It’s a far cry from ramen burgers and raindrop cakes, but 180 Tenth is already proving to be a top summertime destination for New York City natives, Brooklynites and Long Islanders alike. The creative minds behind Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn-born seasonal outdoor food market, are at it again, this time trying their luck as formal restaurateurs.
In late May, cofounders Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler welcomed patrons of West Chelsea to the grand opening of 180 Tenth, their most recent project occupying the garden restaurant of The High Line Hotel.
Marked by a leafy backdrop, dim string lights and striped umbrellas, the front patio restaurant will be occupied throughout the remainder of the summer by the vendor-centric entrepreneurs, the same duo behind Berg’n, a late-night beer hall featuring microbrews and food counters, and Brooklyn Flea, a weekend flea market-type venue with live entertainment.
“Nothing we do is normal,” said Demby. “Everything about this venture is different, which is interesting and exciting for us. This time, we’re working with a more sophisticated, conventional setting with more focus on presentation and service.”
In devising a comprehensive menu, reflective of the usual Demby/Butler style but with greater emphasis on a classic sit-down service experience, the two decided to collaborate with chef Aaron Taber, whom Demby dubs a “data-driven chef.”
“He’s a real structured and regimented chef, which leaves him room to flourish in terms of creativity in his cooking,” said Demby of Taber, former head chef of Red Hook’s Grindhaus and Cobble Hill’s wine bar, June. Taber also worked for David Chang’s Maple, the now defunct food delivery service. “He’s got a certain pedigree and a lack of pretension in his approach,” he continued.
With a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients and a unique blending of flavors, Taber’s dinner menu features a selection of raw dishes, snack items and larger entree plates, some of the most popular being the crudo, consisting of citrus-cured fluke with pickled fennel; the burrata, served with herb salad; the flatbread, made in-house and complemented by an herb jam; and the roasted carrots; complete with almonds, raisins and piave cheese.
The newly introduced brunch menu take a unique take on the usually egg-centric meal. The widely popular frittata sandwich presents egg, potato, spicy greens and paprika aioli on a sesame bun. Another customer favorite is the All-American, with slab bacon, smashed potato, poached eggs and a side salad.
Dinner service begins at 5 p.m. daily, with brunch taking place on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The bar area operates from 2 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and all day Saturday and Sunday.
Aside from classic beer and wine selections to choose from, the beverage menu, curated by Jen Watson, general manager of Berg’n, also presents unusual crafty cocktails.
The Paper Plane, a bourbon-based cocktail, incorporates aperol, amaro nonino and lemon juice. The Punch House Spritz, an unexpected favorite of Demby, includes Cocchi Americano aperitif, Lambrusco red wine, seltzer and a dash of lime. Frozen negronis and margaritas top the most common orders, especially on warmer days in the outdoor space.
Though 180 Tenth, aptly named after the address of The Highline Hotel, is the first Manhattan-oriented undertaking for Demby and Butler, it is certainly not the last. The two plan to soon unveil the first-year round Smorgasburg, located on the corner of Canal Street and Varick Street.
“It’s a cool location, and we had never done anything in Manhattan until now,” said Demby. “In that SoHo/Tribeca area, there’s people living and working and there’s some great places to eat, but not many.”
Demby intends to include about a half dozen vendors Monday through Friday to accommodate the locals, and expand to about 20 vendors on weekends.