Volume 20, Number 51 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 15 - 21, 2010
Downtown Express photo by Helaina N. Hovitz
Calli Lerner and Sandy Tedesco show off some of their fare at Keg 229’s grand opening.
From wine to beer, banking on success on Front St.
BY Helaina N. Hovitz
Walking into Keg 229 feels like walking into three different places at once.
The candlelit tables by the windows are ideal for dates, tables for six lined with cushions and pillows welcome large groups, and the full bar, Table Tender beer system, and flat screen TVs invite groups of girlfriends and flocks of football fans to grab a seat and stay awhile.
Calli Lerner and Sandy Tedesco, co-owners of Bin 220, have opened up a second business on Front Street, utilizing the space so effectively that several different vibes can coincide without running the risk of kitsch. Industrial, cozy, chic, and elegant are just some of the words partygoers used to describe the place last Monday night at the bar’s grand opening party.
“You need a place like this on the block, because there’s a different mood that comes with a place like this,” said Roseanne Giotta, a regular at Bin 220. “It’s very subdued.”
Bin 220 may be a wine connoisseur’s hangout, but Keg 229 is a beer lover’s bar.
“They have over 40 beers here, and if you’re not familiar with beer, they can recommend one you’ll love,” says Denise Rebino, an executive recruiter from Chelsea. “I was impressed that the waitress was able to recommend something that was right on.“
The biggest hit of the night was the Table Tender, a beer serving system that allows customers to pour their own brew. Tedesco and Lerner came across the system in Atlanta, and are the first in the entire state of New York to have it. Customers have full control over their own taps and will never have to miss a second of the game. The bartender activates the table, and, after 64oz has been dispensed, the table must be reactivated.
“Part of being good neighbors is making sure you don’t have a rowdy crowd outside at night,” Lerner said. “With this system, we can make sure nobody’s laying on the table and pouring beer into their mouth, and that nobody’s too intoxicated.”
Keg offers a menu of fun bar food like pigs in a blanket, mac and cheese poppers, and jumbo pretzels, as well as a full brunch, lunch, and dinner menu. Meal offerings include the 100 percent grass fed, spice-filled beef burger and lobster chowder. For kids, there’s the “big kids alphabet soup” and a sloppy Joe with cheese. While the restaurant isn’t specifically designed for children, little ones are more than welcome, and Keg is happy to have them.
“They gave us a booth for six on a Saturday night, and brought his food out first so we could feed him,” said Stephanie Slasinger, a resident of John Street, who brought husband Andrew and their 17-month-old son, Noah, to the restaurant.
Tedesco said Keg is happy to welcome families in the early part of the evening and one weekends, but people should expect to see more of a bar-like-scene later in the night.
“You feel at home in their places,” said Tom Brown, who works at the Little Airplane, which moved onto the same block when Bin 220 did. “The girls treat their customers like family.”
Brown added that the girls’ passion for what they do is an important factor in their success.
“This is the second risk they took, opening this place five years later, in this economy.” he said. “The first was opening up Bin 220 when there were only two other restaurants on the block. You only do that if you believe in the neighborhood.”
Lerner said while opening up a restaurant in a poor economy is always a risk, they’ve priced items accordingly to fit a downscale economy budget, pointing out that beer is less expensive than wine. “Even with our food items, the most expensive item is 16 bucks. We want to keep it reasonable. “
Tedesco and Lerner, who live in the neighborhood, knew within a week of opening Bin 220 that they wanted to open a second restaurant, initially looking at neighborhoods like Tribeca or Wall Street. When Onda gave up the 229 Front Street space earlier this year, they jumped at the chance to stay on Front Street.
Achieving proprietary success in this neighborhood isn’t as easy as it looks, but Keg 229, which has already begun to see regulars after just two weeks, seems to be well on its way.
“They put a gastro pub on John Street a few months ago, and it closed down. It was just was the neighborhood needed it, but that was a total miss,” said Slasinger. “These guys, however, got it right.”