EV Grieve Reflects on the Lessons of CB3 Meetings, Superdive, and the East Village as a "Foodie Tourist Trap"
Although EV Grieve is first and foremost a neighborhood blog dedicated to covering "things that you may or may not be interested in about the East Village and other parts of New York City," we turn to it on a daily basis for restaurant and bar news.
In addition to chronicling the constantly evolving storefronts in the East Village, the blog's creator, known only as Grieve, is an almost constant -- if somewhat weary -- presence at Community Board 3 SLA committee meetings, and his wry, straightforward posts on subjects like the Superdive saga and menu changes at Polonia generate comments that provide a lively, complex, and often educational portrait of how many East Villagers view the changes that are for better or worse reshaping their neighborhood. Also, his frequent updates on DBGB's outdoor seating combine some of the best elements of weather.com and Samuel Beckett.
Do you think there's such thing as too many restaurants in the neighborhood, or ever tire of the near-constant openings?
There have been a lot of high-profile openings in the East Village of late. DBGB. Peels. Goat Town. To name but a few. Many of the new restaurants don't cater to local residents. The eateries continue to turn the East Village into some kind of foodie tourist trap. Hyper-seasonal! Farm to table! Artisanal! Many of these restaurateurs don't even bother reaching out to their neighbors. They're greedy carpetbaggers here to cash in on the East Village gold rush. So once the foodies move on to the Next Big/Buzzed-About Thing, as they always do, there's no one left to dine in this places.
And the arrogance of some of these restaurateurs never fails to amaze me. A friend who lives near Edi & the Wolf on Avenue C tried to eat there shortly after the grand opening. The hostess said that there was a 90-minute wait; and that my friend shouldn't bother leaving a name. I loved how the Edi & Wolf chef later told the Post how his place fits in with the spirit of the East Village, "Where the politician sits next to the truck driver. Where they can eat something simple but good." Uh-huh. In any event, the near-constant openings are turning into near-constant closings in some cases. We should start a Dead Pool.
From the standpoint of your readers and commenters, what's been the most compelling/entertaining/loathed restaurant or bar that you've covered on the blog?
Early on, Superdive posts brought out a lot of commenters. Ditto for a few early posts on the 13th Step, though I haven't heard a word about the place since it actually opened. However, across its rather brief life span, Aces & Eights inspired the most comments. This place represented a kind of tipping point, where some readers were finally fed up with the continued Mardi Gras-ing of the neighborhood by bar owners attracting the worst-possible flip-cupping bros and woo-woo-ers from other parts of the tristate area.
Do you think restaurants are symptomatic of the problems of the neighborhood's gentrification or the problem itself?
The hyper-changing demographics in the neighborhood have helped usher in the opening of precious eateries serving artisanal ingredients and pork -- lots of pork. Not to mention fancy cocktails with laughable ingredients for $12 a pop. Landlords know that they will receive big bucks from a bar-restaurant. The mom-and-pop shops can't compete with these rents. For instance, I'm told by reliable sources that the landlord of the former Graceland on Avenue A and 2nd Street is holding off for a food tenant. Think the landlord will rent the space to, say, a shoe store? That's not very artisanal -- unless the shoes are made with rooftop-grown canvas.
Do you go out to eat in the neighborhood a lot? When you do, where are you likely to go?
I don't eat out in restaurants all that often. I appreciate the well-worn places such as the Odessa, Neptune, the Stage, Little Poland, John's on 12th Street, etc. Not to mention Zaragoza on Avenue A and Joselito's on Avenue D. There are others. I appreciate the variety of places to choose from.
Many of the newer places turn me off with their arrogance and prices. I'm certainly not opposed to any place that happens to be new, though. Of restaurants that opened in the last few years, Northern Spy and Porsena are my favorites. While I'm not a Porchetta fan, I do like what Sara Jenkins has done at Porsena. Plus, her right-hand man, Sebastian, drinks at the Coal Yard.
What would you like to see open in the old Superdive space?
I know that I'm in FantasyLand here. But I'd love to see a small repertory cinema. Something to complement the Anthology Film Archives the way that the Pioneer Theater did. Or how about another bookstore along the caliber of Mast a few blocks south on Avenue A? Or another CD/record shop like Ethereal Records, where Mast is now? Or a place to grab something rather healthy and inexpensive to eat? Something along the lines of Whole Earth Bakery on St. Mark's Place. Something other than pizza or falafels where you don't have to wait long. Or how about a fishmonger? Just any business that doesn't depend on nightlife to stay afloat.
What lessons have you taken away from CB3 SLA meetings?
It's good theater. I've tried to take Mrs. Grieve there on a date, but she resists. Anyway, the system is clearly broken. I believe everyone involved realizes this. It will take time to get there.
And there seems to be multiple sets of standards at work. Some gargantuan places like Billy Hurricane's and the Cienfuegos complex receive the OK; yet a pretzel shop a few doors to the north that closes at 8 p.m. gets denied for beer and wine. All the while, we are treated to these eight-hour marathon sessions. CB2 does a smart thing -- they break up the SLA committee meetings over two evenings. That's much more humane.
Given the choice between another cupcake shop, frozen yogurt store, nail spa, or bank branch, which would you choose, and why?
A shoe store. Oh, well -- of course we don't need any of these things you mention. But. I'm not someone who eats desserts. Or has his nails done at a salon. So let's go with another soulless bank branch. At least they will never apply for a liquor license.
Is there any restaurant or bar that's closed (recently or not) that you really miss?
Some of the East Village bars that I really like are still around. But the regulars keep dropping off. Many of my old friends can't afford to live in this neighborhood these days. I miss that sense of community and camaraderie, not to mention that feeling that anything could happen.
Now it's all too predictable. And it's always disconcerting to have my favorite places overrun by the post-pub-crawl crowd who play that same Florence and the Machine song over and over because they think it's "alternative." As for actual closings, maybe Downtown Beirut. I was thinking about Brownie's the other day, too.
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