Previous John’s Luncheonette — a comforting, decades-outdated diner on the Higher West Facet that shut in Oct amid the pandemic — is making a comeback less than new possession.
NYC restaurateur Louis Skibar, who has opened 18 places to eat in the metropolis around the past 30 decades — which includes equally places of Mexican cafe Toloache, as properly as Chelsea Cuban diner Coppelia — will reopen the storied uptown diner in mid-to-late February, he tells Eater New York. Anticipate a great deal of updates to the neighborhood stalwart when it returns: Skibar will be preserving the diner’s identify, but has assembled a new staff to guide the kitchen and options to refresh some of the restaurant’s old-school inside styles.
Skibar also has a own historical past with the cafe. It was the first area in the town that he worked right after emigrating from Bolivia to NYC in 1984. He started as a delivery man or woman and worked his way up to short get prepare dinner. Yrs later, he was a co-owner in the restaurant for a limited time when it re-opened soon after a 7-year hiatus in 1997. When the restaurant’s lease expired previously this 12 months and the most modern owner left, the building’s landlord achieved out to Skibar to see if he was intrigued in having above the diner.
“I’m incredibly thrilled,” Skibar suggests of the job. “To provide this back, it feels extremely specific.”
For the revival, Skibar has signed on chef Grayson Schmitz, a former Top Chef contestant whose previous expertise includes stints at good eating restaurants like Jean-Georges and Wallsé, to oversee the kitchen. The diner will also have its 1st-at any time committed pastry chef in Tanya Ngangan, beforehand the co-owner of 7-12 months-old West Village patisserie Bisous Ciao, which shut down in Could.
Group-most loved dishes like the blueberry pancakes, the Belgian waffles, and the hen pot pie will remain on the menu, but Schmitz has programs to update the recipes, Skibar says. Ngangan is making a early morning pastry application wherever almost everything will be baked in-household, and ideas to recreate common diner desserts for Aged John’s which include sundaes, ice cream sodas, and egg creams.
Although the interior will not be obvious to diners until eventually indoor eating is authorized once again, there are some more surprises ready for longtime regulars when limits lift. Skibar ideas to modernize the dining space with a shiny new entrance counter to anchor the area, and he’s introducing three additional stools to fill out the bar. The cafe will seat 40 men and women at total ability.
Skibar is aiming to open the revamped diner in mid-to-late February, he suggests, smack in the center of NYC’s pandemic wintertime. He’s constructing a heated outdoor room with individual sections outfitted with booths and subway tiles, modeled just after Previous John’s retro inside, and will be featuring takeout and shipping at the commence as properly.
It is a tough time to open, Skibar admits, but he says that he negotiated some hire breaks with the landlord and he’s optimistic about the neighborhood’s ability to maintain a cafe like Outdated John’s. His places to eat in vacationer hotspots like the Theater District have been battling, he says, but his places in a lot more household neighborhoods, like the Higher East Facet, have been carrying out perfectly adequate all through the pandemic. He’s banking on the similar trend participating in out on the other side of Central Park.
“People pass by and wish us luck,” Skibar says, recounting how passersby have referred to the diner as the ‘Cheers’ of the Upper West Aspect as they pass the renovation perform. “It’s a nice experience, specifically in this time.”