I knew I was getting seriously obsessed with food when I started checking Eater NY and Grubstreet multiple times a day, refreshing their homepages in the hopes of some tidbit about a new restaurant opening or the latest trendy dessert (FYI: odds are now on pudding being “the next cupcake”). But I think the gateway drug to my current food habit really originated outside of the internet. It’s all because of a little restaurant called Brick Lane Curry.
I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, which, according to the foodie scene of NYC, is currently experiencing a sort of revitalization on the restaurant front. We’ve got the hot pub The Penrose which opened up just across from my friends’ apartment in the east 80s, there’s a Meatball Shop location headed our way in January, and who could overlook the new Maison Kayser, the first American bakery by famed French bread-braniac Eric Kayser? Where did he decide to place his proverbial Plymouth Rock? East 70s, baby.
The flip side to all of this, of course, is that the construction on the Second Ave subway line has killed off a number of local businesses. In the nearly 2 years I’ve been living in the neighborhood, I’ve seen plenty of shuttered windows and “commercial space available” signs. Even this past week the nearby Tasti-D-Lite said its goodbyes. (Although to be honest, I don’t really understand their franchising strategy — Tasti has not one, but 2 locations within 2 blocks of the 86th St subway. They don’t offer that many flavors — how is this profitable?)
What this means is, as a denizen of the UES, you get used to a certain ebb and flow of restaurants and stores opening and closing, and come to understand that promised deadlines are rarely kept. Case in point: the odd series of events I witnessed as the bakery on my corner promised a spring 2011 opening, only to change names (and possibly owners) 3 times and finally open in early 2012. Unfortunately, it seems this lesson hasn’t really sunk in for me yet, and that has led me not only to perpetual disappointment, but also to a mild stalking habit. If one can stalk a building, that is.
Back in the early summer, I noticed a new sign going up at a recently shuttered Japanese restaurant in my neighborhood. The text was “Brick Lane,” and the logo featured a chile pepper. My first thought was Mexican food, and I couldn’t help but be excited about a new burrito place or tapas joint, or whatever this was going to be. But a quick search on Google proved me wrong — this was going to be the new location of Brick Lane Curry, a NY/NJ Indian mini-chain modeled on the curry houses of London’s Brick Lane (oh, duh), and recently featured on Man vs. Food for their superhot Phaal curry. Color me doubly pumped, since the only cuisine I love more than Mexican is Indian, and if Adam Richman was intrigued, I should probably check this place out.
So for the next few months I patiently waited for the plywood to come down, passing by 93rd and 3rd on my way to the gym each morning, and mentally crossing my fingers that today would be the day an “Open” sign would appear on the door. June passed, then July, and finally in August the wood came down and tables laid with pristine white tablecloths appeared in the front window. I told my friends about it, and we made tentative plans to go for dinner when Brick Lane opened, which I could only assume would be in the next week or so. After all, who puts neon lights in their signage and sets their tables without planning an opening?
Well, apparently Brick Lane does. See the photo below:
This was not taken in August. This was taken less than a week ago. For the past two months, Brick Lane has taunted me, seemingly totally ready for customers but utterly empty. Weeks of a signs calling for “Help Wanted.” Weeks of those tablecloths with no one seated. Weeks of men sweeping the floors, adjusting light fixtures, and even having drinks at the bar.
I began to get desperate. I looked to Eater and Grubstreet daily to see if there was any news. I checked the Brick Lane website, which stubbornly insisted the UES location was “coming soon.” I Googled and poured over local neighborhood news sites for any info beyond an “early fall opening.” I checked Craiglist for jobs in the food/hospitality category for any mention of a new Indian restaurant on the UES. And upon my friend Laura’s suggestion, I even tried to go up and tap the glass one Saturday morning, but no one was around.
Now I freely admit this is all crazy behavior. It’s not like I can’t get good Indian food in Manhattan. But the promise of convenience and quality constantly thrown in face by the empty facade of Brick Lane was driving me bonkers.
Luckily, there is a happy ending to this story. While browsing my options on the delivery site Grubhub last Friday, I stumbled upon an unexpected gift. There was a listing for Brick Lane Curry, not currently accepting online orders, but offering a phone number for the 3rd Ave location. I weighed the creepiness of calling for a moment, but curiosity won out. I just had to know. A few minutes later, my obsessive perseverance was rewarded. The very confused, but polite man who answered the phone informed me that Brick Lane would have an inspection next Tuesday, and should be open by the end of the week. Finally, some real answers!
I’m pretty sure I’ll ultimately be disappointed by Brick Lane Curry’s food. After all, how can it measure up to the months of anticipation I built up through my slavish vigilance? But at least the mystery has a conclusion in sight. I can finally focus on all the other things that deserve my attention.
Like this new construction that’s gone up on 94th and 3rd. Wonder what this is gonna be?