Monday, December 1, 2014

El Quijote's New Chef

A regular reader writes in:

"Two very rich moms bragged to me on two separate occasions recently that Lee Hanson is taking over the kitchen at El Quijote. Evidently, this is the guy behind the devastation at the Minetta and was the former head chef at Balthazar. Of course we knew it was coming, but still. I went to El Quijote for a meal and ate food that wasn't 'amazing'; instead, it was simply perfect."

[*Update: Rumor confirmed]

Back in May, I first broke the news that El Quijote--the beloved, rough around the edges restaurant in the Chelsea Hotel since 1930--would be changing management. I was told that the restaurant would be upscaled and sanitized in a fashion similar to what happened to Minetta Tavern. Higher prices, fancier menu, more exclusive clientele.

My intel was soon confirmed. Ed Scheetz, the man who took over the hotel, took over El Quijote, too. His rep said they would "retain the signature look and feel of El Quijote" while "maintaining its authenticity." How many times have we heard that in recent years?

Last month, another reader informed me of a "very intimate party celebrating the last night under Manny Ramirez," the long-time manager of the restaurant. The tide has officially turned.

NY Times: Hanson, Nasr, McNally at Minetta's

And now we hear about Lee Hanson, who did the cooking for the Keith McNally empire for several years, along with Riad Nasr. "It's time for us to brave new challenges," the duo said when they left McNally last year. Did they mean the challenge of El Quijote?

Wrapped in a rumor (rich moms say so!), here comes more evidence that El Quijote will no longer be our El Quijote--it will be their El Quijote, the people of Balthazar and Pastis, the people who took our Minetta and our Beatrice Inn, our Rocco's, our Fedora and our Bill's Gay 90s. Those people. You know who they are. They're taking another of our classic, accessible spots and turning it into their next bit of high-flying fizz.

Will they even serve Spanish food?

Get in while you can, before the velvet ropes and the bouncers show up to keep you from the door. And before a lunch like this exists only in your dreams.


James said...

You have to love words like "signature" - bandied about like some rarefied jewel, which it is not. If everyone pushes the same sound-smart button in the form of lazy nouveau verbiage, it loses all meaning, which it hasn't much of, anyway. Thus, the truth is hidden - that the trove of affordable too-good-to-last discoveries in New York have lasted all they're going to.

Mod Betty / said...

How many days do we have left?!

This place has been on my list but since we're from out of town we haven't made it there yet.


Anonymous said...

Drunk brunches of the more common sort can't be far behind.

Anonymous said...

I loved sitting at the bar here back when I was drinking. Exceptional and classy bartenders, and they played MUZAK. Actual MUZAK. Don't see that surviving 'the change.' Another mark in the overloaded 'loss' column.

Anonymous said...

Ay caramba! Ay yay yay yay! Le zumba el mango!

Anonymous said...

El Quijote has been a regular go-to spot for me for at least the last 15 years. I'll try to get in there one more time before it becomes whatever it is that it's becoming. After that I'll give it another chance, but if personal experience with the changes that any of these other places went through are any indication, it's very likely that I'll be priced-out, cultured-out or both.

It was good while it lasted…

Anonymous said...

The feeling of this place and the taste of the, deep and of another time will be sorely missed. New York is no longer for people who grew up here

Anonymous said...

I never see them cook a dish,and I work for them for 13 years,how they come super chefs???????

Adair said...

I was at El Quijote this weekend (November 26, 2016) and I did not notice any change yet. The same great affordable bar food and the same great old bartender. Did the deal go sour? I hope so! Maybe we'll get to keep our Quijote after all!