The hottest neighborhood for top chefs and bartenders in New York City isn’t one you’d expect.
“When I lived in Financial District, it was busy Monday through Friday and a wasteland during the weekend,” says Jack McGarry, the bartender behind The Dead Rabbit and BlackTail, both in New York City’s downtown neighborhood.
Once home to steakhouses and sports bars, the southernmost tip of Manhattan is seeing a groundswell of the hottest restaurants and bars in New York City.
Breeze past the Charging Bull, the New York Stock Exchange and the hoards of tourists, and you’ll find many of the city’s noted chefs (Tom Colicchio and David Chang), restaurateurs (Keith McNally and the Bromberg brothers) and bartenders (McGarry and Sean Muldoon) setting up shop.
“We want to be part of the burgeoning neighborhood, and we were excited to extend Blue Ribbon to the ‘new downtown,’” says Bruce Bromberg, the co-chef and co-owner of the Blue Ribbon family of restaurants, which just opened Blue Ribbon Federal Grill in the area this past spring.
“It’s become a neighborhood spot—something that didn’t exist in Financial District a few years ago.”
But to understand the catalyst for the Financial District’s culinary ascent, you have to look back—specifically right after 9/11.
“In the days following, the transition from the neighborhood being a business center into one of the most important and hopeful projects in the world had already begun,” says Bromberg. “There was no way that this area wouldn’t become something great—the eyes of the world were on it, and it was as much of a cathartic transformation as it was a social upheaval. Downtown Manhattan needed to become a place that represented the vibrant way of life.”
As the Bromberg brothers stood on the rubble of the Twin Towers, passing out whatever was left in their restaurants’ walk-in refrigerators, they knew they needed to be part of restoring this neighborhood. And they weren’t alone.
“The whole area was devastated,” says Colicchio, whose most recent restaurant Temple Court in The Beekman hotel, opened last fall. “The idea of going back and making it part of New York City was something I was interested in doing.”
Plus, tax incentives from the city and updated zoning made it possible to rebuild and reimagine the historic neighborhood. Now, there is a ripple effect throughout the Financial District.
After opening their instant hit by the South Street Seaport, The Dead Rabbit, McGarry and Muldoon channeled Cuba with their rum-focused bar, BlackTail on Pier A on the otherside of Financial District. David Chang and Keith McNally brought their signature style way downtown, with Chang's fried chicken spot Fuku and McNally's neo-French bistro Augustine, next door to Temple Court. In the past, there have been reports of Daniel Humm and Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park and Jean-George Vongerichten making their moves to Financial District as well. There may even be an Alamo Drafthouse in the works. But that’s all rumor for now.
As for the current residents of the rising neighborhood, they welcome their comrades downtown.
“We absolutely love the Financial District,” says McGarry. “The marketplace is diversifying, and that only strengthens the neighborhood.”