Late at night in New York's West Village and we find ourselves perched on high stools at Jeffrey's Grocery — the slender bar counter is packed with the young and in the know, this being only the restaurant cum market's second night of existence, after all. And the thick hum of chatter all around almost lulls you into a stupor.
Quickly, wine is ordered to stave off the yawns. Gabriel Stulman, the owner of the place, saunters over, looking pleased with the crowd, happy to chat about his new endeavor, which he has called “our best vision of a fifties mom-and-pop local grocery.”
Stulman first rose to New York culinary fame in 2005 as a partner in West Village favorites The Little Owl and Market Table. (He's since divested himself of his share in those restaurants.) Since then, he's opened Joseph Leonard, an American place named for both his grandfathers, and is expanding his footprint further in the Village. (Jeffrey's Grocery, named for his father, is the first of two restaurants he's opening in the West Village this fall. The other, Fedora, is slated to debut as a "1930s-style supper club.")
With a produce refrigerator that is the first thing you see as you walk through the door and shelves packed with cereal, pickles and Sriracha sauce, the place does feel like a decades-old grocery store — sans mustiness, plus a bar counter. The menu has lengthy lists of cheeses and meats and a decent raw bar selection; sandwiches are fairly basic — well, if you consider lobster rolls and braised brisket sandwiches basic.
What's popular on the menu at Jeffrey's Grocery so far? It's too early to tell. "We've only been open … 48 hours?" Stulman says.
What he does go on to tell us is where he eats when he's not at one of his restaurants …
I'll admit to being obsessed with what chefs and restaurant owners eat when they're not having their own food, so when Stulman starts rattling off his favorites, my notebook immediately comes out.
For starters, Stulman says he lives above Joseph Leonard and rarely goes out to eat, given his restaurant schedule.
What he does enjoy, however, is delivery date nights with his wife — and he's very particular about where he orders from. "I'm a creature of habit," says Stulman, who says he always orders from one of a handful of places: Bleecker Street pizza, Grand Sichuan and Sushi Samba. "This is food that I love but I don't own any Chinese or Japanese restaurants or pizza joints so this is what I order. Everything else I can make in my restaurants."
At Bleecker Street Pizza, he always gets the basic thin crust pie topped with black olives and onions. At Grand Sichuan, Stulman likes "their entire vegetable section," singling out the pumpkin with spicy green peppers, as well as the chicken fried rice.
For sushi, Stulman has another local favorite — the Seventh Avenue hotspot Sushi Samba. "I never eat at Sushi Samba — I can't handle that," Stulman says of the restaurant, which is often overflowing with tourists and fashionista wannabes. "It's just not me — if I ate their rolls in their dining room I would probably scratch my eyes out. I celebrate their rolls at home."
For now, though, sushi, Chinese and pizza may have to wait for a while. Stulman has a new baby to watch over, after all.
Jeffrey's Grocery, 172 Waverly Place, 646.398.7630