New Kid on the Block: Kutsher’s Tribeca

Kutsher’s Tribeca, the much-anticipated “Jewish American bistro” with ancestral ties to a legendary Catskills resort, has opened at 186 Franklin. First things first: It’s pronounced Cut-sher.

With most “New Kid on the Block” articles, I talk to the proprietors about the thinking behind the business, why they chose Tribeca, and so on. But since that has been covered already—both here and in many other places—I’m going to skip it and get to the questions potential patrons will have. Namely, what’s it like? (By the way, I always pay my own way unless otherwise noted.)

If you remember the old Mai House (and before that, TriBakery) space, you’ll know that it’s two rooms: A narrow-ish bar up front, and a huge square dining room in back. The decor in the bar is contemporary; you could be in any attractive downtown restaurant, save a couple vintage Kutsher’s resort photos. The dining room is a different story. The brick walls are painted white and lined with plywood slats forming a retro design, and some of the diamond-shaped ceiling light fixtures leave rows of bulbs exposed, adding to the retro vibe—or at least it was retro to me. I don’t know from the Catskills’ heyday, but I vividly recall Las Vegas in the 70s, and while dining at Kutsher’s if I would not have been entirely surprised to be offered the chance to play keno while I ate. My partner, Adam, meanwhile, thought it wasn’t kitsch in the slightest. That duality may be exactly what the designer intended: Kutsher’s has to appeal to both those who crave nostalgia and those who don’t.

The music being played—Fleetwood Mac, Chicago—actually brought to mind the Harrison. And while I’d prefer to never again hear “25 or 6 to 4,” the music did remind Adam to tell me how a 21-year-old job candidate at his company recently listed “80s music” as an interest on his résumé. I still can’t get over it.

I didn’t grow up eating kreplach, latkes, and kugel, so whether the food at Kutsher’s is as good as your bubbe’s is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. You’ll most likely find it different. Chef Mark Spangenthal, once of the Screening Room, has refashioned classic Jewish-American dishes and flavors in ways that don’t try to hew to tradition. This is not a Jewish deli. There’s chopped liver, but it’s chicken and duck; borscht is reinterpreted as a salad; salmon is smoked pastrami-style or crusted with falafel (pictured at left). The menu is undeniably fun and oddly fresh, in that you don’t see a lot of this stuff while dining out these days. If you brought someone who had zero experience with Jewish-American food—perhaps a Republican presidential candidate—he or she could have a perfectly mainstream New American meal, even if that misses the point, especially when the menu itself is an eye-opening reminder of how much Jewish-American cuisine has been absorbed into American food in general.

The partners were working the room last night, chatting with acquaintances and strangers alike. Zach Kutsher, disappointed with what we ordered, insisted that we let him bring us the potato kugel, which ended up being my favorite dish. And Alan Wilzig explained that a few more nods to nostalgia—vintage photos in the bathrooms, for instance—would be added soon. As it was, a charming postcard depicting Kutsher’s resort came with the bill.

About the photos: The lighting isn’t as dim as it appears. There’s a certain kind of light that brings out the worst in my camera, and it was exacerbated by my attempts not to distract other diners.

P.S. When you try Kutsher’s, please share your opinions on the Kutsher’s Tribeca page in the Tribeca Citizen Restaurant Guide.

Kutsher’s Tribeca is at 186 Franklin (between Hudson and Greenwich), 212-431-0606;

Recent New Kid on the Block articles:
Tribeca Tap House
Cheryl McGinnis Gallery
François Payard Bakery
Laughing Man Marketplace
JEM Café



  1. Is that a black-and-white cookie ice cream sandwich? Genius idea! Looks delicious.

  2. @Christy: It is indeed (it comes with a dark chocolate dipping sauce)

  3. One note about the tenants of the space: between being Tribakery and Mai House, it was Zeppole.

  4. @Suzanne: I have no memory of that! Although it could have been before my time…. Thanks for filling in the blank

  5. They have a great kids menu! Just posted it on my site! Thanks for the heads up!

  6. Erik – Couldn’t agree more with your assessment of the duality of the place. More importantly, this review made me smile and want to forward to 3 friends.