Mel’s Burger Bar, a go-to restaurant for Columbia students on Broadway between 110th and 111th Streets, has closed. “Thanks to all our customers and loyal employees over the past 13-plus years. It’s been a hell of a ride,” the company posted on Instagram. The popular craft beer and burger joint “has been falsely rumored to be closing numerous times,” the Columbia Spectator reported. (Mel’s declined to give a reason for the actual closing.) Owner Steven Kay, who has worked in hospitality for three decades, told West Side Rag earlier this year that the only way to survive in the restaurant industry is to “love what you do, and love having people over and making them happy.” Mel’s, which is named after the grandfather of a chef at the restaurant, has another location on the Upper East Side that remains open.
The Granola Bar, a restaurant and grab-and-go destination, is opening in January at 551 Amsterdam Avenue (at 87th Street). It replaces Kirsh Bakery and Kitchen, which closed in August 2022. The Granola Bar was founded by Julie Mountain and Dana Noorily (@thegranolygirls) in Westport, Connecticut, in 2013, and now has six locations in Connecticut and Westchester. The UWS spot will be the first New York City location. The Granola Bar will serve “elevated comfort food and drink” and was “started with the goal of bringing the foods we love to our surrounding families and friends,” said Mountain in a press release. Mountain and Noorily had both lived on the Upper West Side before relocating to Westport. “We are thrilled to bring The Granola Bar to New York City,” Noorily said. “There’s so much excitement surrounding what’s to come for The Granola Bar in the Big Apple, but there is also a comforting sense of familiarity with the people and place we love so much.”
The Granola Bar will have a breakfast menu available until 4 p.m., in addition to a lunch and dinner menu. New specialty items will be introduced in the UWS location, such as tiramisu pancakes and tuna tartar mini tacos. Granola flavors available to purchase at the cafe include: Cinnamon Honey, Dark Chocolate Lemon Biscotti, Maple Bacon, Toasted Coconut, Vanilla Almond, and Black Sesame.
Haven, an American-style bistro and bar, opened on December 15th at 226 West 79th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam. The restaurant is the first venture by Brian Staub, a longtime Upper West Sider who lives in the neighborhood with his family. “Opening weekend exceeded our expectations in terms of turnout,” said Staub on a call with WSR. “People seem to love the food. The place looks great. We’re just working on perfecting our service.” The menu includes daily specials as well as several culturally-resonant dishes, such as seared tuna with everything bagel seasoning and miso soup served with matzo balls. “What I wanted to do is make something that’s accessible and familiar, yet a little bit inventive, but not too serious or fine dining,” he said. “We want to give people something they have never had before, but from reading the menu they can tell what it’s going to be.” Reservations are available on Resy.
Abes, a high-end Chinese restaurant, is planning to open at 102 West 86th Street, just west of Columbus Avenue, in the spring of 2024. It will fill the vacancy left by La Mirabelle, the French restaurant that closed in 2021 after nearly four decades. Some Rag readers might remember that a different group planned to open a restaurant in the space, but it never came to fruition. Abes will have approximately 52 seats and serve Szechuan cuisine. The name refers to “a classification of birds, so we’re going to have some really elegant interior design. Very modern,” said Leon Liu, the owner, on a recent Community Board 7 call. Liu has 10 years experience in the restaurant industry – primarily as a front of house general manager – and is behind a few other Chinese restaurant concepts in the city, including Tangy Noodle in Chelsea.
% Arabica, a specialty coffee chain, is opening at 418 Columbus Avenue between 80th and 81st Streets). % Arabica originally opened in Kyoto, Japan, in 2014, and is now based in Hong Kong. The chain has more than 150 locations around the world – its two NYC roasteries are in Nolita and Dumbo. It is replacing Andy’s Deli, which closed in October 2022. (Thanks to Billy for the tip.)
Chaotic Good Cafe, a board-game coffee shop for people of all ages, is planning to open in March 2024 at 200 West 84th Street (off Amsterdam Avenue). Owner Andrew Panos is a longtime Upper West Sider who has spent the past 16 years in social media analytics and marketing. He loves to play board games and he loves “people having a good time,” he told West Side Rag. Customers pay $10 for unlimited play. About 400 board games will be available, including, nostalgic games such as Monopoly and Mah-jong, strategy games like Settlers of Catan and Wingspan, party games like Cards Against Humanity, and some hard-to-find games you can’t play anywhere else like Crokinole and Klask. Panos said the name Chaotic Good comes from “character alignments” in role-playing games that have a “good heart and a free spirit.”
Chaotic Good Cafe will serve breakfast pastries in the morning and countertop snacks and food throughout the day. There will be a heavy focus on coffee beans and roasters. Panos plans to rotate various beans that will also be for sale. International coffees will be on the menu, including Greek frappes, Vietnamese coffee, and cafe botz (also known as mud coffee) from Israel.
Bourke Street Bakery is closing its location at 313 Amsterdam between West 74th and 75th streets on December 24th. The small cafe is part of a chain that was founded in Australia. “It has been an absolute pleasure serving each and every one of you here on the Upper West Side, and we sincerely hope to have the pleasure of welcoming you at one of our other city locations,” reads a sign posted inside the store. Bourke Street’s other bakeries are in Chelsea, NoMad, and General Central Terminal. The UWS store opened in 2021. (Thanks to Katelyn for the tip.)
Just Salad at 2056 Broadway (between 70th and 71st Streets) has signage up that they are closed for renovations but will be back soon. The sign features a QR code to get salads delivered. We will update when we have more information.
Kossar’s Watch Update: This week WSR received further confirmation that Kossar’s, the bagel and bialy shop on the southeast corner of West 72nd Street and West End Avenue, is making progress toward opening. “We have all approvals from the city and are working to get this place up and baking,” a representative from Kossar’s wrote in an email to WSR. “We are looking to open early spring.” There has been talk about Kossar’s coming to the Upper West Side since 2015 and it appears 2024 is going to be the year.
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