By Scott Etkin
The Migrant Kitchen, a casual restaurant serving food inspired by immigrant communities, is opening on Columbus Avenue between 67th and 68th Streets on April 19.
The restaurant’s proximity to the neighborhood formerly known as San Juan Hill – the African-American, Afro-Caribbean and Puerto Rican community that preceded Lincoln Square and was razed by “urban renewal” in the late 1950s – makes it an auspicious location to co-founders Dan Dorado and Nasser Jaber. Dan said the existing The Migrant Kitchen on the Upper East Side is more of an “express model,” whereas the UWS location will be the company’s “flagship.”
“Our entire brand is looking through the immigrant lens,” said Nasser, which shapes the business in several ways. First, Migrant Kitchen pays its employees “fair wages” that are above minimum wage. They also seek to hire recent immigrants, including Ukrainian refugees, and help their employees find and receive support from assimilation services.
Second, The Migrant Kitchen donates a portion of its sales to provide meals to those in need through The Migrant Kitchen Initiative – similar to the way TOMS donates shoes and Warby Parker donates glasses. Nasser and Dan started The Migrant Kitchen in October 2019 and when the pandemic began, they started giving meals to frontline workers and undersupplied food pantries. Within months, The Migrant Kitchen “was serving over 60,000 meals a week to food insecure communities across NYC,” it says on their website.
Dan pointed out that the meals they donate aren’t “just ham and cheese sandwiches.” They’re “restaurant quality meals” that are also “culturally appropriate” for the people in the communities receiving them. Though the height of the pandemic is behind us, Dan feels like the issue of food insecurity has not improved. “Food pantries are still running out of food,” he said. “We do the best we can, but we can’t plug all the holes.”
The Migrant Kitchen’s menu showcases the diversity of flavors from immigrant cultures. Highlights from the UWS menu, which is expanded beyond what is served on the East Side, includes: chicken tinga empanadas, a cauliflower shawarma wrap, sumac roasted potato wedges, and a grilled halloumi and chorizo bowl. Even the mac and cheese side has a unique twist – it’s made with Oaxaca cheese and za’atar breadcrumbs.
Nasser is originally from Palestine and Dan was born in Los Angeles to parents from Mexico. After moving to the U.S., Nasser worked in restaurants to pay his way through school, and ended up discovering that his true passion is for food. Similarly, Dan fell in love with restaurants while working in them during college. He eventually went on to be the Head Chef at ilili, the acclaimed Lebanese restaurant in NoMad (North of Madison Square Park). Nasser has worked with the U.S. government in Turkey and Sweden to support refugees through food hospitality and farming programs.
The Migrant Kitchen represents the “new American food,” said Dan. “It’s still “sandwiches, bowls and salads,” he said with a smile. “They’re just with different flavors, different spices and different ingredients” than we might be used to.
Starting April 19, The Migrant Kitchen will be open Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 4pm and available for delivery.
Why doI think this will not end well…
I don’t know, why do you think it won’t end well? Care to elaborate?
I LOVE MIGRANT KITCHEN and am happy they’ll be in the neighborhood. Their food is wonderful
I feel to call it new AMERICAN FOOD IS INCORRECT, just call it
Migrant Food. I am the daughter of immigrants and my parents
referred to their food as Italian Food as other ethnic groups
do ti theirs.
The urban renewal project that cleared tenement housing to create Lincoln Center included displacement of the large Irish immigrant community.
Leaving this point out diminishes the authenticity of their concept
Is this one of those “the Irish were oppressed, too” claims? Hell’s Kitchen, further south, was where the Irish community in the area was located—the Irish Arts Center at 51st and 11th Ave. is a reminder of this. The San Juan Hill neighborhood was predominately Black and Puerto Rican.
Avocado toast is immigrant food? I guess if you immigrated from Williamsburg. Actually I had it in Australia in 2006 at a place called Bill’s, before it became the trendy dish it is.
But I don’t imagine we have a whole lot of people crossing our borders from Sidney.
Hi, where exactly is “Palestine”? It’s not a recognized country
Perhaps you mean Palestinian Territories and the West Bank
Palestine was the area that the Balfour Declaration designated (i.e., co-opted) to create the State of Israel. And yes, Palestine was the “official” name of the region, as shown in pre-1948 atlases.
Actually, you are thinking of modern Israel. Palestine was a region in the middle east way before Israel. Jews, Arabs, British (it was a British protectorate) all lived in peace. Nothing was a problem until the Arab League decided to fight the United Nations mandate allowing for a two state solution to the slaughter of the Holocaust. Had the Arab League behaved differently and welcomed Israel, the trajectory of world history would have been different. But democracy, especially socialized democracy, terrifies tribal cultures which are in essence monarchies. But, none of it has anything to do with Lincoln Center / Lincoln Square and our need for more restaurants, so why in God’s name did you bring it up? The man knows what and who he is. If he says he is Palestinian, then that’s what he is.
Welcome to the neighborhood. Big fan of Ilili!
You have big goals, hope you can achieve them.
What a bunch of cynics! I’m thrilled they’re filling an empty storefront and adding another amazing what-ever-you-want-to-call-it menu to the neighborhood. Welcome and good luck! I’ll see you soon!
The food sounds delicious! Could the reporter please explain the website’s claim of giving meals away in the pandemic and “serving” over 60,000 meals per week? The way the article is written, it sounds like a new business enterprise gave away all that food. Seems almost impossible – assuming every meal cost only $3 (food plus labor plus rent on commercial kitchen space to prepare it likely much more) that is $180,000 per week!! Where did these funds come from? Also, assuming cooking bulk and then packaging a single meal for delivery takes 4 min per meal (super-fast), the weekly time is 240,000 min/60min per hour = 4,000 hours PER WEEK of labor. How big is their staff and who paid those wages? Thanks for researching this further!