Meet the East Village newcomer-Mr.White
The East Village has always been a little bit of a mystery to me. After living on the west side my entire time here, I rarely spent any time down there. With its crooked streets, lack of subways and buses, and long commute to make the trek over, it was certainly much easier to jump on the A and make a straight shot down to the west village.
And what a mistake that was.
Upon beginning my research, and setting up my tours and experiences, I have found the East Village to be home to some AMAZING bars, food stops, hidden gems and some delightful stories. What is slowly becoming one of my favorite tours is backed up by all the local spots I keep finding every time I go down there. Did you know the first speakeasy is down in the East Village? and one of the “Top 50 Bars” is too! You can get such a variety of food and drinks, I don’t know how I am getting to hit them all.
However, one little bar I stumbled across in my search was Mr. White.
If you haven’t been down there to try them yet, I highly suggest you make reservations. The bar itself is a little unique to the East Village, with its older buildings, dive bars, and hidden secrets. Mr. White stands out, a beautiful southern mansion plucked right out of New Orleans and placed right here in NYC. With its open facade, and tasteful decor, it is perfect for a date night, celebration, or girls night out. The decor leads itself to feel very “homey” and comforting and I guarantee once you stop by, you’ll certainly want to stay. Jeff (aka Mr. White) and his wife Kelly (Mrs. White) do a lovely job of making sure everyone who walks through the door feels like family. It’s more than a restaurant, it’s an experience. (Not to mention the food is SUPERB!) I was lucky enough to sit down and chat with them, and here is a little taste of one of the East Village’s newest bars, Mr. White.
1. Why the East Village?
St. Mark’s Place is very nostalgic for me. In high school, it was always the cool place to go. I used to see shows at Coney Island High and shop around the corner at Love Saves The Day and Fab 208. It’s an area I’ve been captivated by for 25 years so when we saw there was a space available at the tail end of the street I was really excited.
2. How did Mr White come to fruition?
Mr White was supposed to be a much smaller operation. It all started when my stepmother gave me a weekend at her time share in New Orleans a number of years ago. Jeff and I went with a couple of friends and we absolutely fell in love with the city, not to mention the food. I don’t like to eat at the same place twice when I’m on vacation but Jeff had these char-grilled oysters from Felix in the French Quarter that were insane. He made me eat there four times in five days. When we came back to New York he was desperate to get some more but we couldn’t find them anywhere. That’s when the idea occurred to open something small that featured the char-grilled oyster. A few years (and many trips to the South) later and we had this much bigger space and a whole menu of not only NOLA, but Texas, Carolina and Tennessee and dishes that we were planning to prepare. Now we make Southern all-stars. We’re New Orleans focused but you can find slow-smoked TX brisket and Nashville Hot Chicken too.
3. What is your favorite New York experience? How has it helped shape what Mr White is?
Sleep No More. Hands down. It’s an interactive theater experience in an old nightclub that I used to go to in the 90s. I love haunted houses and this is like a 100 room haunted house that you’re free to explore at your own pace over a period of 3 hours while actors come through and perform different scenes around you. It just blew me away. I was affected by it for days after I saw it the first time and I’ve seen it about six times since. When we first saw the space for Mr White I thought because of the layout it would be cool to make it like a Southern mansion. I turned it into three separate rooms: the dining room, the parlor and an open kitchen. The more I got into it though, the more I was channeling my experience from Sleep No More and making it a little mysterious, a little haunted. I want you to feel like you’re in a totally different place when you come in here. It’s a work in progress but I feel like I’m getting there.
4. If you’re not going to eat at your restaurant, where do you tend to go or hang out?
Jeff and I have different priorities when it comes to eating out. The first thing I look at on a restaurant’s website is the decor. Food is secondary for me. That’s not to say I don’t look forward to fun things that I see on a menu but if I don’t like the esthetic of a restaurant, I typically won’t want to waste a night out there. Jeff can appreciate atmosphere but he wants a tasty meal first and foremost. Of course we both appreciate great service once we’re sitting down. There are a couple of places where we’ve reconciled all of those things. I love Beauty and Essex, Ladybird, Oscar Wilde, places like that. Blue Ribbon has always been one of Jeff’s favorites.
5.What is your favorite thing about owning a restaurant?
There are certainly pros and cons to owning your own business, especially a restaurant. For the most part, if you’re awake – you’re working. So there are definitely times that I’m nostalgic for when I was an employee rather than an employer, but having the freedom to execute my own vision and express myself creatively is the reason why I do this. Every service worker at one point or another, when working for someone else, has thought to themselves “I could do this better”. Having your own place is where you get your chance. Sometimes you find that you can. Other times you realize how naive you were for thinking that in the first place. So I guess the risks are greater when the business is your own but so are the rewards. When you fail it’s devastating but when something you do works, it’s an incredible feeling of accomplishment. I think most people who stick with the service industry are drawn to those kinds of extremes.