a drag bar in the basement. The pizzeria is a Neapolitan import, but unlike the original, which was founded in 1870 and which only serves two pizza options (marinara and margherita), the new restaurant has a large menu and three different venues. Read more about their pizza in the “West Village pizza roundup” in The Village Sun.

L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele is gettting a slice of the action. (Photo by Caroline Benveniste)

Kid Brother pizza at Urbanspace is sure to wiggle your stache. (Photo by The Village Sun)
Also Open

Nerea (89 Greenwich Ave., between Bank and W. 12th Streets) is a beautifully decorated Mediterranean/Italian spot with elaborately plated dishes and some unusual ingredients (24K gold leaf, Parmesan foam). Gen Korean BBQ House (150 E. 14th Street, at Third Ave.) is a new, all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue restaurant originally from California, and now with locations in Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Hawaii and the Philippines. For $31, diners have two hours to grill and eat a selection of meats. Previously, 5 Napkin Burger and Tamam falafel (both from restaurateur Simon Oren) occupied the space. Urbanspace Union Square, a new food hall, has opened at Zero Irving (124 E. 14th Street, at Irving Place). For more details on the offerings, see the Jan. 6 Village Sun article: “Food hall opens at Zero Irving a.k.a. E. 14th St. ‘Tech Hub.’” Panera To-Go has opened at 110 University Place (between 12th and 13th Streets). This shop’s format is slightly different from the regular Panera stores, with more prepackaged options and a different, more high-tech ordering system. This block of University Place is becoming a to-go hub, with the imminent arrival of Serafina Express next door. The first of these fast-casual versions of the Serafina restaurants opened at 402 Sixth Ave. (at W. Eighth St.) this past July. Do Not Feed Alligators (337 Bleecker St., between Christopher and W. 10th Streets) is a cafe with coffee, tea and pastries, a garden and art books. The idea came from Swiss photographer David Shama, who published a book by that name with photographs from his travels in the South, particularly in Florida’s “Alligator Alley.”

Urbanspace has the major food groups covered: pizza, bao and waffles. (Photo by The Village Sun)
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The Village is currently the epicenter of the legal pot business. Housing Works Cannabis Co. opened at the end of December at 750 Broadway (near Astor Place). It is New York’s first legal recreational cannabis dispensary. Another dispensary opened on Jan. 24 at 144 Bleecker St. (west of LaGuardia Place), and in February the Doe Fund will open a dispensary at 835 Broadway (at the corner of E. 13th St.). Time Out quoted one of the operators saying: “We want people to spend 15 to 20 minutes learning, but we will balance that with serving people who are going to Regal Cinema and want to run in to get a gummy.” That may not be an issue anymore since many outlets have reported that the Union Square Regal Cinema is slated to close soon due to the company’s COVID-related bankruptcy filing. The Village Sun further reported that there could soon be a Meatpacking dispensary too (“Pot dispensary to open on Bleecker St., maybe in Meatpacking, too,” Jan. 9). In healthier news, Club Pilates has opened a location at 389 Sixth Ave. (between Waverly Place and W. Eighth Street). They offer classes, as well as individual training sessions, and are offering a free introductory class on their Web site.

Serving up chicken sliders at Urbanspace, a new food court in the Zero Irving building. (Photo by The Village Sun)
Closed

Daisies – Better Burgers (516 Hudson St., between Christopher and West 10th Streets) opened in the long-empty Benedicts space in October 2021. They hoped their “Sustainable, From Farm To Burger” approach would be a draw but, unfortunately, after just over a year they have closed. Mr. K Japanese and Street Food (152 Seventh Ave. South, between Charles and Perry Streets) is gone. A sad note on their door explains: “As we had difficulty running our business in the past few months, unfortunately we’ve made the most difficult decision to CLOSE our business. We THANK YOU for all your support over a year and we would like to apologize if we have made any mistake.” Panca (92 Seventh Ave. South, between Bleecker and Grove Streets), a Peruvian cevicheria, has announced on their Web page, “After 13 years we are sadly leaving the West Village. Pls visit our Brooklyn location opening in early spring.” Italian restaurant Solaro (13 Carmine St., at Sixth Avenue), which opened in late 2019, has shuttered. This seems to be a cursed space for Italian restaurants as Giulietta’s Cantina Club, which was there previously, did not last very long, either. Jo Quality Dry Cleaners (56 Seventh Ave., between 13th and 14th Streets) has closed and a sign on the door is directing customers to New Spring Cleaners at 45 Eighth Ave. (near W. Fourth Street).

