There's another merger about to take place on Wall Street: Milk Street Cafe, a popular restaurant and corporate catering company in Boston's Financial District, launches its new venture in New York's Financial District tomorrow. And Milk Street is going public, so to speak, by inviting everyone to attend the morning's Opening Bell ceremony for complimentary cookies and coffee from 10:00 till 11:00 in the Trump Building at 40 Wall Street.
After 30 years of success on Milk Street, founder Marc Epstein saw an opportunity to broker his gourmet fare on Wall Street. His new restaurant opens one month after the SBA named him Massachusetts Small Business Person of the Year. Marc and his wife, Beth, welcomed the press to a private preview earlier this month. Having spent five years of my career in this building, I couldn't resist the opportunity for a "homecoming."
Marc Epstein talks about Milk Street Cafe's Wall Street opening
Like its Boston counterpart, the New York menu offers considerable diversity. Unlike the Beantown location, however, the Gotham space is massive: a 23,000-square-foot food hall, featuring a 15,000-square-foot area comprising three kitchens. Inspired by Eataly, the food hall concept affords a wide variety of stations and speciality counters to suit an extensive array of tastes.
Beth Epstein describes the new Milk Street Cafe
Milk Street Cafe's food hall features made-to-order breakfasts, made-from-scratch breads, desserts and pastries, a pasta bar, Asian specialties, a sushi bar, two create-your-own salad bars (one vegetarian, one not), homemade soups, a grill, a rotisserie, and a carving station. The wide-ranging menu is the brainchild of Executive Chef Steven Mettle (formerly the Executive Chef at AIG).
Don't look for cheeseburgers here, however—everything is kosher. All fish and produce are processed in the kitchen; vegetables are "locally sourced if possible, and organic when available," explained Chef Mettle. Pictured below are a few tempting samples:
The diverse culinary team includes chefs trained in Asian specialities. I sampled some of the tasty Eastern comestibles of sushi chef Eugene Lee and wok chef Allen Ong.
Of course, something smooth had to accompany all that. We were treated to three rich beverages.
"Our emphasis is on the best food and the best hospitality," says Marc Epstein, "We believe that customer service is paramount and we want to create the best experience possible." Décor plays a major role in that experience. The Epsteins spent a year-and-a-half renovating the existing Art Deco interior—vacated six months earlier by Mangia—and adding updated appointments to yield a style known as "Hollywood Regency."
Rather than displaying stock tickers and other distractions, the dining areas offer a relaxing escape for bulls and bears alike. With a seating capacity of 150, "we wanted to create a respite," Beth Epstein told me. To that end, a large mural by Shanee Epstein (Marc's sister) adorns the rear dining section. Affectionately called the restaurant's "Monet," this work also serves as the backdrop for the company logo.
Milk Street Cafe's opening will also introduce some innovations to the Big Apple. A couple of firsts include sophisticated whirlpool Produce Soak sinks to wash fruits and vegetables, as well as FLAT table bases (from Australia) that use bungee cords to level and stabilize eating surfaces. In addition, clerks will use nifty handheld checkout devices called Line Busters to expedite credit card payments. Why can't other restaurants adopt this sort of technology?
I enjoyed my 40 Wall homecoming. Things have changed for the better over the decades. As I recall, back in the '80s, the only places for food in this building were the company cafeteria and 40 Below, in the basement. I wish there had been a place like Milk Street Cafe.
Milk Street Cafe
40 Wall Street (between William & Broad Sts),
Financial District, Manhattan (map)
By bus: M5
Comestiblab: Were you aware that 40 Wall Street was, very briefly, the world's tallest building? When the 70-story tower opened in May, 1930, plans showed its 927 feet rising two feet higher than the soon-to-be-completed Chrysler Building.
Walter Chrysler had other plans, however. His architect, William Van Alen, designed a stainless steel spire that was furtively assembled and bolted onto the crown of his skyscraper, rendering it the world's tallest at 1,048 feet—a title it surrendered just 11 months later to the Empire State Building.