It’s been more than two years since Jeremy Spector served a Steakhouse Burger at the narrow space on Avenue A and 10th Street that once housed his beloved gastropub, Brindle Room. Like many New York City restaurants, it shuttered in the early pandemic months, unable to make COVID workarounds like takeout or outdoor seating work for the long term.
Brindle Room’s burger had been an unexpected breakout hit for the restaurant, which originally opened in 2010. The brainchild of Spector and co-owner Dean Piccolo, the burger started as a lunch special utilizing the trimmings from Sebastian’s, a New Jersey steakhouse where Piccolo is the chef and butcher — hence the name. Eventually, the unassuming burger became an off-menu dinner item lauded by diners and critics alike who loved its single beef patty cloaked in caramelized onions and American cheese. In the years following its quiet debut, the burger made its way onto numerous “best of” lists, plus an episode of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” where it rightly earned a “dynamite” rating.
New Yorkers will be happy to hear that Brindle Room — and its not-so-secret burger — are back. After two years of patiently searching for a new space, Spector and Piccolo finally secured one on Avenue C and 11th, just a few blocks down from its original address. It reopened on July 27.
The new space, once home to New American bistro Virginia’s (also known for its burger and also planning for a comeback this fall, albeit elsewhere in the East Village), differs from the old one in many ways.
“Our new location is a lot nicer than our previous location,” says Spector. “It’s bigger. It has four times the amount of frontage with open windows and open accordion doors.” Brindle Room has gone from 30 to 50 seats, even more if you add in the weather-permitting outdoor seating that’s now an option.
The space is nicer, but Spector promises the vibe will stay very much the same. In fact, he’s confident Brindle Room will slide right back into its role as a beloved neighborhood spot.
“We’re pretty much going for the same feel, a place you can come with your parents or come with a date or come with your friends,” he says, before the reopening. “People always want a place to go to when they don’t know exactly what they want to do. We serve that purpose really well. We also serve the purpose of where to go when you have friends in town and you want to take them to a place that’s going to impress out-of-towners.”
He expects a warm welcome by returning Brindle Room fans and plans to draw in new ones by staying true to its core as “a casual neighborhood spot that’s a bit eclectic. It’s a spot that’s unpretentious, that you feel at home in. It’s accessible to everybody and that’s what makes it special.”
The space has gotten a facelift and so too has the drinks menu. “It has a full liquor license, where our old space only had a beer and wine. And so it’s really a complete upgrade.”
Though Spector spends most of his time in the kitchen and not behind the bar, he’s no stranger to working on a cocktail program. Before he opened Brindle Room, he served as the chef at famed West Village speakeasy Employees Only; he’s also a partner at East Village cocktail bar Mister Paradise.
At Brindle Room 2.0, diners can expect a milk punch, plus a rotation of four mixed cocktails on tap, including a Negroni, margarita, and espresso martini “The cocktails are going to be great and delicious and made by a really great bar chef, but I also want them to be fun and accessible. It’ll be a mixture of classic cocktails and some, I don’t want to say 70’s cocktails, but some throwback cocktails that are not super hoity-toity,” says Spector.
“Fun and accessible” also applies to the food. There’ll be the burger, of course, but the refreshed menu draws inspiration from another fan favorite. “Our most popular iteration of entrees at Brindle Room was always when we had four or five different proteins and nine or 10 different sides that people could choose from and so we’re going to go with that strategy when we reopen.” Examples include steak au poivre, crispy-skinned salmon, and Parmesan-crusted pork chops. Sides will change seasonally; think couscous and quinoa with preserved lemon, braised kale, porcini mashed potatoes, and more.
After all these years, Spector also lets us in on the secret to Brindle Room’s Steakhouse Burger, which stood out from all the other over-the-top burgers that peaked in the 2010s: It’s the beef, which started as leftovers from Sebastian’s, the New Jersey steakhouse where Piccolo is the chef and butcher.“We used the trimmings from his steakhouse to make the burger,” explains Spector. “The blend is a blend of trimmings from the strip in the neck, the ribeye, and short ribs. It’s moderately aged. It’s got a lot of suet, which is a hard, flavorful kidney fat, in it and we add extra into the blend.” Spector sears the patties on a cast-iron skillet to seal in the juices.
The new menu is purposely pared down. Following the pandemic, Spector, like many chefs, is seeking out better work-life balance after decades in the restaurant industry.
That also translates to shorter opening hours than before, something he and Piccolo had always wanted to do, but never had the chance to try until COVID hit. They’ll be open for dinner to start, followed by weekend brunch later in the summer if all goes smoothly with staffing up.
Spector plans on closing the restaurant two weeks a year so his team also gets time to rest, too. But first, he tells us he’s looking forward most to serving the neighborhood again. “We’ve gotten a lot of Facebook messages, a lot of Instagram messages, a lot of people reaching out, seeing our sign on the door and poking their head in like, “You guys are moving in?”
Yes, they did.
The Brindle Room is located at 647 East 11th Street and is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m.