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by jo piazza | February 25, 2011 | Food & Drink
Tuna tartare tacos
French toast bread pudding
Arctic char in truffle broth
Franklin Becker at work
Roasted beets and Westfield Farm’s goat cheese
The one-year mark is a milestone for any New York restaurant, but more so for an eatery in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, where spaces change hands on a near-seasonal basis. The fact that Abe & Arthur’s, which celebrated its first anniversary last October, has endured on the ever-evolving landscape of 14th Street is due largely to executive chef Franklin Becker.
When owners Eugene Remm, Michael Hirtenstein and Mark Birnbaum first brought Becker on board, they didn’t mince words that Abe & Arthur’s success was on his shoulders. “They said, ‘We can get the guests in once, but it’s up to you to keep them,’” Becker says now with a laugh. The chef took the directive to heart. “I wanted to give the guests real value with a little excitement at the same time.”
Becker also wanted to overcome the neighborhood’s stigma of party first, eat second... if at all. He did that by offering the continuous crowd of social butterflies high-quality food like tuna tartare tacos that melt in your mouth, a delightfully simple wood-grilled branzino and steaks that never fail to satisfy. “We made them realize they wanted to eat first,” Becker notes. “It’s a menu of comfortable items that satisfy culinary curiosity. Someone can come in and have an amazing steak at a reasonable price.”
That reasonable price is another part of Abe & Arthur’s draw. “No matter what your income level, you can find something here that’s really high quality and will make you smile when you leave.” Diners can also feel good about tucking in here since the majority of Becker’s dishes skew toward the healthy, a result of his diagnosis, in 1997, with diabetes. He has since written two cookbooks on mindful cooking for the condition.
“When I was diagnosed I had to transform my cooking style and figure out what was going to keep me healthy,” he says. “I incorporated more vegetables, more healthy fats. It works in the diners’ favor because they get a more well-balanced meal.” And that well-balanced meal sacrifices none of the taste. “It’s all about making sure I exceed the expectations of every guest who comes into the restaurant,” Becker says. “That right there is what has kept them coming back.” 409 W. 14th St., 646-289-3930
PHOTOGRAPHS BY EVAN SUNG