Critically acclaimed Pop-Up Dame launches ambitious seafood restaurant in Greenwich Village
If Dame, the newcomer to the seafood business in Greenwich Village, allowed New Yorkers to line up in person for tables days before it opened, co-owners Patricia Howard and Ed Szymanski would likely have takers.
When the duo quietly opened reservations on Resy this week to manage tables for trial dinners with friends and family, dozens of strangers saw the dates appear on the app and signed up to be notified if the tables were vacated. When the reservations for the public were released Tuesday evening, nearly 500 people and counting the places reserved. On a recent weeknight party on Dame’s outdoor patio, Howard and Szymanski took turns on several occasions to interrupt their conversation to gently deflect a constant stream of potential customers who were pushing their heads inside the empty eatery and turning to each other. slid into seats on the outdoor patio. “June 1!” Howard said over and over and over again. “We open on June 1st!”
Unperturbed, some are still looking for paper menus when they leave the door. It’s hard to blame them: Dame is a long-awaited seafood restaurant rooted in English – which will open next Tuesday at 87 MacDougal Street, near Bleecker Street – but it already has the sequel to an older favorite hangout spot. ‘a year thanks to a successful run as a pop-up next. This is where Szymanski’s crispy crisp fish and chips was the undisputed star of the summer of last year. The pair already have new York magazine, Gothamist, and New Yorker critics under their belt, and they’ve been appointed to the new Eater Guard 2021 cohort in May.
As a full-service restaurant, Dame is the couple’s take on a downtown no-garnish seafood restaurant. It’s ambitious and still a bit high end, but Szymanski will cook in shorts. And Howard and Szymanski now use their praise for their fish and chips as a yardstick to measure the success of everything else in the restaurant. “We got a lot of credit for being the best fish and chips in New York,” says Szymanski. “Now we have to do that with the whole menu, the wine list and the service.”
There are 15 dishes on Dame’s seafood-centric menu, and most are served as small plates, as Howard and Szymanski prefer to dine out. However, they are quick to point out that the small plates here will work hard to dismantle stereotypes of expensive and tiny little plates. Puffy Shishito Peppers are skewered with ink squid ribbons ($ 12); the humble cucumber is paired with whole applewood smoked mussels and tossed over garlic puree and more mussels – no mussels left unused here – then topped with dill oil and shaved horseradish ($ 17 ).
The Grilled Oysters ($ 5 each) – a nod to Szymanski’s time as a chef at Cherry Point in Greenpoint when he landed a two-star see again in the New York Times – are lit on the fire table with a green chartreuse liqueur in a nod to another former employer for Szymanski and Howard, the seer Beatrice Inn. The famous fish and chips, made from hake, make the head of a smaller part of the main dishes.
The couple proudly curated their own 100-bottle wine list, split into two sections: a funky, wilder range under the label “What Austin Powers Drinks” and a more classic and straightforward list called “What James Bond.” drinks ”. Austin Powers gets the orange wines; James Bond receives champagne. (They are still wondering if the joke will land.)
The restaurant’s light and airy 450-square-foot dining room – filled with comfortable booths and high-backed bar stools – will remain largely closed to diners for now. The shoebox-sized kitchen, which only fits Szymanski and one other cook at a time, was not designed to handle both indoor and outdoor dining at full capacity (around 60 places in total). For now, they’ll only open up to sit outside and add up from there when they settle into a rhythm.
While the duo hope for public success – and, perhaps, a New Yorker double scrutiny – Behind the scenes, Szymanski and Howard are setting up other schemes that they hope will eventually attract more fans than Lady’s fish and chips.
It starts with staff salaries, a long problematic facet of the industry. Lady does not have a dedicated full time front desk staff. Everyone who works in the restaurant starts at a base salary of $ 15 an hour, participates in service, and pools tips, which are split evenly. Wages will drop to around $ 30 to $ 40 an hour for six to seven employees, they estimate. For a New York cook who would typically earn minimum wage ($ 15 an hour) or a few dollars above, that money is life changing, Szymanski says. As Dame takes the plunge, he and Howard are eager to lobby the state through organizations like One Fair Wage to make tip pooling more possible for New York City restaurants.
“Part of our reason for doing this at such a young age is that there were a lot of not-so-good restore systems out there,” says Szymanski. “And we think we have a way to make it a better one.”
They don’t stop there. At 27 and 30, respectively, Szymanski and Howard are both young restaurateurs who are still a bit shocked to open a restaurant in Greenwich Village, a doorstep from a historic bar that the world’s 50 best have dubbed the summit. . in the world in 2019. In an attempt to draw the curtain on the process, they’ll openly share how they did it, with anyone who wants to know – including a curious reporter from Eater with a recorder. All-in-one (with a pandemic-focused rent deal), it cost $ 230,000 to open Lady, with a budget of $ 310,000 factored in. Nineteen investors, mostly friends, pop-up regulars and family members, raised amounts starting at $ 6,200 each. Open a bottle of wine and they’ll also present a line-by-line budget breakdown.
They also have plenty of tips for other young, aspiring homeowners to share – run a pop-up to fix menu issues ahead of time. Move into an old restaurant where gas is already on. Begin the liquor license application before the lease is finalized. Don’t hire public relations.
The motivation behind transparency is simple. The steps to opening a restaurant in New York are so quiet and complicated, and the failure rate is so high, that it’s no wonder many people think they can’t open a restaurant in the city. . “We’re trying to say it’s not impossible,” Howard says.
But before they publish a toolkit for opening a restaurant, they need to go through their opening. Expectations are high for Dame – and they’re no doubt tied to a few potholes as the full-service restaurant kicks off – but the anticipation doesn’t cripple them as long as it fuels them. They’ve handed out thousands of fish and chips orders over the past year while privately tracing every detail of the day they can make their public mussel, oyster and squid debut.
“The food is definitely more refined, more elegant, more seasonal, so it will take a little time to get used to the flow of the restaurant …” says Szymanski, who stops halfway through a modest attempt to lower expectations. Passers-by walked directly into the empty unopened restaurant dining room and seemed to take seats at the bar.
Dame is open for outdoor dining from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations are available here. A take-out and delivery option for the fish and chips to follow. Lady’s guest pop-up program Sunday series will resume in July.
Cocktail and dinner menu: