I walked into Ribbon, the new dining experience from Bruce and Eric Bromberg, on their “friends and family night” and was immediately impressed. One of the waiters, Alex Bar-av, explained to me the history of the building. It used to be the Hotel Franconia, built in the 1920s by Arnold Rothstein, a famous Jewish gangster best remembered for “fixing” the 1919 World Series. The Hotel Franconia became known as the only place where people could drink openly during the Prohibition, since Rothstein paid off the cops. To celebrate this quirky heritage, Ribbon’s 200 seat restaurant has a private room called the “Arnold Rothstein Room.” Softly glowing cases of whiskey bottles on the walls add to the speakeasy-like feeling in the dark-wood room while also highlighting Ribbon’s expansive whiskey collection (there are ninety-five types of whiskey on the menu).
When I returned to the restaurant as an invited guest a few days later, Alex took me to see the darkened strip on the floor underneath a row of tables where the old bar used to be. He explained that when they gutted the space, the builders found the Hotel Franconia’s original wood floor. The faded frescoes on the wall, now covered in glass, are also from the 1924 hotel. Alex is not alone in his in-depth knowledge. He told me that the employees are constantly being quizzed on their ability to give the facts to customers, not just about the food, but about Ribbon’s story.
Since my personal visits with Alex, I have had several terrific dinners at Ribbon, but it was especially nice when I came by with the Manhattan Sideways team and Alex brought out a collection of dishes for us to try. Laying them on tables made of repurposed wood from a Brooklyn warehouse floor, he served us a sextet of different kinds of deviled eggs, each with its own taste sensation, and a white bean hummus. The cauliflower covered in spicy buffalo sauce was my personal favorite. It is no surprise that the food is as good as it is, given that the Bromberg Brothers have twenty years of success in the culinary world behind them. “They know what they’re doing,” Alex smiled. I mentioned to the others that I had not seen the cauliflower on the menu before, and Alex quickly chimed in to say that the menu has changed since the restaurant first opened. “We take customer feedback very seriously,” Alex shared, explaining that the food offerings were adjusted according to diners’ comments. Ribbon is also known for a great raw bar, their fried chicken served only on Sundays and Mondays, their prime rib, and their hamburgers.
Alex emphasized that this is a family friendly place. Despite the great skill of the staff, he pointed out that Ribbon is not considered “fine” dining. Instead, he referred to the restaurant as “elevated dining.”