"It’s like an upscale diner. Kenny & Ziggy’s meets Houston’s. It’s a nicer tier."
Deliman Ziggy Gruber is describing Dubrow's New York Grill, the new concept he will open next spring in the space currently occupied by Sorrel Urban Bistro. Named for a historic chain of New York cafeterias, Dubrow's will provide a mix of Kenny & Ziggy's deli offerings with a more upscale selection of entrees, including Allen Brothers steaks, barbecue ribs and a lobster roll. (The Chronicle first reported the story.)
Selling Sorrel will allow Salti to concentrate on his rapidly-growing Pepperoni's pizza chain; the money from the sale will fuel up to four new locations.
Sorrel owner Ray Salti tells CultureMap that he wasn't looking to sell his lease on the space, but he was approached by other restaurateurs who had their eyes on the prized inner-loop location at West Alabama and Greenbriar. Since he had a friendship with Gruber, the two came to a deal quickly.
Selling Sorrel will allow Salti to concentrate on his rapidly-growing Pepperoni's pizza chain; the money from the sale will fuel up to four new locations. The restaurant will remain open through Dec. 31 to allow Sorrel to fulfill the numerous charity commitments Salti has made.
Gruber became aware of the location because his wife Mimi owns the River Oaks Wellness Center in the same shopping center. "I wasn’t looking at other spaces," Gruber says. "This is how I know it was beschert, which means its meant to be. The space just happened to present itself to us, and then we decided, you know, this is something I’ve always toyed with. Something I wouldn’t mind doing, resurrecting Dubrow’s."
One point Gruber wants to make clear is that Dubrow's wasn't an ordinary cafeteria. "It was very slick-looking. The food wasn’t schlocky like a regular cafeteria. It was the best of the best. It just didn’t have any waitresses. There was this culture that people would just hang out there every day. It was a unique phenomenon," Gruber explains.
Gruber recalls reading a quote about Dubrow's that describes the kind of atmosphere he wants to foster. "It said Dubrow’s is the place where you come to kibitz, nosh and argue the fate of the world."
Towards that end, Gruber expects to be open from 7 a.m. until midnight. In addition to his regular clientele, he hopes Dubrow's will attract restaurant industry workers who are looking for a great sandwich after their shifts.
Gruber provided CultureMap with a draft menu. Dubrow's will serve breakfast all day, as well as sandwiches, burgers and salads. The gumbo that Gruber and his wife Mimi prepared for his Shoot My Chef photoshoot will have a home on the menu; yes, diners will be able to add a matzah ball to it. Dessert offerings will include a full selection of cakes, which will be displayed in a custom case at the restaurant's entrance, as well as ice cream treats like sundaes and a banana split.
"It’s going to be straightforward food. I think it’s going to be the food that you like to eat," Gruber says.
To balance out the additions, some staples from the Kenny & Ziggy's menu won't make it to Dubrow's. Diners will have to stick to the original for traditional dishes like stuffed cabbage, kishke and krepplach. Still, Gruber hopes the menu is broad enough to draw diners with varied tastes.
"It’s going to be straightforward food. I think it’s going to be the food that you like to eat," Gruber says. "When you’re sitting in your house, and that hunger comes over you, you say, ‘hmm, I could really go for that pastrami sandwich’ or ‘hmm, I could really go for that piece of cheesecake,’ you’re going to say, ‘I know where to go. I’ll go to Dubrow’s.’"
Still, Gruber doesn't see himself as part of the movement of Jewish restaurateurs who are updating traditional dishes in modern ways. "When you go in there . . . the corned beef is going to be corned beef. We’re not taking duck and pickling it and make corned beef out of it. We’re not going to make butternut squash krepplach. It’s not going to happen," he says.
Delivering well-executed classics has worked well for Gruber at Kenny & Ziggy's. Sticking to that formula bodes well for Dubrow's future.