Roads and Kingdoms visited Gwynnett Street over the holiday, which reopened with a limited menu. The popular restaurant was forced to close temporarily after owner Carl McCoy was accused of drug trafficking by Homeland Security officials:
On Dec. 27, McCoy reopened the restaurant, basically the bar and the sandwich menu. He does not want it to die. “We’ve had a good run,” he told me, explaining that he and his business partner were coming up with contingencies to keep the place going in the face of the impending legal journey ahead of him.
I had given Carl a big hug when I walked into the restaurant the day after it reopened. It was Carl whom I saw almost every time I visited Gwynnett St. and so he was the face of one of my favorite places in the city. His warmth and hospitality were inseparable from the experience of Gwynnett St.
McCoy’s former chef, Owen Clark is without a restaurant home, but is currently the guest chef at Contra:
Two days after seeing Carl in Brooklyn, I saw Owen Clark in Manhattan where he was the guest chef at Contra, a new restaurant on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side. Owen is also a friend, even though I saw him less often than Carl, the chef’s job keeping him in the kitchen most of the time. It is treacherous to navigate through the rupture of mutual friends. And so I try to keep the talk to food. According to the papers, Owen and the kitchen staff had decided to walk out because the idea of business-as-usual in the aftermath of an alleged drug bust was psychologically untenable. Carl had told me he understood how they felt that but had expected the staff to hang around for two weeks. I wasn’t going to get into it.
And so I asked about Justin. Owen said his friend is about to open a new restaurant in the West Village, perhaps in the spring. That would be about a year after he left Gwynnett St. That is a long time between jobs. And I realize the same road that Owen is about to travel.
It helps that he is talented. The six courses that Owen and the two chefs behind Contra—Fabian von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone—have collaborated on for the evening are spectacularly good. Beginning with raw scallops with grapefruit and a yuzu kosho with a kick, it reaches a climax with two astonishing dishes— the plumpest and most perfectly browned calf’s brain prepared with punterelle; and a goose breast that magically approximates the best kind of steak yet retains its identity, accompanied by celery root, juniper root and potatoes. If I had the funds, I told Owen, I’d invest in a restaurant where he would cook just to be able to eat there every week.
We hope Clark finds a home in Brooklyn. We already miss his amazing food.