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Meat 'Nerds' Open Butcher Shop and Restaurant With Spotted Pig Partners

By Emily Frost | October 26, 2016 8:55am
 White Gold Butchers will operate as a butcher shop and restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue at West 74th Street. 
White Gold Butchers Opens Wednesday
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UPPER WEST SIDE — The team behind a combination butcher shop and restaurant opening this week on Amsterdam Avenue is eschewing its boldface reputation to be a "neighborhood place" more akin to a bodega than a hip "flash in the pan."

White Gold Butchers — the latest project from celebrity restaurateurs April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, the duo behind New York City favorites like The Spotted Pig and The Breslin — will start selling cuts of meat Wednesday at 375 Amsterdam Ave. at West 78th Street. 

The restaurant portion of the new spot will open Nov. 1. 

Customers can come in to pick up meat from the butcher — anything from specially cured bacon to pâté to a rotisserie chicken — and stay for breakfast, lunch or dinner seven days a week starting at 7:30 a.m.

This is the first time Bloomfield and Friedman, known for restaurants with a focus on "snout to tail" cooking, have opened a companion meat shop.

Another first for Bloomfield and Friedman: They're sharing ownership of the new venture with Erika Nakamura and Jocelyn Guest, butchers who've worked at The Spotted Pig, The Breslin and Salvation Burger, among others.

Both Nakamura and Guest currently live within a couple blocks of the space, a move that represents a return home for Nakamura, who attended the nearby Calhoun School for her junior and senior years of high school. 

They chose the Upper West Side for its "community vibe" and appreciate that it's not "oversaturated" with butcher shops, Nakamura explained. 

Most importantly, "people up here still cook," she said. 

Part of their mission is to help guide home chefs — through recipe cards they'll hand out, by offering small butchering classes and by being friendly sources of information, Nakamura noted. 

"We definitely intend on giving people direction, but we also don't want to overwhelm people with too much of that type of education," she said. 

They also recognize that there are a lot of families and schools in the area, so there will be plenty of space to park strollers and a "hot dog happy hour" to satisfy post-school cravings. Students can get free toppings on their hot dogs on weekdays from 2 to 4 p.m. 

The duo is aware that they look like hipsters, but "we're actually f---ing nerds," Guest joked.

"It's just the glasses and the haircuts," she said of their aesthetic. "Everything else is like showtunes and binge-watching 'Empire.'" 

Guest and Nakamura said they're eager for the venture to have a long life, as the gluten-free restaurant Risotteria opened in the same space in the spring of 2014 but closed less than two years later.

"We don't want to be a place that's like a flash-in-the-pan, really hip place," Guest continued. "We want to be a neighborhood place where people come a couple times a week, we know their names, they know our names.

"I don't really have any interest in having a really cool business that goes out of business in two years."

The approachable style they're going for is echoed in the breakfast and lunch menu, which features meat pies, Reuben sandwiches, a classic roast beef sandwich, and egg-and-cheese sandwiches with bacon, ham or sausage that customers can order and pick up at the counter. 

Additionally, trendy health drinks like bone broth and kombucha are on tap, as well as coffee and wine and beer later in the day.

While fans of Bloomfield's famous burgers will have to look elsewhere, they can try to replicate them at home. White Gold Butchers will sell the same ground meat included in The Breslin's lamb burger, the Ace Hotel's Lobby burger and the Spotted Pig's burger.

Instead of flipping patties, the restaurant will feature its own take on the "chopped cheese," a bodega staple made of ground beef and cheese. 

"[The chopped cheese is] super bright, a little heat to it from the pickled jalapeno, just like cheesy and gooey and crispy and so good," Nakamura said.

The dinner menu, overseen by Bloomfield but executed by chef de cuisine Robert Flaherty, embraces the "whole animal" philosophy. It features beef cheeks, lamb ribs and porchetta, or whole roast pig stuffed with the liver, heart and entrails. 

The team is still deciding whether they'll offer table service at dinner. 

The butcher shop opens Wednesday at 8 a.m. and has already prepared for Thanksgiving by ordering 300 turkeys, as well as side dishes.

Takeout and delivery will be offered when things are running smoothly at the restaurant, and eventually there will be brunch, Nakamura and Guest said. 

Their shop will be as friendly and helpful as Westway Food Market, the longtime deli that occupied the space before Risotteria moved in, the butchers hope.

"We keep telling people we will hold their keys, too, if they need to because I know the bodega used to do it," Guest said.