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Grab a Seat: Chalk Point Kitchen and The Handy Liquor Bar Open in SoHo

April 4, 2014 6:00 AM

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Looking for a new place to grab a good meal and an after dinner drink? Make your way over to Chalk Point Kitchen and The Handy Liquor Bar. By Carly Petrone.

(Left: Matt Levine, Center: Dominique Ortiz-Davalos, Right: George Florus)

(Left: Matt Levine, Center: Dominique Ortiz-Davalos, Right: George Florus)

SoHo just got a little cozier thanks to Chalk Point Kitchen, the new 70-seat “market to table” restaurant led by Matt Levine and his indieFORK team. Levine, the man behind LES hotspot, Sons of Essex, is working with local purveyors like Grand Daisy Bakery and Blue Marble Ice Cream to provide the robust menu. Step into the farm house-style eatery and come hungry, because Michelin starred executive chef Joseph Isidori is whipping up everything from Creamy Handmade Burrata and Thick Cut Berkshire Pork Chops to Montauk Pearl Oysters and Rhode Island Mussels (with kimchi!). If you are vegan, you’re in luck. There are six items on the menu that are also vegan-friendly.

Celebrated architect Chien Dao (The Crown, The Lion, MoMA Curator’s Loft) designed the restaurant with authentic farm house items and lighting from antique markets. Small touches like a single daisy on each wooden table and the succulent garden surrounding the perimeter of the space definitely don’t go unnoticed. The refurbished wooden-lined walls transform you from city to country living. You’ll want to take your time eating your meal here.

And that’s just what’s going on upstairs. There’s also The Handy Liquor Bar below. Named after Thomas Handy, the creator of the Sazerac cocktail, this vintage piano lounge exudes sophistication. Along the mahogany walls, you’ll find framed classic rock and roll photos taken by famous photographer Bob Gruen as well as other musical knickknacks. Sit down by the fireplace while head barkeeper and mixologist William Bastian concocts a 48 Acres Martini or The Bayard Farm Margarita – made with homemade horseradish simple syrup and fresh wasabi. Their impressive cocktail menu is comprised of freshly squeezed juices, along with a variety of bitters, garnishes, and succulents – straight from the growing garden upstairs.

Chalk Point Kitchen

Chalk Point Kitchen

CBSNewYork sat down with Levine, General Manager Georges Florus, Chef de Cuisine Frederick Schoen-Kiewert, and Maitre’D Dominique Ortiz-Davalos to get their take on what Chalk Point Kitchen and The Handy Liquor Bar means to them as well as what customers can expect when they walk in the door.

CBSNewYork: What made you want to open Chalk Point Kitchen/The Handy Liquor Bar?

Matt Levine: Our indieFORK team wanted to create an authentic atmosphere, welcoming environment coupled with a mix of local, seasonal, sustainable & organic products. We wanted to take the edge and flavor of the downtown NYC markets and combine them with Chef’s vision of using pristine local products, produce, purveyors & vegetables.

CBSNewYork: What’s your favorite thing on the menu?

Matt Levine: In all honesty, it’s hard to choose just one dish from the menu. I really do love them all, but Chef Joe has his secret “3rd generation world famous carbonara.” It’s not actually “on the menu,” but Chef Joe will always have the ingredients available and prepped in the kitchen, ready to serve. I haven’t tasted it yet, but the way Chef Joe is amping it up – 50 years in the making, secret recipe. I think it will be my soon to be favorite!

CBSNewYork: What are some of your favorite ingredients?

Frederick Schoen-Kiewert: Anything that’s first of season. I get goosebumps. Ramps are coming out right now. Asparagus in about a week. We’re actually working with the markets of Chinatown, which has its own seasons as well. It gives us a nice opportunity to play with a lot of ingredients. In Chinatown, I love black bacon. It’s kind of like our secret ingredient for our chowder.

Georges Florus: I love the mussels with the kimchi element in the sauce. The way they are cooked. It’s so natural and fresh.

Dominique Ortiz-Davalos: The beet root salad. There’s this really beautiful local bleu cheese and our homemade buttermilk dill dressing.

Frederick Schoen-Kiewert: We call it crack sauce. It’s good on everything.

The Handy Liquor Bar

The Handy Liquor Bar

CBSNewYork: What inspired the décor upstairs?

Georges Florus: We wanted to create something that has a very homey feeling but also that it reflects the style of cuisine that we’re doing – which is organic, fresh, market to table. As original as possible. Antique. It just reminds you of being at your mother’s house.

CBSNewYork: Actor Hill Harper is your Art & Wine Director. How did he become involved?

Dominique Ortiz-Davalos: He’s very active within the wine list. His palate is incredible. The wines he’s picked are a reserved list. They are impeccable. A 1995 Chateaux Margaux is just almost impossible to find but his idea and knowing where we’re going in regards to the food and him getting these beautiful bottles – he’s really fusing the two. It’s inspiring to a large extent because it’s so particular and he just nails is with the list.

CBSNewYork: How would you describe the atmosphere at Chalk Point Kitchen?

George Florus: We just want to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and appreciated. Where you can enjoy good food and good wine. We’re not pretentious at all. It’s hospitality. It’s love. It’s a great time. A very relaxed, casual, laid back atmosphere. You can come in and have a good time and hang out for hours and hours.

Dominique Ortiz-Davalos: It’s their time to go out and eat. Everyone should be treated and regarded as a VIP because that’s what they are. You can celebrate an anniversary or you can come in for a date or just come in for a nice meal. The space is so romantic and beautiful enough to cater to a variety of different people. We really want to give everyone that detailed catered experience because everyone deserves it.

CBSNewYork: What sort of cocktails are you making downstairs at The Handy Liquor Bar?

Dominique Ortiz-Davalos: It’s going back to the basics of cocktails. Trying to separate and pull away from the new wave of cocktails. We’re doing a lot of sidecars. Lots of whiskey.

George Florus: It’s going back to the old days.

CBSNewYork.com: If you could describe Chalk Point Kitchen and The Handy Liquor Bar in one word what would it be?

All: For The Handy Liquor Bar it’s sophistication. For Chalk Point Kitchen it’s farm house and welcoming. Can we combine words?

CBSNewYork: Why did you decide to open in SoHo?

George Florus: Matt has been such an influencial person in the LES for many years. We’ve all grown up a little bit and wanted to expand our horizons to SoHo. We wanted to do something a little more upscale and different and cater to other crowds. People can come in and relax and put their feet up.

Dominique Ortiz-Davalos: I think it’s close enough to the Bowery and LES that it won’t be such a trek for people. It’s a fun change. It’s a great area. SoHo in general has that old aesthetic. It’s nostalgic. A blast from the past. I think a lot of people will appreciate the beauty of this place.

Creamy Handmade Burrata

Creamy Handmade Burrata

Chalk Point Kitchen/The Handy Liquor Bar
527 Broome St.
New York, NY 10013
212-390-0327

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Carly Petrone is a freelance writer living in New York City.

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