Well almost. If you’ve eaten food from Diner, Marlow & Sons, Roman’s, Reynard, Achilles Heel, She Wolf Bakery, Saltie, Pies & Thighs, The Meat Hook, or Marlow & Daughters you’re familiar with Andrew Tarlow:
It’s pretty easy to see how much Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has changed since you opened Diner 15 years ago, but what kind of effect does that have on running and opening restaurants?
The big difference is 15 years ago there were like four places that a young cook could go, or had to go, or wanted to go—they had to go to Le Bernardin, they had to go to Gramercy [Tavern], they had to get that name on the résumé before deciding like, “Oh, I don’t really want to do that anymore.”
We would have never gotten a cook right out of cooking school to come work at Diner—ever. In the beginning, everyone lived around the corner from us and had reached a point where they could say, I don’t need to commute, I could just do it here.
That’s obviously totally changed. But they also can’t afford to live here anymore, which is tricky.
Do you still live in the neighborhood?
I moved to Fort Greene a few years ago, but I lived on the same block as Diner and Marlow for, like, 15 years. It gave me sort of a unique relationship to those two businesses.
Check out this “geo-social map” — whatever that is – of his empire. Here’s what they have to say about his first establishment, Diner, which along with DuMont was responsible for spearheading the locally-sourced restaurant phenomenon.
This is where it all began, when Andrew Tarlow and Mark Firth decided to buy the derelict hulk of an old diner down the block from their loft and renovate it themselves. After opening on NYE 1998, it quickly became a surprise success. No one’s really sure why (least of all the people who worked there at the time), but there are theories. It could be Caroline Fidanza’s inspired, hyper-local cooking, which became the template for a whole generation of Brooklyn restaurants. Or, it might be the renovated diner’s magnetically cozy interior, combined with Tarlow and Firth’s super-cool-but-super-friendly vibe. According to Tarlow himself, it was mostly that there were a lot of loft-dwellers without real kitchens living in the neighborhood, and Diner was the only place for blocks around. Whatever the reason, it got big, fast, and remains the scuffed, glowing heart of the Tarlow empire.