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New Kips Bay Restaurant Serves International Comfort Food at Diner Prices

By Heather Holland | February 21, 2013 9:04am

KIPS BAY — A new Kips Bay eatery is bringing a homey vibe to the local restaurant scene, serving American comfort food sprinkled with international flavors at diner prices.

Kipsey’s, which derives its name from the Kips Bay neighborhood, aims to be a community restaurant, said Arnon Magal, 36, who owns the 438 Second Ave. eatery with his wife Melissa.

“We work very hard to be a neighborhood place,” Magal said. “We came up with the logo for the restaurant in five minutes, but coming up with the name for the restaurant took months of brainstorming.”

While Kipsey's generally serves American food, the menu is almost as diverse as the city itself, explained Magel, who lives in Williamsburg.

“The rice we do in a Puerto Rican style, the chicken soup is Jewish, and the brisket is more of a Southern touch,” he said. “It’s an American restaurant, but it’s more like a New York restaurant.”

The eatery, which opened for its first dinner service on Jan. 27,  is spacious and features a bar at the front of the space, a separate sit-down area and an open kitchen in the back.

Everything is made in-house, including the mayonnaise, hot sauce, hamburger buns, smoked brisket and cured salmon, Magal said.

But the key to the restaurant, Magal explained, is its affordability, with dishes ranging from $6 to $13.

“We are bounded within a price range, which means we have to carve out freedom of cooking and ingredients from these limitations,” Magel said. “For instance, we won’t offer an ocean fish and charge $15, but we’d rather pick an affordable piece of meat, like brisket, and treat it the right way.”

Items on Kipsey’s dinner menu include chicken liver pate, rotisserie chicken, slow smoked brisket and burgers.

“Kipsey’s is what all diners should've been,” Magal said. “Recently the term 'diner' has a bad connotation, but diners used to mean a family operation where everything is made from scratch. And the meal wouldn’t cost you more than if you had bought all the ingredients at the supermarket yourself.”

On the back wall, next to the open kitchen, the shelves are lined with dozens of jars filled with Magel's own liquor infusions. Cut fruit, spices and even chocolate pieces float in the jars along with a mixture of liquors and sugar, Magel said.

“I don’t sell those,” Magal said. “It’s more of a gesture. If a customer gets curious, I’ll talk about what the infusions are and we’ll enjoy a shot together.”

In addition to the infusions, the shelves are adorned with row after row of green and yellow Thermos bottles, which are used to serve coffee. Waiters leave the Thermos of coffee at the table so that patrons can refill their cups themselves.

“I don’t want customers to be searching for their server to get a refill,” Magal said. “Coffee is a very personal thing.”

Over the past six years, Magal, who comes from a Russian and German background, opened several restaurants in the city called “Peter’s Since 1969,” including one in Williamsburg and two in Manhattan. Peter's serves similar American-comfort style food.

“I really love what I do,” Magal said. “I love interacting with people.”