NYC’s Balkan restaurants share culture, traditions with classic dishes

Djerdan Burek, a restaurant that was started over

“Most cultures have some kind of crispy, melty combination of bread and cheese: for Italy, it’s pizza; for the United Kingdom, it’s the toastie; for Brazil, it’s pao de queijo. And for the lesser-known “Balkans,” it’s the burek. Reminiscent of Greek spanakopita, burek is a flaky, layered phyllo dough pie that can be filled with the likes of cheese, beef, spinach, potato or apple. (…) Djerdan Burek, with locations in Astoria, Brooklyn and a factory in New Jersey, was started more than 20 years ago by Esma and Hamo Medunjanin, refugees from Bosnia. It was a true mom-and-pop shop then, according to daughter Selma Medunjanin-Ismajli, who took over the business with her two siblings when their parents retired.”

Back in the late 1990s her mother was making burek pies at home in their one-bedroom apartment and selling them to a local Balkan restaurant, and her father saw an opportunity. They rented a building on 34th St. and 31st Ave. in Astoria — where the restaurant is still located — and her mother worked the kitchen while her father worked the floor.”

“At this time many Bosnian refugees had settled in Astoria and not much was available to them,” Medunjanin-Ismajli explained. “We were one of the first Balkan restaurants to start up in the area. It was a very simple mom-and-pop restaurant with homemade food and friendly familiar service. To this day we try to operate and maintain the same principles and service.”

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China’s Fastest Growing Hotpot Chain Just Minted Two Billionaires

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“China’s insatiable demand for spicy hotpot is placing the founders of a restaurant chain atop one of the world’s fastest-growing fortunes, allowing them to outpace many of the wealthiest families globally.

As of Monday, Zhang Yong, chairman of Haidilao International Holding Ltd., and his wife Shu Ping, had grown $6 billion richer in 2019, a 79 percent jump in just over three months.

That pace is the fastest in Asia and globally only topped by Australian mining baron Andrew Forrest, who has doubled his fortune this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index, a ranking of the world’s 500 richest people.

Haidilao went public in September, and it’s been a lucrative time for China’s largest hotpot chain, popular for the spicy broths in which diners cook their meats and vegetables. The company is pushing to make its restaurants more efficient by creating automated kitchens. Perks like the free manicures it offers waiting customers have kept families coming in. And the brand is expanding overseas with new locations planned in New York and London.

Last year, revenue surged 60 percent to 17 billion yuan ($2.6 billion), and that’s helping to push the stock up more than 75 percent this year. At about $21 billion, the company’s market value is now higher than Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.”

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Truebird Swoops Into New York with Robotic Specialty Coffee Kiosks

Truebird coffee

“(…) Could the surly and spirited humans of old New York embrace a joe by droid? A new company called Truebird has fluttered in to find out.

Like its predecessors, Truebird pitches its system squarely at the specialty coffee crowd, claiming that its automated coffee kiosks offer drinks that are “consistently as good as those made by the best baristas using the finest ingredients and equipment.”

At a Truebird coffee station, customers are able to choose a fresh and locally roasted coffee from a touchscreen menu, then designate a type of milk and an espresso beverage style for the machine to execute.

The flat ceramic “standard” burrs of one of the machine’s two integrated grinders break the beans. An extraction occurs, and milk is stretched by unseen internals as the customer waits, while a trio of cute, black magnet-driven pucks charmingly coordinate to nudge cups around on the visible surface behind glass.

“We chose our magnetic transport solution versus other options, including an articulated robotic arm, for a variety of reasons, but chief among them was the surprisingly warm, approachable, and magical experience it creates,” Truebird CEO and Co-Founder Josh Feuerstein told Daily Coffee News. “We believe a coffee break is not just about the quality of the drink, but about the feel of the experience. We’ve tried to make every element of our product warm, approachable, and beautiful, from the design of the micro-cafe itself, to the mesmerizing experience of watching your cup glide from the espresso machine towards your hand. We keep that emotional component top-of-mind in our design process. It’s a fascinating challenge, especially for an automated product.”

