“This creative initiative is unique in that it was designed to directly benefit restaurants while providing a unique experience for the diner,” explains Junghyun “JP” Park, chef/owner of the creative Korean restaurants Atomix and Atoboy in New York. “16 weeks of a different restaurant’s menu every week. For us, this was a great way to reach both new and regular diners during this time while providing a unique, exclusive menu for our guests.” He’s talking about Summerlong Summer Club, a subscription program starting on January 12th featuring 16 different restaurants in the city. And aside from pleasing diners, it might just keep those restaurants alive.
The restaurant scene in every city have been decimated during the pandemic this year, perhaps none more than in New York where the sheer number and diversity of restaurants are a major draw and defining pillar of the city but where more than 1000 restaurants this year have closed. With winter setting in, creating pressure on the outdoor dining setups that many restaurants have put in place-some very elaborate, some in enclosed huts with heaters—and indoor dining shut down again, three principals in the industry along with the restaurant relief group ROAR, quickly assembled this program to provide specially created three course menus for takeout and delivery. The difference is that all 16 menus, priced at $50 each, are purchased as a subscription for $800. Also, unlike other delivery services which can take a 20% or 30% cut, all of the money goes to the restaurants. If all 2400 available memberships sell out, that could mean $120,000 to each restaurant to get it through the winter.
“It’s a 100% charitable program designed to make sure our favorite restaurants are still here come summer,” explains Vinay Gupta, the program’s co-founder and owner/winemaker of Summerlong Wine Company which is contributing funding. “What is New York without its restaurants? They are the heart & soul of our neighborhoods, beloved places that now need our help to survive. Not only are we not making money on the program, we’re not breaking even. Summerlong Wine Company was founded in Brooklyn and the Supper Club idea’s genesis was our desire to protect & foster the NYC community we grew up in, and hope to be a part of for many years to come.”
The restaurants involved represent a spread of cuisines from Korean to Moroccan, Indian to new American, a panoply of the various flavors on display in the city. Apart from Atoboy, the selections include the Latin American showcase Colonia Verde, the Peruvian restaurant Llama Inn and the Michelin starred globally influenced new American restaurant Meadowsweet, all in Brooklyn, the Chelsea neighborhood seasonal American classic Cookshop, M Wells Steakhouse, the Quebecois/avant garde take on a steakhouse in Long Island City, the Lower East Side New American Contra, the West Village Thai popup Thaimee LOVE and the longtime East Village Moroccan Café Mogador. The menus include Cavatelli & Oxtail Ragú with Fresh Ricotta , Roasted Spiced Duck Breast, vanilla parsnip purée, roasted Jerusalem artichoke, brussels sprouts & cranberries and Apple Tart Tatin, creme anglaise from Meadowsweet, and from Llama Inn: Duck Sausage Empanada with green harissa, Cilantro and Chicha de Jora Braised Beef Steak with navy beans, jasmine rice and red onion salsa and Miso Flan.
MORE FOR YOU
The restaurants, according to Gupta, chose them rather than the other way around. They cast a wide net among the city’s restaurants and these 16 were the first to respond. “This initiative couldn’t have come at a better time,” explains Llama Inn’s Eric Ramirez. “I heard that this shutdown may take 2-4 months and a lot of people will be without jobs and not able to collect unemployment. ”Our main objective now is to help our co-workers who need it the most. This will allow me to keep three of our co-workers employed.”
If there’s a strong response, the program may also expand from the original 16. “We have the infrastructure built out so it would be pretty easy, “explains Gupta. “If there is a lot of interest we’re poised and ready to launch the same program in other parts of NY with more restaurants.” Other cities could be in the plans as well.