Owner Jordan Colón established Eat in 2006 with a very open mind. Originally a record store and coffee shop, the establishment has since evolved into a cozy eatery run by the Colón family and several friends. Jordan is one of five brothers and a sister who have organically combined their various talents to make the dining experience truly unique.
Jordan and his brother Seth are on the premises on a daily basis to cook and see that operations run smoothly. Originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, one of their brothers, Jonathan, makes regular trips back and forth bringing local lumber, his woodworking skills and creativity to the niche. When asked what role their sister Christine has played, Jordan remarked that she has inspired the healthy, holistic focus that characterizes Eat.
More than just an eatery, the restaurant inspires a certain lifestyle. Jordan stated, “We need to start looking at all the products in our life.” The custom furniture, lighting and ceramics all immediately communicate a much stronger connection to objects beyond simple consumption.
Although family involvement has been a driving force behind the operation, several close friends and acquaintances have also been involved. Run in a cooperative style, friends with manual skills have contributed their labor. For instance, Cedric Martin, a close friend of the family since he was 15 years old, is a skilled woodworker who has helped shape the environment. He and Jonathan Colón designed and built the benches and tables that give the place a very communal feel. When I arrived, the interior was once again evolving as the two worked away on a shelf they were constructing from black walnut lumber Jonathan had brought from Lancaster.
Arla Bascom’s touch is also present throughout the dining experience. Her handmade ceramic plates and mugs set a beautiful stage for the delicacies that evolve from the kitchen. In fact, Jordan has taken up ceramics himself and set up a small studio in the basement of the restaurant where the two work. When in town, Jonathan and Cedric transform the backyard into a shop making all aspects of production highly local.
Toping off Eat’s unique aura is of course, the food. Inspired mainly by nature and the change of seasons, dishes vary on a daily basis leaving plenty of room for pleasant surprises. The menu is primarily vegetable-based, however dishes sometimes feature seafood and occasionally meat. Local sourcing takes precedence. Colón makes several visits to the Greenpoint/McCarren Park Greenmarket and the Union Square Greenmarket during the week, securing his hand-built wooden cart to his bicycle to transport goods. The eatery also receives regular deliveries from the Garden of Eve Farm on Long Island and Jon Ronsani of Lineage Farm in Hudson, New York.
Although a huge effort is made to remain local, there are a couple of items that cannot be left out due to being a stickler- olive oil and select spices. While coming from afar, even these products have a story behind them. The olive oil originates from the small press of the Magazzini family in Impruneta, Italy. Another touch from the feminine side of the family, Christine established the original connection during a prolonged stay in Italy.
Inspiration from Italy is also evident in the simplicity of the culinary creations. A minimal number of ingredients leaves room to appreciate the subtle contribution each makes to the larger whole. Homemade bread accompanies meals and varies as well. Jonathan studied bread making in Italy and the results are apparent in the texture of each loaf.
Diners will appreciate not only the chefs’ final results, but can observe the creative process through an open window that looks into the small kitchen. Herbs are hung to dry along the walls and ceilings and are added to dishes when ready. Every aspect of production is transparent giving the space a very cooperative, open feel in an ever-evolving environment.
As Jordan said, “They’re living things- design, architecture- something that should have movement.” With movement comes change and the Colóns are ready and excited to see what the future brings. The eatery already encompasses far more than food and has created a small self-sustaining community. They host events and also offer a non-traditional catering service that has been contracted by the likes of Etsy. Jonathan hopes to expand Eat’s influence by offering regular live music and contra-dance sessions. He is also in the process of setting up a small outlet within the abode where talented friends can sell their handmade goods.
With the human touch as a crucial element in food, goods and lives, Eat is sure to inspire those who go for a visit. It is open from noon to 10pm Tuesday through Sunday and features an à la carte lunch menu and prix fixe dinner for $25.
All images © Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat