Straddling a prominent Greenwich Village corner known mostly for counter-serve spots like Joe’s Pizza, Dos Toros,and Sweetgreen, 232 Bleecker is the first full-service restaurant from another fast-casual favorite, Dig (formerly known as Dig Inn). With 25 locations in New York City and growing, the chain has long been a hit among the officebound lunch crowd, known for veggie-forward, locally-sourced fare.
For the group’s first foray into table-service dining, they’ve assembled an all-star team. Former Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin serves as chief brand advisor, and the food media legend was involved in the development of the restaurant alongside opening director of operations Katie Bell (formerly of Blue Hill), general manager Kim Lerner and the rest of the Dig team including founder Adam Eskin and chief culinary officer Matt Weingarten.
But the concept really started to come together once chef Suzanne Cupps was added to the mix. Having just left the helm at Untitled at The Whitney, Cupps was looking for a new project whose ethos around sustainability and vegetable-focused cooking aligned with hers. Having worked for years with heavy hitters like Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern) and Anita Lo (Annisa), Cupps saw 232 Bleecker as an opportunity to take her talents to the next level.
“This is me stepping out on my own for the first time, taking things a little further than I have in the past,” Cupps says. Centered around a fresh pasta program as well the restaurant’s massive wood-fired grill, the menu sources seasonal veggies from Dig’s upstate New York farm in dishes like charred cauliflower with Concord grape and sunflower butter; koginut squash with black barley and pumpkin seed mole; and grilled carrots with hot honey and ricotta.
“I’ve been working toward simplifying dishes, not putting too much on the plate,” Cupps says. “Some of the dishes may only have three ingredients but they need to be sourced well and thoughtfully put together.” While the ingredient list may be simple, these dishes aim to deliver big flavors.
Unwittingly, Cupps’s Moses Sleeper (a Brie-style cheese) lasagna may have single-handedly incited a lasagna craze, with a photo of Cupps headlining a Wall Street Journal article, among other stories, heralding 2020 as the year of lasagna. “I imagined it would be popular. People love to Instagram those kinds of things,” Cupps says of the dish’s rise to fame, although she admits she never imagined it would spawn trend stories. The dish eats a bit differently than a traditional lasagna, according to Cupps, made with five cheeses and a thin layer of kale and served alongside a crisp radicchio and kale salad. Other housemade pastas include a ricotta cavatelli with mushroom ragu and a Jonah-crab einkorn tagliatelle. Note that dishes change frequently according to seasonality.
While mastering fresh pasta is a new endeavor for Cupps, some of the dishes nod to the familiar as well, including her own background. For example, the crunchy vegetable starter (a crudité platter of sorts) is served with a spicy pimento cheese, a hat tip to Cupps’s Southern heritage (she originally hails from South Carolina).
Others hint at influences from past mentors. During a visit from chef Anita Lo, whom Cupps credits with teaching her how to cook, she recalls, “When I don’t realize it, sometimes things come out,” referring to a preparation of tataki-style yellowfin tuna she created using yuzu kosho that vaguely resembles a dish she had worked on years ago at Annisa. Cupps’s black sea bass with coconut curry and bok choy echoes notes of Annisa’s spirit as well, packed with nuanced, delicate flavors. A number of other dishes reveal her mastery of vegetables, honed while working with chef Michael Anthony. But make no mistake: while influences abound, the final product at 232 Bleecker is uniquely Cupps’s own creation.
As for dessert, the selections are classic yet playful. Running the gamut from an apple galette with goat’s milk caramel to an oatmeal cream pie filled with whipped mascarpone, which looks like a more upscale version of the store-bought Little Debbie variety.
Drinks-wise, beverage director Theo Lieberman (an alum of Eleven Madison Park) curated a wine list packed with predominantly sustainably-produced, organic, and biodynamic selections. The cocktail list focuses on low-ABV spirits made from fortified wines like sherry and vermouth. Of the latter, Cupps cites a trip to Spain as the inspiration: “I was in Northern Spain as part of a cider-oriented trip and we stopped at a little vermouth bar. I thought to myself, ‘Vermouth? Who drinks that?’ Then, they served me a vermouth cocktail with a little twist and it was the best thing I’ve ever had.” As a result, Cupps pushed for the 232 Bleecker cocktail program to feature the spirit.
The open kitchen is at the center of the L-shaped, 55-seat space, and from most perches you can catch Cupps and her team in action, especially from the front-row bar seats. Elsewhere in the dining room, the giant windows lining the space make for prime West Village people-watching.
The return to this neighborhood felt like coming home for Cupps, who began her career nearby at Annisa on Barrow Street. And even though much has changed in the West Village over the years, Cupps notes that the clientele still has high standards for dining. But with a team like this in place, they’ll surely have no problem delivering.
Hero image by Evan Sung.