Breakfast at noon, a midafternoon snack, supper after the sun goes down? Increasingly, we’re eating when it suits us
ll-day dining is on the rise. The number of new and future restaurants featuring breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as in-between meals and late-night offerings, shows that this is more than a passing trend.
In Los Angeles, Jessica Koslow of Sqirl is opening an all-day Israeli restaurant to be named Tel. In nearby Santa Monica, Lunetta All Day is a modern neighborhood diner helmed by chef Raphael Lunetta, who operates fine-dining Lunetta next door.
In Austin, Texas, Elizabeth Street Café doubles as a Vietnamese cafe and French boulangerie, offering such diverse dishes as a Nutella/banana-stuffed crêpe and pork belly steamed buns and poached eggs. And in partnership with chef Nathan Thurston, miller/grains producer Greg Johnsman of Geechie Boy Mill, Edisto Island, South Carolina, has opened Millers All Day in Charleston.
New York’s trendy Williamsburg neighborhood will house Gertie, set to open later this year. The focus will be rotisserie oven specialties ranging from a morning grilled turkey with egg, cheese and pickles to what chef/owner Nate Adler calls “dinner party-inspired mains” in the evening. And for the growing number of families moving to the once-industrial area, there is a menu of after-school sweets such as Italian ice and soft-serve.
Even well-known chefs and restaurateurs are getting into the act. Mexican chef Enrique Olvera, whose Cosme in New York is regularly on the world’s best restaurant list, oversees the city’s Atla, featuring an arctic char/farmers cheese tostada and flaxseed chilaquiles. And Danny Meyer of Union Square Cafe opened Daily Provisions in February, offering organic Scottish salmon for dinner, broccoli melt with machego, lemon chili and garlic for lunch, and a variety of egg sandwiches in the morning.
In the neighborhood
Although 24-hour diners were, until recently, a fixture in many large urban areas, most restaurants were either luncheonettes that closed midafternoon or dinner venues that closed after evening service. Veselka, a Ukrainian restaurant located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side that opened in 1954, was one of the first establishments to serve an all-day full menu. Now, more than half a century later, Eater’s Ryan Sutton writes, “Veselka might be the city’s best after-hours establishment.”
“When we first started, we were more like a neighborhood candy store, open from 6 a.m. until midnight,” says owner Tom Birchard, whose father-in-law opened Veselka. “We sold newspapers and coffee, and a few neighborhood Ukrainian ladies cooked borscht, pierogis and stuffed cabbage. There was a single waitress who did everything—order-taking, clearing and cleaning up, and often pitched in cooking, as well. Perfection it was not.”
As the local Ukrainian population—for years the neighborhood’s core—dwindled, and drug dealers took over many of the streets, Veselka faced a crisis. “We were going into debt,” says Birchard. “But we never really considered closing. We thought that there was a lot of potential here. Slowly, we began to grind ourselves out of despair.”
Veselka had a fairly steady lunch crowd of neighborhood shopkeepers, but Birchard made the decision to stay open as long as there were customers. Because it was one of few restaurants in the city that served food and remained open after most others closed, Vaselka became the late-night, post-service gathering place for New York chefs. They spread the word, and gradually, the neighborhood improved.
Today, Veselka is a gathering place for the increasing number of locals who work from home, New York University students and medical staff from nearby hospitals. It’s also a destination for tourists and New Yorkers seeking traditional, well-prepared Ukrainian items. It serves about a thousand customers each day, and 30-year staffer Malgorcata Sibilski still makes the borscht, using a half ton of beets each week. Four full-time pierogi preparers come in every day at 2 p.m.
Georgia on my mind
Peter Karpinski is co-founder/COO of Denver-based Sage Restaurant Group, which operates restaurants that function as independent establishments within hotels. These venues cater to the neighboring communities and hotel guests, a win-win for the hotel and the restaurant.
For the restaurant, there’s a ready-made clientele of hotel guests who often arrive or depart at nontraditional hours, and for the hotel, a restaurant that provides an overall dining experience not ordinarily found in traditional hotel restaurants.
Karpinski subscribes to the concept of the third space—at its simplest, where one spends time other than at work or at home. “We are trying to create third-place spaces,” he says. “There is a whole generation of a more-flexible workforce who are available during the day and who may want to come and sit with their laptops. We want people to treat it like it’s their own.
“Our first step in opening a restaurant is to go into the community and look into its DNA—how does it tick? What is the environment? Its ethos? All the spaces we create are different, adapted to their environs.”
Sage Restaurant Group’s newest establishment is The Emporium Kitchen & Wine Market at Perry Lane Hotel in the heart of Savannah, Georgia’s, historic district. Executive chef Andrew Wilson and general manager Doug Snyder are in charge of the back of the house and the front of the house, respectively.
