Chief finds silver liner in COVID lockdown


The pandemic has devastated the restaurant industry and the Omicron New Wave continues to darken the picture, but there have been a few bright spots for the lucky few.

For Chief Franklin Becker, business is going well – and the growth has been life-changing after the 52-year-old met his new wife, Melissa, 51, on a dating app a month before the lockdown. She is now working with him on new business development.

“I have mixed feelings about the pandemic. I wish that would never happen. Many people have lost their lives. But it also shed light on what is important in life – family, community and friends, ”Becker said.

Business has also picked up for Becker. During the pandemic, Little Beet – a healthy fast food chain Becker founded in 2013 – closed some stores while its parent company, Aurify Brands, gobbled up the assets of Pain Quotidien and Maison Kayser. Becker’s healthy online grocery store,, has also seen “accelerated” growth. It’s now valued at $ 750 million and is expected to be released to the public, Becker told Side Dish.

Now Becker has also cooked up two new restaurants slated to open this spring – an Upper East Side seafood restaurant, Uptown Trout, and an “old school” chophouse-style American restaurant, The Press Club Grill, near Herald Square, Side The dish can reveal exclusively.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic has devastated our industry,” Becker said. “This has created a huge number of supply chain problems, which has resulted in increased costs of goods, which will lead to higher costs for customers – as well as labor and labor shortages. other endless problems. “

Franklin and Mélissa Becker
Chief Franklin Becker met his wife, Melissa, just before the pandemic hit, and they are now working together.

He was able to secure a “core” team and keep them on board during the height of the pandemic thanks to an innovative new profit-sharing plan and other incentives. Also, he said, “I was able to take the opportunity when it presented itself and research places and different things that others could not afford. “

Becker’s F. Becker Hospitality has partnered with Stephen Loffredo and Tora Matsuoka of Seasoned Hospitality to open Uptown Trout and the Press Club Grill.

Until 2012, Becker led Catch, Lexington Brass and Abe and Arthur’s, now closed, as an executive business leader for the EMM Group, now known as Catch Hospitality Group.

Now his own seafood restaurant, Uptown Trout, will focus on local seafood. The 2,500 square foot restaurant will seat 72 people and will open inside the renovated Franklin Hotel at 164 East 87th St. in late April or May.

The hotel never had a restaurant so all of the construction is from scratch.

“The pandemic has slowed down construction. We’re setting up an entire kitchen and restaurant, ”Becker said.

Meanwhile, the Press Club Grill is slated to open in June. The 9,000 square foot space occupies two floors and will accommodate 180 guests inside the Martinique New York hotel at Broadway and 32nd Street.

Uptown Trout moves into The Franklin hotel.
Matthew McDermott

The concept, Becker said, is an “old-fashioned” New York City from mainland America, with theater-ready dishes like steak Diane, steak tartare and Caesar salad, as well as seafood.

Becker says he’s inspired by the city itself.

“It’s the old New York that meets the new New York,” Becker said. “Herald Square was the center of the press world – it was a place where sport and entertainment met. The restaurant will revert to old sensibilities, when dinner was a little more sophisticated, when you could bump your elbows in the same dining room with a heavyweight fighter and musicians from neighboring Madison Square Garden, ”he said. .

A render shows the raw bar arriving at Uptown Trout.

The menu will build on his experience in the industry over the years. And it will also be a tribute to his mother, who died less than two weeks ago.

“She made the best matzoh dumpling soup, with kneidlachs [a type of dumpling], and that will be on the menu as well, ”said Becker.

Last year, Becker also opened a 5,000 square foot food hall on Columbia University’s West Harlem campus, designed by architect Glen Coben. The complex includes a full-service Spanish tapas restaurant, Oliva, just named Best Place for New Years Brunch by Eater.

During the lockdown, Becker also launched 100 Pleats, a food app he hoped to be like an Uber for chefs.


An intimate bar
The Dante of the West Village opens at Pearl Alley.

A restaurant that closed during the pandemic, the Upper East Side staple T-Bar has found a new home nearby on East 60th St., between Park and Lexington Avenues. It is slated to open in early spring, said Tony Fortuna, owner of T-Bar with his partner Derek Axelrod.

In other opening news, Masalawala, at 365 Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn’s Park Slope – from restaurateur Roni Mazumdar and chef Chintan Pandya – will open next month.

The 2,500 square foot site will have an additional 700 square foot backyard. There will be 55 seats inside. The restaurant will feature food from their hometown of Kolkata, India, as well as an initial retail market selling spice blends and other specialty Indian products.

Winter decoration with logs and Christmas greenery
Dante’s seasonal pop-up appears at the South Street Seaport.

There’s also Momoya SoHo, at 47 Prince Street, from owner KwangHo Lee and sushi chef / partner Watura Makai, which will also open in February. The 3,000 square foot two-level space on the corner of Prince and Mulberry will include a first level with a wine and sake bar with cocktails from Alex Ott, and a 12-seat sushi bar that seats 30. 30 additional people. There will also be around 55 outdoor spaces.

Additionally, Dante, West Village’s beloved restaurant and bar – named North America’s Best Bar in 2019 and 2020 – is opening its seasonal pop-up, Dante Winter House, in Pearl Alley on South Street Pier 17. Seaport. This is in addition to his Aspen cocktail pop-up at Snow Lodge.

From now on, Dante Winter House will have a coffee bar, as well as the Dante Bar, with its signature cocktails, including well-boiled coffee and hot-smoked grog, all served in movable cups, as well as the Negroni Bar.

There will also be two food trucks: one serving flatbreads, like the Verde, with spicy lamb sausage, mozzarella and arugula, and the Bianco, with pancetta, leeks, provolone and thyme, while another is centered on the affogatos.

The Dante Winter House pop-up, which launched on Monday, measures 10,500 square feet and has 230 seats, plus 10 at the bar.

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