The owners of the Munchie Mobile (um, not the same one that belonged to the Workaholics crew…) have ditched their wheels for a former warehouse. The Deep End, as the two friends Jon Gneezy and Jorge Mdahuar are calling their burgers-and-beers-and-performance establishment, has a home inside Rockwall Studios, a massive warehouse of nearly 57,000 square feet that’s been converted into upscale artist studios along the Bushwick-Ridgewood border (they boast a “famous heavy metal band” as one of their tenants). The guys already had somewhat of a cult following. Serious Eats defied everyone’s expectations and described the Munchie Mobile, which Jon and Jorge have taken off the road, as a “stoner food Mecca” with “outlandish burgers,” while the food truck’s Twitter followers have implored them to bring back their deep fried fare.
“The goal from the beginning was always to start a bar, but it takes a little more capital to start a bar than a food truck,” Jon said. While The Deep End won’t exactly be simply a stationary Munchie Mobile, “It’s not 100 percent the same food, but we’re keeping the classics.” Both Jon and Jorge have “more than 15 years each” of service industry experience– they’ve been close friends for 10 of those years, and roommates for eight.
Back in 2013, the truck was rolling around places like the FiDi and Midtown, catering to the workaday business-lunch crowd. But when Jon and Jorge realized it was time to move on about a year and a half ago, they started looking for places and a way to fuse their party-promoting chops with their restaurant skills. “We started looking for a place that could be a hybrid restaurant and event space,” Jon recalled. What Rockwall offered them– 1,200 square feet of space with high ceilings and a flood of natural light– proved to be perfect. The substantial vertical space would be perfect for aerialists. “We’re going to have more DJs than live music, but also live music,” Jon explained. “Plus a lot of performances and dancers.”
They also liked the fact that they would have in-house neighbors occupying the surrounding art studios (a 170-square-foot unit goes for about $799 a month). “It’s definitely going to have a community growing up around it,” Jon said. “There are probably 100 different units in here– I have a friend with a painting studio, an architect also.” The neighborhood was also an easy sell. “Things are starting to open up around here, and we’ve lived in this area for a while, so it was kind of just the place it was going to happen.”
There’s also a rustic lot adjacent to the building, already surrounded by a rusty chain-link fence and murals– I couldn’t help but think these guys have it made, other people have payed big money for such authenticity. If everything goes as planned, eventually the Deep End will have a kiddie pool of sorts in that yard: an auxiliary feeding area with picnic tables and a separate bar, Jon hopes.
As far as the food is concerned, the Deep End guys are aiming to have as accessible a menu as possible. “It’s going to be pretty classic stuff,” Jon shrugged. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel– basically, good food that’s affordable: tacos, salads. Jorge grew up in Mexico City so his mom’s food is the way to go.” But Jon insisted they’re not sacrificing creativity for simplicity, or quality for economy. Just like the Munchie Mobile, the Deep End will focus on fresh, locally-sourced quality ingredients. The quality of meat is especially important to them– they sourced beef from Berk Lombardo of Williamsburg for their food truck burgers.
“So many people these days are like, ‘What’s the one obscure ingredient I can put on my menu to jack the price up $4?’” Jon grumbled. “We’re the complete opposite— we want this to be for everyone. We want everyone to be able to come in here and not feel like, ‘Oh man I really splurged.’ No, it should be, ‘I just don’t feel like cooking today, I’m going out to eat and it’s not gonna cost me an arm and a leg.’” He explained that he’s “frustrated” with restaurants that insist on having “the newest, fanciest” ingredients or dishes. “It’s absolutely fresh, quality food but fresh quality done right doesn’t have to mean a $15 taco.”
Bless you, Jon and Jorge– the worst thing, actually the worst thing, something that will make me get up and leave an establishment, is an expensive taco. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see simple utensil-less street food of the people turned into a complex, bourgeois handheld.
I was also impressed to hear the Deep End already got things in order with the Community Board, and have the ball rolling on a liquor license too. Though final approval is still pending, Jon said he and Jorge “have already been fingerprinted” and guessed, “We’re going to be approved for it probably within the next month or two.”
But before anyone can actually flounder around in the Deep End and mingle with the likes of not-expensive tacos and aerial acrobats, the pair need to get going on renovating the place. When I saw it a couple weeks ago, I was kind of taken aback– Jon hadn’t been kidding in our emails, it really was raw. “The DOB is going to be more of a headache, because this place isn’t an existing restaurant, so we have a laundry list of permits,” he explained. They do have a bit of a head start, though– in its previous life, the building was a giant Kosher bakery, so it’s already quite clean. “This whole room actually used to be a refrigerator.”
As for decorating the place, Jon insisted that it won’t be anything crazy fancy, but will still mirror the “artist community” they’re hoping to attract. “I feel like so many people in Brooklyn make their space look like that, and for us— this is what our space looks like already so we’re gonna work with it,” he said. “But we want to have next-level design.” The enormous factory-style windows close to the ceiling will be made over with a “stained glass style” paint job, and the Deep End will have “3D design elements” hanging from the ceiling.
The vibe will be “in between homey and neighborhood-bar feeling, but also clean and modern,” Jorge explained. “It’s not a full-on dive bar but it’s not a place we’re putting a million dollars into.”
To help with the cost of renovations, Jorge and Jon have embarked on a Kickstarter— which might seem a little unusual seeing as the Deep End is a private restaurant and bar. But their video is really cute, so more power to them. On the campaign website, they write about their desire to create “a place to eat great food, feel at home, laugh, and dance all night,” which “is exactly what our neighborhood is missing.” They’re asking for $25,000 and have some fun prizes for supporters including a “makeup class with a drag queen” ($75), an original painting ($200), a holistic health consultation ($80), and if you’re a high roller with $5,000 to spare Jon and Jorge promise a lifetime of “free everything,” better known as “VIP till we RIP.”
As of today, the Deep End has 30 days left in their campaign, but Jon seemed confident that renovations would be completed ASAP. “Our goal is to be open, if we can by Thanksgiving, but we should definitely be open by New Years,” he told me a couple week back. “It’s going to be to be really fun– the intersection of a neighborhood bar you go to for a burger and a beer and a space you go to at 3 am not knowing what’ll happen, but knowing it’ll be something good.”
The Deep End is located at 10-80 Wyckoff in Ridgewood, Queens.