How Will Sweet Chick Fill Max Fish’s Shoes? (INTERVIEW)


John Seymour and Sam Saleh picked up the keys for the space at 178 Ludlow Street yesterday, which means it’s official–they’re building a second outpost of their successful Williamsburg chicken and waffles restaurant Sweet Chick in the former Max Fish space. “The key tag says 178 Max Fish,” Seymour says. “It’s pretty surreal.”

He and Saleh have plans to remake the space–but they’d like to preserve the legacy of the bar that played an integral part in the Lower East Side party scene for two decades.

“I grew up in the city, and I’m super familiar with Max Fish,” Seymour says. “When I saw Pink Pony was closing, we made the call to go check it out, and we started talking about Max Fish. Originally, it was like, wow, those are big shoes to fill. But I talked to my wife and my partner, and we came to a conclusion: Who better to take it than us?” Besides, he adds, someone had to step up to claim the address lest it become a big box concept like Applebees or some other spot that doesn’t fit the neighborhood.

As for what they guys plan to bring to the neighborhood, Seymour says they’ll follow in the vein of what they’ve tried to create in Williamsburg: a community restaurant with the same sort of homey feel built on hand-picked materials salvaged from all over the city. First, though, the space needs some work to turn it into a restaurant. “The owners painted over everything on the walls, so it’s pretty much like a vanilla box right now,” says Seymour. “We’ll have to put in a full kitchen, because there’s no kitchen there. And there’s not much plumbing by the bar, because Max Fish didn’t have tap beer. So there’s pretty significant construction infrastructure to build.” The guys will also move the bathrooms and install a walk-in in the basement. Seymour also hopes to integrate subtle tribute to Max Fish into the decor, though he won’t say what just yet.

That space will set the stage for a menu that’s similar to the Williamsburg location, though Seymour says the team has a few new things planned. “Obviously, chicken and waffles are always on there,” he says. “But we’ll add a few things to the menu, especially at brunch and lunch. We’d like it to be a little more lunch-y during the week.” The dinner menu, he notes, changes seasonally, an effort to give the surrounding community a place to stop into multiple times a week.

That Sweet Chick is still less than a year old and is already picking up a sibling begs the question of whether Seymour and Saleh have massive expansion plans for their concept. “I don’t like to think too far into the future,” says Seymour. “Originally, we got the space in Williamsburg and said, ‘We’re going to do something great here,’ and that’s as far as we got. We were successful early, so we thought, you know, this is something we can put in another neighborhood and it could do well. But it’s still one step at a time–if you start looking too far to the future, you lose sight of what’s happening right now. If it does phenomenally, then of course, we’ll think about it. But right now, I want to get my feet wet, feel comfortable, hang out on Ludlow, and become a part of that block.”

The guys hope the build-out will take about four months, which puts them at a late winter or early spring opening.


This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 24, 2013

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