Bruce Brodoff Communications
Bruce Brodoff Communications
SETTINGS ON STONE: A historic street helps pave the way in a downtown restaurant boom
By Pascale Le Draoulec

The restaurant scene in the Wall Street area has long been steaks and suits.

But a stroll down Stone St.'s restaurant row rips that stereotype to ticker-tape shreds.

Cafe terraces on the pedestrian street are packed with people in jeans and T's sipping wine while lunching on salads and salmon. Families line up for apricot tarts at the Financier bakery. Couples watch sports at the cozy new Stone Street Tavern, huddled over a glass of Cabernet.

"Stone St. really does feel like a village in Italy," says Ronan Downs, who owns Waterstone Grill there. "It's New York's best kept secret."

Stone St.'s boom is five years in the making, in which time 15,000 people have moved into new and converted buildings in downtown's infamous concrete canyons.

The new influx of canyon dwellers is made up of artists, advertising executives and even chefs, like Per Se's Thomas Keller.

No longer just a place to make or lose money, Wall Street has become a place to spend money.

BMW recently opened a car dealership. Sephora, too. Barnes & Noble and Whole Foods will open next year as will Tiffany and Hermes.

"When Fifth Avenue retailers start signing leases below Chambers St. know downtown's retail renaissance has begun," says Eric Deutsch, president of the Downtown Alliance.

Harry's, a longtime classic banker's haunt on Hanover Square, recently re-opened a more casual cafe to accommodate the new "Wall Street-without-wingtips" crowd.

"With so many new people moving into the area, we wanted to create a neighborhood place, where people could come for a simple salad, just dessert or a glass of Champagne," says Peter Poulakakos, who owns the restaurant with his father, Harry.

They even ordered high chairs. "That was a first for us," says Poulakakos.

And next, the Poulakakos family will open the first-ever 24-hour diner in the nabe, named Gold Street, banking on the fact that it will soon be humming around the clock.

It's this kind of energy that had Kenny Lao, the young restaurateur behind the popular Rickshaw Dumpling Bar in Chelsea, walking through the Financial District with his real estate agent recently scouting a new location.

"My friends have been telling me about the explosion going on around Gold St.," he says. "Lots of singles with good incomes moving into expensive condos - that's perfect for what I do. The takeout market will be great."

Lao said he was also drawn by the rents - at $100 a square foot, they remain lower than other parts of the city.

Zen Palate and Haru will also open outposts in the Financial District late next year.

The restaurant boom is extending as far east as Front St., which is undergoing its own renaissance, and as far west as ground zero where Trinity Place, a restaurant in a bank vault, opened earlier this year.

"What's happening down here is fantastic," says owner Jason O'Brien. "People are so grateful that we opened. We're getting tremendous repeat business."

O'Brien is staying open seven days a week and serving brunch to accommodate families. Business is so good, he's already looking out for new locations.

Even old-time restaurants, like Suspenders, which have always kept banker's hours, are expanding both their space and their hours. Suspenders offers live jazz late night and is even considering renting out space for children's birthday parties.

While it's not exactly "Triburbia," as some call stroller-happy Tribeca, "it's becoming a neighborhood of choice for people with families because of all the spectacular open space," says Bruce Brodoff, spokesman for the Downtown Alliance.

Brodoff says what he - and all the new restaurateurs in the area - love is the easy access to public transportation.

On a Saturday night, he recently met up with friends from Brooklyn for dinner on Stone St.

"It's just one subway stop from Whitehall St. and one stop to Borough Hall."

With a gym and a movie theater and lots of supermarkets and restaurants, he says, he never feels the need to leave on weekends.

"I remember one day walking downtown and thinking: It doesn't feel like a war zone anymore. The moving vans came in. And suddenly, it felt like a neighborhood. A real cosmopolitan neighborhood."

The Alliance for Downtown New York will hold Downtown for Dinner 2006, a week-long lower Manhattan event featuring $30 prix fixe dinners at nearly three dozen restaurants below Chambers St. from Monday, Nov. 13, through Sunday, Nov. 19. For more information, visit

In The News
Video screens
355 SOUTH END AVENUE, SUITE 4M, NEW YORK, NY 10280, TEL: 212.775.0739