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Former Darden executive named president of Union Square Hospitality Group

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“Former Darden Restaurants Inc. executive Chip Wade has been named president of Union Square Hospitality Group, the company said Thursday.

Wade, who moves into the role officially in mid-May, fills a position that has been empty since 2015, when it was held by Jeff Flug, who stepped down after the public offering by Shake Shack, which was once a part of the New York-based multiconcept group.

In his new role, Wade (left) will work directly with CEO and founder Danny Meyer, the board and the restaurant group’s leadership team to enhance and evolve the company’s culture, drive guest experience and bolster profitability, the company said.

“USHG is growing in some pretty exciting ways right now,” said Meyer, whose group operates about 18 restaurants under various brands, from the acclaimed Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern to the more casual neighborhood café Daily Provisions, the barbecue concept Blue Smoke and taco joint Tacocina.”

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Toby’s Estate Brooklyn Changes Name to Partners Coffee

Partners coffee

Fresh off the heels of a second Brooklyn roastery opening and new cafe, Toby’s Estate New York today announced a name and brand change, becoming Partners Coffee.

Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn has been building a passionate following and impressive wholesale roster since opening with a Williamsburg roastery in 2012. Co-Owners Amber Jacobsen and Adam Boyd had licensed the name from the popular Australian roastery, founded by Toby Smith, of the same name.

While 2012 and the subsequent years turned out to be fortuitous times for Australophile specialty cafe businesses riding the Third Wave in New York, the change to Partners Coffee serves to better reflect the local ownership.

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“We are only as great as the sum of our partners, and we are excited to continue evolving and growing with a new look, feel and name that fully embodies who we are and what we stand for,” Jacobsen and Boyd said in an announcement of the rebranding.

The Partners Coffee effort was assisted by the New York design firm Love & War, which sought to “develop a bold, dynamic design aesthetic that evokes heritage coffee brands and the classic energy, optimism and simplicity of old-school New York coffee counters,” according to the Partners Coffee announcement today. (…)”

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The New York City Restaurant That Prohibits Cell Phone Use

Il Triangolo

“(…) Gigliotti, who is 52-years-old, opened Il Triangolo in April 2011, which specializes in Southern Italian food. He created many of the recipes including homemade fettuccini ala Triangolo, chicken frangelico and shrimp limoncello.  It seats around 60 people.

He owns a cellphone bought for him by his daughter and thinks they’re a useful gadget for ordering items.

But back in 2014, when cellphone use started proliferating and most of his customers starting taking out their smartphones during their meals, Gigliotti became irritated. He noticed that “people weren’t paying attention to their food, their surroundings or their own family members.” No longer were his customers conversing; they sat there and ate and checked their cell phones as if they were dining alone. In fact, their behavior slowed everything down in the restaurant. Instead of eating and leaving quickly, they’d spend more time dining because they weren’t concentrating on eating their food and instead zeroed in on checking their emails or the web.  Meals that once took two hours were taking two and a half hours, and guests waiting longer for a table.

Gigliotti put up a small sign that said no cellphones placed on the table. When he encountered new customers, he’d tell them in person about the policy. If customers receive a phone call during the meal, they’re asked to step outside of the restaurant so as not to disturb any guests. Almost everyone complies.”

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32 Places for Breakfast in Manhattan

The Lobster Club

Major Food Group’s (the Grill, Carbone) Midtown Japanese restaurant has breakfast that’s decidedly more American than the lunch and dinner menus. Dishes such as an open-faced bagel and lox and a sticky bun pull from the group’s Soho Jewish restaurant Sadelle’s — though there is a bento with a shiitake scramble, teriyaki salmon, rice, pea greens, and miso soup. The colorful space may be a bit much early in the morning, but it’s certainly a unique option in Midtown.

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