Chef Nicholas Nostadt may have trained in classic technique via the French Culinary Institute, but when the doors open at Picnic at 117 Second Avenue in the East Village tonight, you’ll find that he’s mostly paying homage to his midwestern roots.
“I’m originally from Ohio, and I started cooking with my mother and grandmother,” Nostadt, who previously helmed the burners at Berry Park, explains. “They were very good cooks. Dinners were about togetherness–we had family dinner all the time growing up, and at 5:30, no question, I had to be at dinner.”
And the chef hopes to accomplish a similar community feel at Picnic, where he’s put together a menu of what he describes as contemporary comfort food with French roots. He cites traditional picnic fare with southern twinges like collard greens, boiled peanuts, and deviled eggs. “My favorite entree is the turkey leg confit,” he adds. “I cook it down in bacon fat for six hours, and it comes with cranberry barbecue sauce. I always wanted to put a turkey leg on the menu, and it really fit with this place.” There’s also the requisite fried chicken–and you can get a half or whole bird–which comes sided with Nostadt’s homemade ranch dressing plus cider-steamed mussels, root beer barbecue pork, a whole-roasted fish, and, for dessert, an iteration on puppy chow, a Midwestern dessert that combines Chex cereal with chocolate and peanut butter. Items, says the chef, are plated to share (though entrees are meant for one).
Nostadt also wrote the beverage list, and although he notes they’ll never be able to have spirits behind the bar–“There’s a church within 200 yards,” he explains–the restaurant is rolling out with an all-American wine and beer list that Nostadt promises will remain import-free.
As for the space itself, Nostadt describes the decor scheme as “1930s warehouse meets French bistro.” Look for a tin-paneled ceiling, hanging lights, reclaimed barn wood, subway tiles, and a zinc bar, all of which are meant to capture a number of different textures.
After the restaurant debuts tonight, it’ll spend a couple of weeks ironing out the kinks of dinner service, and then it will unveil lunch and brunch. And eventually, Nostadt promises, Picnic will be open from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. daily.