Drew Nieporent serves his last meal at 239 West Broadway

It’s hard to overestimate the effect that Drew Nieporent and his restaurants have had on the neighborhood’s dining scene over the past four decades (Montrachet, Corton, Bâtard, Tribeca Grill and of course Nobu) and his influence goes well beyond our little enclave. The restaurateur, who will close Bâtard, the third iteration he has run out of 239 West Broadway, on Saturday, redefined fine dining here in the city by absorbing the Downtown vibe and melding it to what had been, until Montrachet opened in April 1985, a decidedly uptown scene.

There’s so much to say about these restaurants, and a lot of folks have — Montrachet was the first restaurant Eric Asimov at The Times ever reviewed, for instance, and years later, it still moved him. Drew and his brother Tracy, who works on the communications side of Myriad Restaurants and for years ran NYC Restaurant Week, first invited me to Tribeca Grill to mark its 30th anniversary — that was February 2020. Then you-know-what happened, and here we are now, with a second conversation about the closing of Bâtard, which will serve its last meal tonight.

The brothers grew up in Peter Cooper Village — their father worked on Chambers and Broadway — and they both loved food from a young age. Before he opened Montrachet, Drew worked in the city’s best French restaurants: La Régence, La Réserve, La Périgord, La Grenouille. But he created something entirely new here — no “La”! — in a spot that was unexplored by the majority of citygoers.

In 1990 he opened Tribeca Grill with Robert De Niro, whose influence here is profound as well. And four years later they tapped LA chef Nobu Matsuhisa to open Nobu on Hudson and Franklin, and not long after, the more casual version — Nobu Next Door. He brought chef David Bouley east from California to Montrachet, and Bouley would go on to create his own Tribeca institutions. So really, it all started with Drew and 239 West Broadway.

How did you end up way down here?
I lived in the Village and jogged down here. It was quiet and I loved it, especially on Sundays. I jogged over to West Broadway to see this space — it was 1500 square feet for $1500. I had my life savings — $50,000. And everyone said, “Who’s going to come down here? It’s the end of the earth.” We decided to draw the bees to the honey. It’s a destination — you had to travel here. And that made it special. And then we opened Tribeca Grill and Nobu. My whole career has been based down here.

It’s been a fantastic 38 years. I opened Montrachet when I was 29, now I’m 67. It helps that I have a great great landlord. It hasn’t been an easy road — when you have three stars you have to live up to that. Every time you open a restaurant you open a vein. And every night you have hundreds of interactions and hundreds of chances to make it memorable — or hundreds of opportunities to screw it up. You can’t screw it up.

What was your first vision for Montrachet? What were you trying to do?
I had gone to Paris and Joël Robuchon [the French chef whose restaurants earned 32 Michelin stars over the years] had an $185 franc luncheon — that was about $18. I figured if he could do it, I could do it. I grew up with that Crazy Eddie philosophy — the best product at the cheapest price. Montrachet turned out to be a game changer. I charged $16 for three courses. I could have filled Shea Stadium with the people who wanted to come. And even now, Bâtard is well priced compared to other three-star restaurants.

When did you meet David Bouley, your first chef at Montrachet?
In 1983, I took a trip to California for the food, and on the last day I went to a restaurant called Sutter 500, where David Bouley was the sous-chef. He cooked a meal for me, and it was the most expensive luncheon I had ever had. Bouley cooked like an angel — amazing, like amazing.

Then I took an expensive trip to Europe and went to probably 20 three-star restaurants. Back here in the States, we were doing old fashioned food at that level, and Europe was doing nouvelle cuisine. Bouley was able to extract these original dishes from that tradition. Amazing. There’s a lot of settling for less now, I’ll tell you that.

How did you know you could do that, open a restaurant, at such a young age?
Ed Bradley interviews Bob Dylan and asks him, do you ever look at your songs and wonder how you did that? And Dylan says, “I don’t know how I got to write those songs.” And that’s how I feel — I don’t know how I did it. When you’re younger, you can just walk through walls.

[The interview goes on, and Bradley says, “What do you mean, you don’t know how?” And Dylan says, “Those early songs were almost magically written. Try to sit down and write something like that… I did it at one time.” And Bradley says, “You don’t think you can do it today? Does that disappoint you?” Dylan: “You can’t do something forever and I did it once. I can do other things now, but I can’t do that.”]

Of the three restaurants at 239 West Broadway, which was your favorite iteration?
They are all your children — I’ll never pick. [Drew has two kids in actual fact: Gabrielle, who is a theater producer by trade, and Andrew, a musician] There were things about each one. Montrachet was ground breaking. They made a movie about Corton [The 2011 documentary “A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt.”] Bâtard won the James Beard Award for best new restaurant in the country [in 2015 with chef Markus Glocker]. My mother was a casting director and I like to think I got it from her. I’ve always been able to find the talent. My whole thing is the people make the place — from the chefs to the waiters, everybody. That’s what makes it a success or a failure. And it’s not just their skills, it’s their character first.