Coming Soon

There are two future openings that I am particularly excited about. First, Kerber’s Farm Provisions, a beloved cafe, farm and farm store in Huntington, LI, is opening a small shop at 264 Bleecker St. (between Morton and Leroy Streets). They are known for their pies, biscuit egg sandwiches, baked goods and provisions. Second, the Roman restaurant empire Roscioli is opening a location at 43 MacDougal St. (at King Street). In Rome, I have been to their bakery, pizza restaurant and main location, which resembles Sogno Toscano (at 17 Perry St.) during the day, with wine, cheese and salumi plates, in a space that also doubles as a salumeria. In the evening, the more formal and top-rated downstairs restaurant opens. It is not clear what the format of the NYC Roscioli will be, but whatever it is, it will undoubtedly be delicious. ZZ’s Clam Bar, a raw bar from the Major Food Group, is coming to the old Highlands space at 150 W. 10th St. (near Waverly Place). The Major Food Group also operates a number of other restaurants, including a ZZ’s on Thompson Street, Carbone, Torrisi, Parm and others. Highlands, a popular Scottish gastropub, closed in June 2020 because of difficulties brought on by COVID. Chez Stanley, a new French restaurant, is planning to open at 93 Greenwich Ave. (between W. 12th and Bank Streets). According to their application for a liquor license, “Chez Stanley will be a casual restaurant inspired by the neighborhood bistros of Paris.” Little Owl – The Venue operated at that space from 2010 to 2021. Another French bistro is slated to open in the spring: Libertine, at 143 Christopher St., at Greenwich Street, will replace Village stalwart Gaetana’s. In advance of their opening, the Libertine team has been holding pop-ups at restaurants around town. REYNA New York is a Mediterranean tapas bar imported from Toronto that opened recently at 11 E. 13th St. (between Fifth Avenue and University Place); soon, a hidden cocktail lounge called Le Louis New York will materialize inside the space. Van Leeuwen, which seems to be opening locations all over the city, is taking over the old Sushi West space at 556 Hudson St., near Perry Street.

Moved/Other

In the coming months, Moustache Pitza, which has been on Bedford Street for 32 years, will be moving from its current location at 90 Bedford St., near Grove Street, to 29 Seventh Ave. South (between Bedford and Morton Streets). Read more about their pitzas in this month’s “West Village Pizza Roundup.” Vietnamese restaurant Saigon Market, which for many years had been at 93 University Place (between 11th and 12th Streets), has now reopened at 202 W. 14th St. (west of Seventh Avenue), where short-lived Korean restaurant Zusik once was. Mr. Z Dim Sum Inc. (313 Sixth Ave., between Bleecker and W. Fourth Street) is gone, and new signage and a note in the window promised that Spicy Sichuan was coming at the end of December. However, two notices on the door call this into question: The first states that Mr. Z Dim Sum Inc. owes more than $77,000, including four months’ rent, and the second is an eviction notice with a demand for a $2 million judgment. Things are not going well just south of there, either: Marie Blachère (301 Sixth Ave., near Bleecker Street) was recently shut down by order of the commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene. There appears to be extensive construction going on inside, and the manager at their Great Neck, Long Island, location said they hope to reopen the West Village bakery in the coming weeks. The bakery had already been shut down in August 2019 for health code violations but reopened quickly after some repairs. On the same block, Chickenhawk (319 Sixth Ave.), which we featured in last month’s “Comings & Goings”) is having a special promotion in February: For the whole month, their signature Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich will be available for $5. Lisabetta’s, 240 W. 14th St., between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, is the new name for what used to be 240 NYC. The menu has not changed much — it features pizza, pasta and seafood. Favorites include the gnocchi trio with three different sauces, and the burrata and vodka pizzas.

Source: village sun