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The Future of Keith McNally’s Restaurant Empire

From the Editor: The question mark for any longtime watcher of New York restaurants

Ketih McNally, the famed restaurateur behind icons Balthazar and Minetta Tavern

This post originally appeared on April 7, 2018, in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.

First, to close the loop on our conversations from the last couple of weeks: cookbook author Julia Turshen built a database of women, people of color, queer, and non-gender conforming individuals working in food so that the gatekeepers (editors, producers, conference organizers) no longer have a reason to only feature white men in their projects. Meanwhile, marginalized voices have new resources and a potential for community building. Bravo to her.

Now on to the gossip. The question mark of this week for any longtime watcher of New York restaurants is the one hovering over the Keith McNally empire.

The restaurateur behind icons Balthazar and Minetta Tavern and mainstays Morandi and Lucky Strike weathered an unusually eventful last two years. He opened Augustine in downtown Manhattan at the end of 2016 and celebrated Balth’s 20th anniversary last summer, but then closed staple Schiller’s last August and announced the June closing of Cherche Midi late last month. Earlier this week, one source told Eater that he wasn’t even involved in the reopening of the long-planned Pastis (his team says that’s B.S.), and now we learn McNally brought in rival restaurateur Stephen Starr to team up on the project.

A positive spin: He’s making smart real-estate choices, cutting his losses where he should, keeping the places that are thriving, and forming a supergroup with a savvy and successful operator to bring back a complex project.

A less positive spin: McNally had a massive stroke last year and doesn’t have the energy to turn Cherche Midi around or to relaunch his long-delayed Pastis reboot without a powerful on-the-ground operator (even if it is a guy who opened a Balth look alike in D.C.) running the day to day.

Usually, the reality is somewhere between those two views, but I’d be interested to see if he can maintain the magic across his empire as he recovers his health. Also curious to observe Starr’s stewardship of the McNally brand.

Opening of the week: Loro

Food from Loro
Photo by Logan Crable

Who’s behind it?: Famed pitmaster Aaron Franklin and Tyson Cole, the award-winning chef behind Uchi.

What is it?: An Asian smokehouse meant to look and feel like a Texas dance hall.

Where is it?: Austin.

When did it open?: Wednesday, April 4.

Why should I care?: With this pedigree, it would be hard not to put this at the top of any Austin dining agenda. Also: check out how gorgeous and massive that space is. Also: gin-and-tonic slushies.

Inside Loro
Photo by Robert J. Lerma

On Eater

Last week on the Upsell

Dan and I talk the best food stories of March, including the demise of Tasty Made, a chef who butchered a deer leg in front of vegan protesters, OpenTable’s rogue employee, and Whole Foods’ endangered foragers. Give it a listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Off Eater

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