Damian Collins has been in hospitality for two decades, and he spent much of that time in his native Ireland before relocating to New York City four years ago. A front-of-house jack-of-all-trades, he landed his sommelier certification about 10 years ago, but he’s never had the opportunity to own his own spot. Until now.
Earlier this week, he and his partners opened Chapter One (33 Greenwich Avenue, 212-842-9146) in the West Village, bestowing upon the neighborhood an American pub that Collins hopes will come a low-key joint where people come frequently to just hang out.
“We want to be the Village spot,” says Collins. “The place is really warm, really comfortable, and a welcoming spot.” The partners gave the spot plush leather banquettes and barstools and a vintage look, covering the walls with photos of old bars from across America. A mural on one wall depicts the building 100 years ago.
Food and drinks will be “based on honesty with no frills — what you see is what you get,” says the owner. The partners noticed that there weren’t a lot of restaurants dedicated to American food in the neighborhood, so they hired Warren Baird, who was a sous chef at Esca, to draft a board of American dishes with some western European influence. Look for Long Island duck, local produce, scallops, oyster chowder, and a half chicken. And don’t miss the shortribs or the beef tartare — Collins says those are Baird’s signature dishes.
Weekend brunch traipses through an egg sandwich with house bacon, ricotta pancakes, and cured salmon served with cucumber, creme fraiche, pickled onion, and black bread; lunch, when it launches, will feature a roster of sandwiches and, of course, a burger.
The menu matches a wine program Collins built with City Winery, and he’s in the process of creating a concise wine list built on selections from small American vineyards. The bar is also deep in bourbon and rye, and it’ll turn out classic American cocktails, like an old fashioned and a Manhattan. “There are no cocktails here with 20 different ingredients and four different vegetables sticking out of the glass,” says Collins. “This is not a farmers’ market in the glass.” You’ll also find a handful of beers on draft.
“The whole point,” says Collins, “is to make the customer as comfortable and feel as special as possible.”
Chapter One is open for dinner nightly and brunch on the weekends. It’ll add lunch after July 4.
See more photos on the next page.