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Say bonjour to a cozy new French bistro – Steak Frites has just soft-launched a slew of high-quality, casual comfort food options on 9th Avenue. The restaurant is a collaboration between longtime Hell’s Kitchen local Stephane Bibeau and noted New York chef Adam Schop, and is the first of several planned projects on what the two call a “new Restaurant Row.”
The restaurant, which debuted this weekend in the space between W37th and W38th Streets that once was occupied by Tavolina, is walk-in-only and full of classic Parisian bistro fare. “Our intention is to be a reliable place for the community to come and eat regularly,” said Chef Adam Schop, an alum of the Flatiron district’s erstwhile Peruvian eatery Nuela and Miss Lily’s 7A Café in the East Village. The pair see the bistro as part of a new beginning for lower 9th Avenue, and they have plans for a burger stop, a high-end pizza restaurant and a bar all to follow Steak Frites.
In choosing a concept for his latest project, a partnership with hospitality veteran Stephane Bibeau, Schop said he was eager to present French cuisine. “I had worked for many years in a French bistro, so it felt like a natural next step – I feel most connected to soulful, casual French cooking,” he added. “It really is a comfort food and it’s delicious, but you still get a chance to be really creative with it.”
The bistro will specialize in steak frites, which Schop said will be offered in four different cuts of beef that all have a “distinctive experience.” From Hanger Steak Frites, “for the customer who comes in once a week,” said Schop, to the Chateaubriand for two, “However you like to eat your steak, we hope you find one of our versions to be awesome.”
In addition to carrying French and Belgian beers, the bar features curated cocktails by French-Canadian Miss Lily’s beverage director Alex Cajuste such as the Dubonnet and Campari-based American in Paris and the dangerously-named whiskey and egg white Madame Guillotine. The bistro boasts an extensive French wine program from sommelier Alexis Percival, showcasing approachable, affordable off-the-beaten path brands and natural wines “that you aren’t likely to see on other lists,” he added.
It’s all housed in a space meticulously designed by Tiff Porter and Evan Collier of Arch Production to evoke the convivial feel of an authentic French bistro — with a sustainable twist. “Arch specializes in upcycled elements built by hand,” said Schop. The eatery boasts a reclaimed bowling-alley wood table, furniture upcycled from Tavolina, hand-painted signage and carefully chosen photos and prints. “It’s an amalgamation of a bunch of different people’s ideas and that gives it its own characteristics and eclectic feel,” he added.
For Schop and Bibeau, the personal elements of the restaurant go beyond just the menu and space design. The business partners – who met in 2008 while working on Nuela together – chose this corridor “because this is the neighborhood I’ve lived in since 1993,” said Bibeau. “I’m a huge Hell’s Kitchen fan – I love Rudy’s, I love all the businesses on 10th Avenue, and I felt like we needed a neighborhood bistro.”
Locals agree. “Throughout our renovation, we had a lot of interest and a lot of momentum building up: ‘When are you opening? When are you opening? Oh my God, it’s a French bistro!’” said Schop. “When the lights came on and when the signs were painted and we opened, I recognized many of the people who had that enthusiasm showed up. We have a lot to keep working on as we open, but we’re pleased with how everything’s started.”
Currently open for dinner, the team plans to eventually serve weekend brunch. “We intend on opening for brunch quite soon,” Schop added. “I think a lot of people are more keen to giving a new place a chance for brunch, and I think brunch is a way to get people in and excited about the restaurant.”
Down the line, they hope to serve daily breakfast and super late-night food, Bibeau added: “Like the old bistros of the 80s and 90s – eventually, New York will get back to that.”
In the meantime, they’re working on a soon-to-be announced 9th Avenue burger joint, a classic NY pizzeria on W42nd Street and 9th Avenue called Zillions where 99 Cent Pizza once stood that will open early next year, and a bar in place of the now-shuttered Dave’s in late winter or early spring.
They’re betting on the ever-expanding build out around Steak Frites – from the Javits Center to Hudson Yards and Port Authority – as proof that now is the time to invest in a renewed lower 9th Avenue, and they are not alone in backing the stretch of a once-notoriously polluted spot as a dining destination.
“It may take a bit for all of the city’s plans for traffic rerouting to come through, but we’re really excited about the prospect of 9th Avenue not just being a smog zone and to have many more pedestrian areas,” said Schop. And having already established relationships with the team from Tavola (who sold them the space) and CHI Chinese restaurant, Bibeau declared: “We have a bit of our own Restaurant Row!”
Steak Frites is located at 496 9th Avenue between W37th and W38th Street, and is currently open for dinner seven days a week. Wednesday through Sunday 5pm to 10pm and Thursday through Saturday 5pm to 11pm.