Walk into April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman's five-month-old restaurant on Manhattan's Upper West Side, and you'll find a glowing case stacked with spectacularly marbled steaks—the kind you expect from this duo but maybe not from your neighborhood butcher. Further downtown on 19th Street, enter Union Square Cafe, and you'll come across Daily Provisions selling the same hearty loaves of bread served in the restaurant; a broccoli melt with Manchego, lemon, chile and garlic during the lunchtime rush; and some exceptional maple crullers—if they haven't sold out yet.
Sights like these are becoming more common as a growing number of restaurants are opening with a little somethin' somethin' on the side, be it a bakery, café or butcher shop. In Los Angeles, at Curtis Stone's meat-centric spot, Gwen, it's a butcher counter that doubles as a sandwich destination layering slices of house-made charcuterie like mortadella, prosciutto di Parma and Genoa salami with racily hot pickled cherry pepper spread to be packed up and taken to the office or the beach (see the recipe).
It's easy to look at these endeavors as purely economical: Additional provisions sold during extended hours means chefs are able to foot rising costs. But there's more going on here. For the chefs, it's a chance to experiment with new ideas and support their growing empires. For the rest of us, these side hustles grant access to restaurant-quality ingredients to cook at home or snacks to nibble on throughout the day when these places would typically be closed. It's one more avenue for our increasingly food-obsessed country to get what we've come to expect: the best of the best at all hours of the day.
For Stone, Gwen's butcher shop is a return to his roots. "I've always loved that craft of butchery. It was my first job," he says. Opening the butcher shop also allowed him to age meat the way he wanted—for steaks, that's sometimes up to 80 days—and source less common proteins, like grouse and woodcock.
The butcher counter at Gwen is stocked with familiar steaks and harder to find proteins. | Photo: Wonho Frank Lee
The counter and restaurant "work totally separately in one sense, but they hold hands constantly," the chef says in his distinct Aussie accent. "I understand why butcher shops become generic. If you buy five or six rabbits and they sit there for a few days, you think about buying them again." But with the restaurant kitchen just a few feet away, they are more likely to be turned into rilettes or a terrine that will appear as a special at the shop or on the dinner menu.
Diners can also stop by with cooking questions, like how to sous-vide a piece of meat, benefitting from the knowledge of both the butchers and the kitchen team, who will even prepare a sous-vide bag with aromatics for customers.
Bellecour's bakery offers sweets, breads and sandwiches. | Photo: Courtesy of Bellecour
For Gavin Kaysen, who recently opened French restaurant Bellecour and an adjoining bakery outside of Minneapolis, his side project allowed him to promote talent from within his team at his first restaurant, Spoon and Stable. "I wanted to help find a space where Diane [Yang] could showcase her talents as a pastry chef," Kaysen says. That space is a 250-square-foot bakery and café that has a line out the door from 7 a.m. until the team sells out of items like the 28-layer crepe cake, salmon tartine, ham and butter sandwiches, and coffee.
"The economics, for sure, is part of it," but it's also a way to let diners who were boxed out of reservations—more than 1,000 were made within the first 24 hours—experience what the restaurant is doing, he says, and that includes taking loaves of fresh-baked bread home for a meal.
Back in New York, Friedman was looking at renting commercial kitchen space as his team was struggling to find space within their existing restaurants to break down and grind meat for Bloomfield's legendary burgers. But, "Commercial commissary spaces, that's not something we know how to do," he explains. "[What] we know how to do is restaurants and bars. What if we had the opportunity to combine the two?" That's what he, Bloomfield and their partners, Erika Nakamura and Jocelyn Guest, did with White Gold, which handles the butchery for nearly all of the team's restaurants.
Nakamura and Guest sell familiar cuts of meat like a bone-in New York strip, as well as flank and hanger steaks, at the butcher counter and make sure nothing goes to waste by having the kitchen prepare lesser-known pieces like a velvet cut that may require a more skilled hand.
The crullers at Daily Provisions go fast. | Photo: Liz Clayman
Just like at Gwen, shoppers have the added bonus of access to a skilled group of cooks for culinary wisdom. "They're basically saying . . . we love meat, and we're really good at it," Sam Lipp, the director of operations at Union Square Cafe, says about the White Gold team. "Why not share that with our neighbors and community?"
Speaking about Daily Provisions, Lipp says there's "a constituent of people who love our food but don't have the hour. They have a half hour," he says. But "they get a little taste of what we're doing." And they get to take it home.
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