Matt Cahn is in deep trouble. No wait. Matt Cahn To a gherkin. A plastic giant, the size of a small child, lying flat on a pool table in the center of his new 120-seat restaurant in Fishtown. It’s across the street from the curved bar, down from the coffee station, and a stone’s throw from a bright pink trash can at the entrance, where a familiar photo Princess Diana – smiling blissfully and wearing an Eagles jacket – welcomes you to the clubhouse.
The pickle has not yet had a role in Middle child clubhouse – Cahn’s second, much larger restaurant is slated to open next week at 1232 North Front Street – but it could eventually become a fixture. “If you try hard enough, everything is a light,” Cahn says, leaning on a dark green tiled standing bar in the middle of the dining room, which was designed by Studio Betsu and Cie Edsel. On the other hand, the pool table already has a job, says Cahn. “It’s for hanging out outside.”
It seems it was only yesterday that Cahn – a true middle child, who previously worked for Superiority Burger and Court Street Grocers in Brooklyn before returning to his hometown to make a sandwich name for himself – opened his lunch. 16 seats in Washington Square West. But in four years, his shy riffs on classic sandwiches – like the vegan Vietnamese ‘Phoagie’ and the breakfast sandwich with golden eggs comically stacked between slices of Pullman potato bread – became such a sensation that he felt it was time for Middle Child to grow up.
Middle Child’s original location has always been limited by space and staff capacity, which means shorter hours of operation and sometimes sold sandwiches. (To see the BLT frenzy this summer.) But, like a real younger brother, Middle Child Clubhouse has had more freedom to move around, and without the guardrails it’s more than a little wilder.
Where the Middle Child on 11th Street keeps a tight menu, everything at the Fishtown Clubhouse is on the table: Frozen tropical negronis, giant Milanese chicken, fried shrimp with Aleppo pepper aioli, melt-in-the-mouth yuca patties, natural wine à la draft, coffee drinks at the take-out bar, pastries from Mighty Bread, small plates, large salads, and all the same sandwich fans know and adore Middle Child the Senior, except in a large open space with a lively bar, a private dining room, and, of course, that pool table for hanging out outside.
Although, Cahn admits, he hasn’t been able to achieve a thing he said to Applicant the new restaurant would have: “There’s no Dunkin ‘Donuts here.”
Cahn hired Adam Sosnowik, formerly of Zahav and Res Ipsa, as executive chef, and the menu is meant to be unpretentious, with five small rotating plates, two burgers (one vegan), a chicken cutlet with ranch dressing and seafood. fried and shishito basket. A highlight of the dinner hour is a play about Middle Child’s famous hash browns, but turned into latkes and topped with wasabi ginger, Kewpie mayonnaise, tonkatsu sauce, scallions and green onions. trout roe.
On the drink side, the bar will open with eight cocktails, 40 bottles of wine and draft beers of local specialties like Attic Brewing and Fermentery Form, all hosted by Beverage Director Brandon Thrash. “We have a really, really great Old Fashioned,” says Cahn. “On the menu it’s called an Old Fashioned and you wouldn’t know there is something good unless you ask for it,” he says, pausing. “We’re not even going to tell you. (The secret is that they infuse the whiskey with toasted basmati rice, a trick developed by bartender Mary Woods. But don’t tell anyone.)
Despite the playful nature of the place, not everything at the Middle Child Clubhouse comes with the blink of an eye: One of Sosnowik and Cahn’s goals when hiring was to make sure staff received fair wages. , that he never worked more than 40 hours a week. , and that the financial imbalance between the front and the back of the house was discussed from the outset. During the first two days of training, new staff were asked to do everything together. “The cooks were next to the dishwashers next to the bartenders and waiters,” says Sosnowik. “We want to avoid some of the smoke and mirrors that have not been checked [in the industry] for a long time.”
Unlike many other restaurants right now, Sosnowik says hiring for the Clubhouse hasn’t been difficult. They immediately filled over 40 positions, and had to turn down some candidates. He says this is in large part due to the salary structure: Morning cooks and dishwashers make $ 17 an hour, and table chefs start at $ 20 an hour. Tips are pooled with 85 percent going to house staff and 15 percent to the back of the house. “When the back of the house is really busy with this precipitation, people see the return on the extra work,” Sosnowik says.
While preparing for the opening all summer, Sosnowik explains that it all seemed like “a theoretical experiment”. But now that the staff have met and the doors are about to open, “I think our experiment is working.”
Cahn is convinced that the experience will pay off in the long run. “One of the things that is beautiful about Middle Child is that it’s weird and cool, but not so weird and cool that it makes people feel like outcasts,” he says. . “I just want to make the best fucking food I can in the easiest environment possible. We are working very hard to make everyone here feel like a community. He clarifies, “But you know, in a way that is not worship.”
Middle child clubhouse opens Thursday, October 21 at 1232 North Front Street in Fishtown. After a soft open, it will be open Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Resy Saturday October 16.