So the obvious question, why are you closing Bâtard?
In the middle of covid I realized I had three employees left at Bâtard [Its chef, Markus Glocker, had started cooking at Augustine in the Beekman Hotel in 2018; he now has Koloman in the Ace Hotel on 29th. His replacement, Kevin McGinley, left during the pandemic to cook at American Brass in Long Island City.] But I said, I am not going to let covid close me down. The most important thing to me is I build it back. Doug Brixton, our chef, he did a great job. Then Chip Smith started cooking in March and will do that through Saturday. [Smith and his wife, Tina Vaughn had the noted restaurant The Simone on the Upper East Side for nine years until May 2022.]

I am really proud of a couple things I did at Bâtard: there were no bad seats. I moved the kitchen, moved the seating, created eight corners in a square with four. I did everything in my power to make the guest experience special, hospitable. And I’m very happy. I found a husband and wife to run it [the new restaurant will be called Eulalie] and 38 is a huge achievement. Phantom of the Opera only ran for 35 years!

What will you keep from 279 West Broadway?
I am a hoarder, absolutely. I have chairs from every restaurant I’ve had and no place to put them. [His office is on West Broadway, just down from Bâtard.] My cherished thing about Bâtard is the name painted on the glass, The same guy did all three restaurants until the last time — he was a real craftsman. But I will definitely take the brass name plate for Montrachet.

What’s one way you mark your legacy?
At the holiday party every year you see what you’ve built. Our employees bring their families, their kids. You want to keep gong as long as you can. It’s not just about you.

So, what’s next?
I feel great. Keep in mind, I am a restaurateur, and this business is like the movies: all the glory goes to the actors. You only know a few of the directors. Each restaurant was an individual idea, and yes, Nobu became a huge success, but they all started here with an idea. And I feel like I’ve gone full circle. I used to work at McDonald’s and now have The Daily Burger at Madison Square Garden. And it proves this expression I used a lot — the proof’s in the pudding. The food is the thing. The food has to be good. You can work in real estate or you can sell soup. We sell soup.

So I am slowly but surely trying to phase out. Tribeca Grill is 33 — we opened it in 1990. Nobu will be 30 next year. I still have the wine store on 57th Street [Crush Wine & Spirits]. When I was a younger man, the restaurants that lasted this long were institutions. Now it’s about the next hot thing. Outside Nobu, which is an enigma in itself and always in demand, it’s hard to stay hot forever. You have to work hard at it, every day. And besides, the next new thing is an old thing — they haven’t reinvented the wheel. I would dare say that David Bouley’s food or Markus Glocker’s food is still the best there is.

But I am still busy. I still come to work every day, though less on the weekends since covid. And I feel good about Tina and Chip.

What’s your last order at Bâtard?
I always order what I am in the mood for, and I’ll do that on Saturday. I was the last one to eat at Corton, and I’ll be at Bâtard til the end.



  1. They’ll always be a special place in my heart for Montrachet. 35 years ago, it’s where Shellie, my then girlfriend, now wife, first met my parents. We had a wonder full time, even if my dad kept pulling on her sleeve and saying “serpentine Shells, serpentine.” (Line from the “In Laws.”) Later that night he spilled white wine all over her beautiful dress and, well, bonding doesn’t get any better than that.

    We dined at Croton and Batard over the years. They were both wonderful but somehow not as special as Montrachet, at least for us.

    Thank you, Mr. Nieporent for the wonderful memories and everything you’ve done for the neighborhood. And, hey! 67 is the new 57. Looks like the old “Ecco” space on Chambers street is available. Perfect place for a new restaurant?

  2. Thank you for so many great memories and delicious meals. I am looking forward to your next creative adventure.

  3. Wow 😲😳 38 years not bad good luck to him.

  4. **Correction. The title of the article mentions the correct address at 239 W Broadway, while the body of the article references a 279 W Broadway which is not accurate

  5. I was one of the principals at AST Sound first at 250 and then 241 W Bdwy. Fond memories of delicious dining with my out of town vendors. Thanks.

  6. Nobody has done it better.
    You are the true maestro.
    From the New Star Market to Batard, what more can you ask for.

    Best Crème Brûlée ever

  7. montrachet was the first restaurant my wife and i dined at after moving to tribeca in 91
    always a delicious meal guaranteed whatever the name on the window and conveniently locate right across the park

  8. Drew has a very warm heart , open mind with his own thoughts.
    His ability is easy to touch you…..which you should find out in his menus. Simple,creative with taste. The longer time you know him and you will find the truly of love. all about friends,food,joys and finally to family.

  9. Sorry for the 10-month delay in posting. Montrachet was my second home back in the late 80s and early 90s. The food was great, and the wines were wonderful, but Drew’s friendliness and devotion to the place made it truly special for me. I live on social security now and don’t eat at restaurants these days, but I will always fondly remember the place and the man who created it.