For all of its lunchtime offerings, the FiDi can be a frustrating place to try to find the perfect meal: There are your table-and-salad buffets, a panoply of soup-and-sandwich outlets, a bevy of grab-and-go options, and a fair number of upscale dining rooms for sitting and chatting while on an expense account. But there's not much in between "fast" and "fine."
In early 2016, Chef David Kurtz will expand that universe with a new restaurant, Homage, at 88 Hardie Place, just off main Kearny strip of eateries and around the corner from Rickhouse.
The FiDi has "some of the best clientele in the city," Kurtz told us. "People who are in tune with the food world and really care about it, but I feel like their options for their daily meals in the Financial District are really lacking. There’s a big gap of quality fare that’s offered that’s both quick and delicious. The aim of Homage is to bridge that gap."
David Kurtz. (Photo: Brendan Pascoe)
Homage should open no later than March, serving up a selection of 8–10 items a day made with a rotating crop of ingredients from local farmers, with a quick turnaround time for harried FiDi workers. Kurtz is bringing an impressive resume to the project, having worked as a sommelier and manager at top restaurants such as Aziza, Bacar, Coi, Frances, Michael Mina and Saison, and having co-owned Lower Haight restaurant/bar Maven. "It's all about efficiency and speed, but at the same time, preserving the quality and etiquette and attention to detail I’m accustomed to in my prior establishments," he explained.
The name signifies that the restaurant is paying homage to farmers, farms and their bounty, and it'll feature a different farm every two weeks. "Simplicity is king," Kurtz said." If you’re going to strip a menu down to eight items, 10 items, it’s critical to have the best ingredients, because everything’s going to shine right through.”
Diners will learn about the farms, who works there, when they were founded and where to find their goods at area markets. Fresh produce will be preserved or pickled and sold in a pantry as well as used in other dishes; for instance, a marmalade could end up on a cheese plate or a pickle on a Cubano sandwich. "The idea behind that is every two weeks, we move onto a new farm, and before we move on, we’re going to preserve that moment in the season," Kurtz told us.
He promises "beautiful baby lettuces: whole heads cut and washed to order, no giant boxes of mixed greens." They'll roast whole animals for meats carved fresh, and offer sandwiches on different types of freshly baked breads. "We’ll be milling grains fresh to make fresh flour," he said. Everything will be naturally fermented for three days using wild yeast and baked every morning.
Along with the holy lunch trinity of sandwiches, salads and soups, they'll have a “something different” section on the menu, Kurtz says: "It might include Taiwanese beef noodle soup, renditions of Thai or Japanese; it’s a section we get to play in to our heart’s content." Prices will hover around $10-11; Kurtz wants it to be a place people can come regularly.
The 2,055-square-foot space seats 49 inside and 20 outside, and it'll be first-come, first-served; no reservations. Because of that, Kurtz expects to do a brisk take-out business, but he also wants it to be a place where people can relax and have a meeting.
In addition to lunch, Homage will open at 8am for breakfast, serving a "detailed coffee service" from an "old-school rebuilt espresso machine featuring different roasters we rotate through, depending on what we're liking," Kurtz said. He'll also serve sweet and savory pastries, morning breads, hand pies and cookies, and he emphasizes they'll have excellent WiFi.
In the evening, Homage will shift from a light and bright cafe to a low-key wine bar with happy hour and plates based on renditions from the lunch menu, as well as cheeses and cured meats. Kurtz, who's excited to keep his sommelier chops fresh with the wine list, describes it as a casual place to grab a bite and cocktail after work. It'll close up at 9pm so he can get home and have a personal life.
The design, by Gi Paoletti, will "preserve the beautiful bones" of the lofty, airy building, Kurtz said. It'll showcase the original steel-riveted beams, 13-and-a-half-foot ceilings and wood floors, and he's adding cut-outs to create an open kitchen with new stone countertops and lots of tile work, along with using reclaimed windows, old Dutch fabric for covering bench cushions, drapery to soften the space and muffle the sound, and shelving with a library ladder. Outside, he's repaving the sidewalk and constructing diverters to "camouflage the scenes of a back alley," he said.
Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline
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