With Power Restored, Restaurants Below 40th Street Scramble to Reopen

By Jeanmarie Evelly on November 4, 2012 8:35am | Updated on November 5, 2012 10:22am

DOWNTOWN MANHATTAN — It's not exactly business as usual, but it's getting there.

With power restored to almost all of lower Manhattan on Saturday, restaurants Downtown were scrambling to reopen their doors in time to catch some of the weekend business, after outages caused by Hurricane Sandy forced them to shut their doors all week.

All over the city, restaurant owners and workers were rushing to clean up, throwing away mounds of food ruined after their power went out Monday and clamoring to schedule deliveries and find ingredients to fill their refrigerators, which were finally cold again.

"We're excited, but also stressed out," said Shiva Natarajan, who owns four restaurants on the same block of Lexington Avenue near East 28th Street: Indian eateries Chote Nowab, Singapura, and Bhojan and Dhaba.

“It’s been a disaster for us, between throwing away food and losing the business. It’s a tough situation," he said, saying he'd been up until 3 a.m. Friday after power came back on in the neighborhood to get ready. He still wasn't sure which locations would be open Saturday night in time for dinner service.

"Nothing is planned. If I'm ready and everything is ready to go, then we’re open," he said.

The manager at The Village Pourhouse, Jordan Brown, agreed.

“It’s hell. I’ve been here since 7 o’clock in the morning,” said Brown, at the Third Avenue and East 11th Street restaurant, which opened on Saturday. He said he spent the morning driving all over the city in search of ingredients, because their food deliveries wouldn’t make it on time.

“I’ve been everywhere — everywhere,” he said.

Many of the restaurants that managed to open Saturday were offering a limited menu, and several were accepting only cash, since their credit card machines were still down. The financial blows from Hurricane Sandy were still fresh in everyone's minds.

“I lost about $7,500 worth of food — all the milk, eggs, all that stuff,” said Joey Campanaro, owner of The Little Owl in Greenwich Village. The morning after the storm, he said, he went to the restaurant and gave away what food he could to some elderly neighbors before it all went bad.

“So not all of it went to waste,” he said.

The Mediterranean-inspired restaurant on Bedford Street was back open Saturday night with a limited menu, offering items like grilled halibut and Dijon lamb chops.

At The Quarter on nearby Hudson Street, workers were folding napkins and getting ready to reopen for dinner Saturday. The French restaurant opened just six weeks ago, according to owner Jason Avery, and it took a major hit when it was forced to close for five days after the storm.

“It’s going to be tough, because we’re a new company,” he said. “We’re trying to get everything back to normal, prepping soups and stocks and stuff like that. Everything from the beginning.”

Avery had to drive to Brooklyn early that morning to pick up his meat, since his delivery company doesn’t come on weekends. Even then, they were still short on items, and would only be offering a basic menu Saturday night — tomato bisque, burgers, a quinoa salad — but were planning to be back to their regular menu on Sunday.

Other restaurants were in similar straits. Ippudo, the popular Japanese noodle house on Fourth Street in the East Village,  reopened Saturday night but will be out of ramen until Tuesday, according to a sign on the door.

Linen Hall, on Third Avenue and East 13th Street, and its sister restaurant next door, the Penny Farthing, were both open for brunch on Saturday but with a limited menu of eggs, pancakes and other basic dishes.

“We went to the market this morning,” said Manager Steve Bustos, who said he was able to stock up on items like milk, butter and meat but was still waiting for his staff to come back from their shopping trips before they could formalize the dinner menu.

Mud Café in the East Village was serving coffee and croissants this morning. Staff said they were hoping to serve lunch later in the day but were scrambling to find the ingredients — good produce, in particular — meaning salads were unlikely.

Market Table on Carmine Street will open on Sunday for dinner, according to general manager Valerie Meehan, who said they're still trying to work out the menu, depending on what ingredients they can get by then.

“We’re working on it — we ordered a few things early,” she said. The restaurant will be open for just dinner on Monday, but back to their regular hours on Tuesday, she said, serving both lunch and dinner.

“Everyone is just dying to get back to normal," Meehan said.

Miki Agrawal, owner of Slice, which serves artisanal pizza on Hudson Street, said she heard rumors on Friday that power in the neighborhood would be back Saturday morning. So she went ahead and ordered supplies, and hoped for the best — that the refrigerators would be back up by the time her deliveries got there.

The gamble paid off. On Saturday, Slice was open again, its dining room packed. Agrawal said they’ve been trying to make up for the business lost during the outage reaching out to customers on Twitter and Facebook.

“We lost all our revenue for the week,” she said.

Those who live nearby were happy to see the eatery open again. Zach Lynd, 28, who lives a block away, said he hasn’t been back to his neighborhood since the storm hit Monday. He spent Saturday volunteering with the cleanup efforts in Red Hook, Brooklyn, before ending the day with a pie at Slice.

“I came all the way from Red Hook for pizza and a beer,” he said. “Now I guess I’ll go see if my apartment has power.”

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