If you follow the restaurant industry on a national level — or if, perhaps, you sojourn in Miami on occasion — you’ve likely heard of Yardbird, the Southern restaurant that’s been stacking up accolades for its finely executed fare (including fried chicken) since it first debuted in 2012.
Chefs Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth were instrumental in that restaurant’s success, and they’ve flown the Floridian coop to give New York City a new spot: Root & Bone (200 East 3rd Street, 646-682-7080; to-go line 646-682-7076) makes its grand debut on Monday, June 30.
McInnis grew up in the Florida panhandle, and his early culinary education came from fishing and spending time on his grandparents’ farms in Alabama. He’d later attend cooking school and bounce around the country, learning high-end Asian cooking and honing his chops in Southern cuisine, before landing a spot on Top Chef season five and then going on to Yardbird fame. Booth is Australian, and she cooked all over the world before she wound up in Miami; she met McInnis when he was at Gigi’s, an Asian spot he helped open, before working with him at Yardbird. She then did Top Chef in New Orleans, where, she says, she learned Cajun and Creole food.
The pair decided to come to New York, says McInnis, because they were ready for a change, and they were “excited to show New York our food. New York is the food mecca of the world right now. It seemed like the right time. We found this spot in the East Village, which used to be a humble, cute, old Southern spot that closed about two years ago. We met the owner, and he didn’t know what to do with it, but he wanted it to be a restaurant. So we made a crazy decision — we wanted to come to New York.” (Our sibling paper, Miami New Times, ran a statement from McInnis last year that says there was a non-compete from McInnis’s last gig in play, too.)
The duo built out the space, says Booth, to feel like “walking into someone’s dining room or home. There are all these old china sets, and the kitchen is completely open; we wanted to make it feel like you’re walking in for a dinner party. It’s a really spectacular romantic place.” Cream-colored banquettes line white walls, and Edison bulbs dangle from the tin ceiling over wooden tables.
The couple also attached a market to the restaurant, where Booth is spearheading a healthier grab-and-go menu, with sandwiches, salads, and sides, and McInnis says lighter fare — like a grilled peach caprese and vegetarian gnudi — will infiltrate the regular menu, too, along with contemporary twists on Southern fare. There will, of course, be fried chicken, as well. “We put a spin on the version of fried chicken,” says McInnis. “It’s a cool one.” Look for sweet tea-brined bird matched to dehydrated lemon dust and bourbon Tabasco honey.
Whiskey and bourbon form the basis of the cocktail program, and beverage program director Cecilia Romero is also barrel-aging a number of drinks. Those drinks are complemented by a 60-bottle wine list and a draft beer board that’ll offer local brews plus favorite selections from the South.
Root & Bone managed to secure a 2 a.m. liquor license, and it plans to keep the kitchen open until then, too.
When the doors open next week, the restaurant will serve its to-go and fast casual menu from 11:30 a.m. until midnight on the week days and 2 a.m. on weekends; the dinner menu will start the week of July 7. The pair also hopes to debut catering sometime in mid-July.