“In the early morning, we see a lot of business people stopping in for coffee and pastries, while later, hotel guests join us for a la carte breakfast,” Snyder says. “Lunch is a great mix of hotel guests, tourists and local residents, and in the evening, it can range from locals getting together for a glass of wine and charcuterie to a sit-down, more-formal dinner.”
Daily “supper” specials include duck cassoulet, bouillabaisse, hunter’s chicken and Georgia lamb daube.
Down in the valley
The food-centric city of Hudson-—located in New York’s Hudson River Valley with its resurgence in farms offering specialty produce and grass-fed meat and poultry—is attracting chefs from New York and other urban areas. John Carr, who served as executive chef at New York’s Sfoglia and Eli’s Table, and Jeffrey Gimmel, owner of Swoon Kitchenbar in Hudson, recently took over Cafe Le Perche.
“All-day dining creates a new solution to competition and costs,” Carr says, pointing out that it makes sense to utilize real estate as much as possible and not limit its income-generating possibilities just to the evening. “Consumers have changing tastes.
In an all-day establishment, customers can eat when they want and get the same quality food that they would get at a more-formal dinner, usually at a less-expensive price point.”
Hudson, a small city of fewer than six thousand, has a surprisingly varied population. There are second-home weekenders, mostly from New York; empty-nesters wishing to remain in a rural environment yet wanting accessible and walkable food/retail establishments; longtime established residents; and a growing number of tourists, many of whom arrive by train at the station at the foot of Hudson’s main street.
“We are hopefully creating a space where we will have a steady stream of customers,” says Carr. “To do that, we are working to make the space as welcoming for casual breakfast eaters as those desiring a full-service dinner.”
He adds that the menu differentiates itself from those of similar establishments while trying to satisfy a diverse clientele. There is an egg sandwich on a house-baked brioche with Gruyere, an egg-white tortilla with king oyster mushrooms, oysters with seaweed butter, and plates that include a spicy octopus salad with chickpeas and preserved lemon and chilled pork tenderloin with tuna mayonnaise and turnips.
“We have both a New York weekend crowd and locals,” says Carr. “Sure, we have egg whites, but I have never sold as much bacon as I do now.”
On the street
When High Street on Market opened in Philadelphia, it was in the vanguard of restaurants paying as much attention to its breakfast offerings as dinner. Said Craig LaBan, food critic at The Philadelphia Inquirer, “That sensation of awakening to something I didn’t previously know I needed is one I felt repeated in my visits to High Street.”
According to Ellen Yin, founder/co-owner of the restaurant that now has a branch in New York’s West Village, “We originally started with a daytime concept called Fork:etc, where we served breakfast, lunch, prepared foods and bakery items. On Wednesday evenings, we had a chef’s table. We were always trying to activate the space with interesting programming. So one of the goals when we transitioned to High Street on Market was to serve an evening menu, as well.”
The move was not without its issues, which, for the most part, every all-day establishment works to resolve. Yin realized that the Philadelphia outpost could actually close between lunch and dinner, allowing for evening service preparation. New York, however, is a different story. “Many people want to eat all day, and we are open throughout the day in New York,” she says.
“We are always working to develop dishes that can roll from meal to meal throughout the day, to reflect the time of day, but also offer something compelling for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Call to action
At Boston’s Eastern Standard, service is from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. the following day. It is an independent restaurant located in Hotel Commonwealth, which, according to general manager Caroline Markham, “wanted an independent, cool, savvy, young restaurant.”
“The kitchen can begin to feel like a machine. We turn out incredible volume all day long, and every dish must be consistent,”
With such a range of hours, hiring needs to be managed. “We hire people who are willing to work every schedule,” says Markham. “Basically, everybody starts out in the morning, as it is a less-demanding time. We learned from experience that with an operation this large and with such time demands, scheduling both as to time and position is crucial, particularly as regards to closing the dining room and using the lounge, which is where late-night dining occurs.”
She points out that one of the advantages of such a high-volume, extended-hours kind of place is that items not used during the lunch and dinner service can be used by the late-night kitchen staff to create dishes.
“The kitchen can begin to feel like a machine. We turn out incredible volume all day long, and every dish must be consistent,” Markham says. “
But because we are open so late, a lot of industry people come here after other establishments close. Although our more-experienced chefs oversee lunch and dinner, younger chefs run the late-night kitchen, and get a chance to play. Often, you never see the same dish twice in a row.
“It’s like we pull the plug at 11 p.m. and call the staff to action. We turn the lights up, hop on the back bar and write the evening’s specials on the mirror. The night is starting all over again. It is a fun time.