Beneath the stretch of Kenmare Street that runs into Delancey and intersects with the Bowery, there’s an abandoned subway station – the old Bowery J stop. Its southern entrance currently serves as an event space and, this morning, a pop-up collaboration between Blue Bottle and a first-time Lebanese eatery called Manousheh debuts there.
Manousheh’s eponymous menu item is a paper-thin flat bread filled with strained cheese, vegetables and a mix of herbs foraged from the hills of Lebanon. The traditional sandwich is ubiquitous throughout the country and eaten regularly there for breakfast; but in New York, it’s practically non-existent. “Anything you find, they don’t get it right, or they try way too much when, in the end, it’s supposed to be street food and affordable,” freshman chef Ziyad Hermez said yesterday during the pop-up’s soft opening. “They set it up like pizza, but it’s not, it’s a sandwich.”
Hermez came to the U.S. ten years ago with a background in I.T., and scoured Washington D.C., where he lived at the time, and then New York City for the centuries-old recipe, but came up empty handed. “I decided this is something that needs to happen here. I left everything, went to Lebanon, and worked in a bakery,” Hermez recounted, and there he learned how to replicate his childhood breakfast. In addition to the traditional sandwich – whose dough is either cooked on an imported metal disk called a “firin” or in the oven – Hermez will also offer a sweet wrap with Nutella.
And, to balance that sugar, you’ll need some coffee – so Blue Bottle’s Retrofit espresso blend, cold brew coffees, Three Africans drip and a single-origin brew from Ethiopia are at your service, just down the counter (which happens to be made from a reclaimed 1950s bowling alley).
“It was a great opportunity to come to this neighborhood, as we were leaving All Good Things,” said Aaron Nice, Blue Bottle’s store development manager, of the two-month-long pop-up. “We have another location in Hell’s Kitchen [that will open] in the Gotham West Market towards the end of October, so it was really just serendipitous timing.”
In addition to caffeine at Kenmare Street, you can munch on Blue Bottle’s cookies, granola and fruit buckles (a muffin-like treat filled with so much fruit that the pastry “kinda buckles,” according to Nice) made fresh in Blue Bottle’s Williamsburg production kitchen.
Openhouse, which curated the collaboration and owns the space, is “the first hospitality for businesses,” explained Jon Daou, the company’s founder and creative director – that is, they provide everything a small business needs – the space, exposure and business advice, rent-free – to help it grow, before it has the money to make it on its own. “It’s the most basic form of incubation,” says Daou. “Every person in New York wants to be a restaurateur. What if I created a hotel for restaurants and help them indulge in their fantasy of opening a restaurant?”
Daou himself is Lebanese and, after meeting Hermez, was eager to help him bring a taste of home to New York City. “This is the dream of our childhood breakfast that isn’t here,” said Daou. “We try to satiate our dreams. And Blue Bottle has such a strong presence – it was for me sort of what made the balance right.”
Manousheh and Blue Bottle will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; 10 Kenmare Street through October.