More on Kutsher’s Tribeca

Alan Wilzig (courtesy Wikipedia)

Last month, I posted the menu from Kutsher’s Tribeca, the contemporary take on a Jewish deli coming to 186 Franklin (the old Mai House/TriBakery space). It’s a spinoff of the longstanding Catskills resort, Kutsher’s Country Club in Monticello, N.Y. The item just received three long comments from investor Alan Wilzig, who has answered many of the commenters’ questions. Wilzig—who took over the Trust Company of New Jersey after his father, who founded it, passed away—says he spent three summers working as a lifeguard at Kutsher’s Country Club (KCC), living there for 10 weeks at a time. For more on Wilzig, read his Wikipedia entry.

To read the comments in their entirety—they are indeed “a mouthful,” as Wilzig put it—click on that first link and scroll down. Or here are the (edited for clarity) highlights. Thanks, Alan!

The background You are among the very first to learn that I am “the prominent member of the Tribeca Jewish Community” mysteriously referenced in Eater.com’s first postings, when it somehow leaked to the Post. While I will own up to having leaked certain things to the Post myself over the years, this must have come from one of our investors. It was premature for us to be announcing anything.

Zach [Kutsher's] grandfather, Milton (obm) served on my family’s bank board of directors for 10 years, and was succeeded by his son Mark for an additional 10 years until I sold the bank to North Fork. Zach, Mark’s son, worked as a lawyer at Cravath and other fine firms and then realized he yearned for his “hospitality roots,” and went to culinary management school! When he had completed what he thought would be the final ;) business plan, his father advised him to come to me for advice. The rest as they say, is history. I decided to become an active major partner instead of an advisor, and I spent over a year refining the concept with Zach and others. I then introduced Zach to my friend of 20 years, Jeff Chodorow, ostensibly to contract with China Grill Management so that the service quality and food quality, as well as overall management, would all be of the highest caliber. We went to Jeff to hire CGM for management. Jeff grew up in Miami and was a fan of the Rascal House and Wolfie’s. Miami was always our third stomping ground after home and Kutsher’s, so I remember them both well personally. Jeff dug the idea so much he too, personally, became a major, active partner. I know, I know—there’s a built-in conflict of interest there. But if Zach and I wanted to self-manage after a few years—or retain some other management agreement—we can do that. Although I have a hard time imagining we ever would.

I’m also proud to tell you that our fourth managing partner is my dear friend of a dozen years, Richard Kirshenbaum. Richard was the youngest inductee (or certainly among the very youngest) to be inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame, and recently sold his wildly successful Kirshenbaum Bond advertising and branding business. He remains as executive chairman, but he now has the latitude to join us in Kutsher’s as an active participant. He brought a very special flair to the table (and a brilliantly talented architect in tow as well!). [I'm seeing if he'll reveal who that is. —Ed. Update: He said it'll be announced in less than a week.]

Only Zach will be an employee per se, as well as a major partner. He will be there every day acting as general manager. He has been in training for a months with China Grill Management chefs, managers, and execs. There will be no “beginner’s mistakes.” I will be there nearly every evening, along with my wife, Karin. I will also be writing pithy comments on food blogs—and generally unrestrained and massively irreverent blogging letting everyone know what’s happening at KT.

The location I also felt that it should be located in the heart of the “Tribeca neighborhood and dining corridor.” As a co-founding and still active director of JCP Downtown—the lobby is dedicated to my late father (obm), Siggi. (So, in fact, is my son, Siggi.) It’s not in Midtown because at its essential core, Kutsher’s Tribeca will be what KCC in Monticello always was: a family place. In an urban vernacular, that translates into a “neighborhood place” as well. Midtown is terrific—I lived my first 12 years in New York City on 56th and Sixth—but it is definitely not a neighborhood in the same vein as Tribeca, which has attracted and fostered an unprecedented number of families. The land of the double stroller, as it were.

The food Zach did not want to be constrained in creating a “modern Jewish bistro” by being strictly Kosher. There will be a great many items on the menu for all but the most Glatt of Kosher guests. My years of demographic study and insight into all of the UJA-Federation studies ratified what we had assumed to be true with regard to the small percentage of families who are kosher outside the home. It is a very slender percentage.

The “CB1 meeting menu” is a good guideline, but it has already been further refined. I’ll refrain from greater detail on that, in so much as our “Bahn Mi” was “borrowed” by a little outer-borough Jewish deli….

Further, by leveraging the enormous buying power of CGM, we will be able to offer a superlative level of quality provisions and ingredients that otherwise might have been out of our price point. If you want “family friendly, come very week or more” pricing, you often have to buy A- provisions. When you can avail yourself of CGM pricing, you can buy the finest meats from Pat LaFrieda, and other purveyors of similar renowned quality in their respective sectors.

One of the most delicious things I’ve ever consumed anywhere in the world was Asia de Cuba’s Oxtail Spring Rolls, and a damn close second are Food Parc’s Katz’s Pastrami Egg Rolls. Yes, yes, I went from roll to roll , but I’m being candid, not writing for style….

The sign-off What else would you like to know? This is going to be great fun for the whole family, and incredibly delicious. I spent 20 years avoiding any involvement in restaurants, or theatrical productions. “Batman” [I think he means Spider-Man. —Ed.] made me happy I was unyielding in that arena. Kutsher’s Tribeca has already made me glad I made an exception to the no-restaurants rule.

I’m both hopeful and confident that soon after Labor Day you will appreciate why this was such a compelling endeavor! I can’t wait to see you all there. And for our kosher friends; the pickled lox alone will be reason to stop by for brunch.

Note: “obm” stands for “of blessed memory.”

6 Comments

  1. Best of luck to you all. i am looking forward to your opening. I am hoping that you have some Eastern European (real Ashkenazi gourmet) favorites on your menu.

  2. The inspiration is unequivocally Eastern-European !
    When we speak of “classic NY Jew-food” it evokes a time that predates the creation of the State of Israel by 40 or more years !

    So , while we will have select dishes like a falafel-crusted salmon ( oh my g-d is it delicious ;) – it will not some kooky Mediterranean-Fusion-Oddity of a menu or place.

    It’s the ingredients that all of us know ;and that most of us love – presented in both traditional and creative/modern ways !

    Thanks for your kind remark and wishes. Have a great Summer – I look forward to greeting you at KT !

  3. While I’ve been excited since I heard about this, these guys should put some money into restoring Kutsher’s itself- then open up this deli there as well! I spent an unfortunate weekend up there recently, previously unaware it was even still open for business, hopeful for my childhood memories of it. Instead, I felt like I was living The Shining! The place is half abandoned, eerie, decrepit and moldy, and was evacuated due to a fire while I was there. Kinda sad to know this is opening while Kutsher’s itself exists it its current state– ready and needing to to be condemned- with no dining room to speak of anymore.

  4. best of luck on the restaurant s opening! having worked asa waiter at kutshers from 1976 to 1983 and having had the pleasure of personally serving the wilzig family,its very nice to see someone else who has had such fond and important memories of kutshers do something like this to keep the memories alive and vivid! best of luck alan!

  5. Worked at Kutshers from 67 to72…social staff. Great memories and quite a few photos in my collection from those days. Let me know when grand opening! Will be there.

  6. I am Shelly’s brother Gary and was at Kutsher’s with you all from about 1972-75 then on and off until about 78….
    Hopefully we now have a place to meet old friends and enjoy some great food….
    Good luck