Opening and running a successful restaurant is one of the most difficult and risky undertakings, especially in New York City. There are 998,000 restaurants in the country, according the National Restaurant Association, and New York is home to more than 41,000 of them. Staying afloat in a shifting sea of competition is no easy task, and the recipe for success seems to vary as much as the recipes coming out of each kitchen.
It's difficult to identify why exactly one restaurant works, and why another one flops. The ingredients are important, but even a restaurant with a top location, a great ambiance, an innovative menu and excellent customer service may fail to reach its one-year anniversary. Restaurant and nightlife blog Eater has a whole section dedicated to profiling restaurants that have successfully lasted a full year, highlighting what a tremendous accomplishment it is. One thing that seems crucial is passion -- for food, for creating a unique experience, for sharing part of one's background or history, and, in some cases, passion for each other.
The teams behind some of New York's hottest restaurants today are couples. Mile End, everyone's favorite, modern Jewish deli, is run by husband-and-wife duo Noah and Ray Bernamoff. Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg helped establish Brooklyn as a culinary destination with their now legendary Franny"s and their retail cheese and provisions shop BKLN Larder. Since opening in January of 2010, Recette -- run by chef and owner Jesse Schenker and his wife Linsday, who is director of operations -- continues to rank as one of the trendiest spots in the West Village. Newcomer Brooklyn Sandwich Society belongs to Andres Valbuena and Melissa Gorman, who began their culinary teamwork with the superb supper club, Brooklyn Edible Social Club. Alex Raij and husband Eder Montero run an impressive three restaurants, as the chefs and owners of Basque restaurant Txikito in Chelsea, tapas bar El Quinto Pino down the street, and their latest venture, La Vara in Cobble Hill. The one and only falafel and smoothie bar Taim is the "lovechild" of Einat Admony and Stefan Nafziger. And Dean and Maya Jankelowitz are serving up an inventive menu of homey, Israeli and South African cusine at Jack"s Wife Frieda.
It goes without saying that these couples have their hands full, especially as we approach one of the busiest dining days of the year: Valentine's Day. About one quarter of Americans will dine out this Valentine's Day. So how are some of these culinary power couples spending their special day?
Francine and Andrew of Franny's say they'll likely take their kids to Franny's. "School builds up Valentine's Day, so they are pretty into it!" says Francine. Andres and Melissa of Brooklyn Sandwich Society will be at their newly opened restaurant on Thursday night, and since they've never been the kind to seek out special V-Day menus, they decided not to do anything special with their menu. This will be La Vara chefs and owners Alex Raij and Eder Montero's 10th Valentine's Day as a married couple. They usually make cards for each other, but this year Alex says she has "Eder beat." She's "giving him a trip to the Spanish Steps." Dean and Maya Jankelowitz of Jack's Wife Freda, who work closely as a team on all matters, will be working this Valentine's Day, as will Jesse and Lindsay Schenker of Recette. After dinner service, Jesse plans to make Lindsay's favorite spaghetti dish.
While it sounds like everyone, predictably, will be hard at work in some way or another on this second-busiest dining day of the year (after Mother's Day), it's good to hear that these couples, who give to all of us day in and day out, can carve out time out for one another.