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Comings & Goings: Robot sushi, birria and ‘updated Italian’

BY CAROLINE BENVENISTE | More casual Asian restaurants arrived this month, and more coffee shops appeared. Bleecker Street continues to be filled with women-owned businesses catering to women. A long-announced restaurant has finally opened, and a popular bar that closed a year ago has plans to return.

Top Openings:

MakiMaki Sushi , 350 Hudson St., between King and Charlton Streets

MakiMaki is a robotic sushi restaurant. The robots include one to measure and wash the rice, another to mix in the vinegar, a third to “print” the rice into the correct shape for rolls, and a final one to cut the rolls (although I did not see that one). The founder, Kevin Takarada, explained that he had been in finance, and before that he had worked as a mechanical engineer at Honda. As a child, he helped out in his parents’ restaurants in Miami. He had never wanted to work in the restaurant business because he felt the long hours were not conducive to a reasonable work/life balance. Yet, all his experience and training led him back to hospitality. He has brought in robots because they can make sushi much faster and more reliably than humans, and this helps to keep the price down. The Hudson Square location is the third in the city.

Maki Maki has a team of robots that play different roles in making sushi. This one shapes the rice into rectangles. (Courtesy Maki Maki)

Pappas Taverna , 103 MacDougal St., between Bleecker Street and Minetta Lane

Stratis Morfogen has finally opened Pappas Taverna, in the large space that for years housed Panchito’s. It is named after a Greek restaurant that Stratis Morfogen’s grandfather and two great-uncles opened in 1910 on E. 14th Street. Pappas was initially slated to open in fall 2021, but the usual delays pushed it back a year and a half. The chef is Todd English, who used to have a number of restaurants in New York, including the Plaza Food Hall. That closed during the pandemic. English has some Italian ancestry on his mother’s side, but no discernable Greek connection, and the offerings are certainly not what one would expect from a traditional Greek restaurant. (Some oddities are lobster spanakopita and octopus souvlaki.) There is, however, a wood-burning oven, and on their Instagram page, Pappas expIains, “Old style Greek Cooking started w our wood burning fire pits… We are bringing back that Greek culinary heritage to Pappas Taverna…” In addition to the regular menu there are $175 and $275 tasting menus, as well as the option to have any wine on the wine list served by the glass.

Bloom Chicken 162 W. Fourth St., at Cornelia Street

Bloom Chicken has a location in Hackensack, NJ, and has now come to the West Village. They offer Korean fried chicken with six different sauces (Soy Garlic, Sweet & Spicy, S.O.S. Korean Spicy, Miso BBQ, Korean BBQ and Cheese Snow) and four different side sauces. There are a number of other menu options, like fried kimchi rice with bulgogi, burgers, spicy rice cakes and wasabi kimchi.

Also Open:


A reader writes to us about Mi Garba, a Tuscan restaurant that used to be in the Union Square area and has now reopened at 310 Bleecker St., between Grove and Barrow Streets. She characterized the cuisine as “updated Italian,” and went on to say: “Food is excellent, staff is welcoming (Pier Boi the manager/bartender), atmosphere is warm and relaxed, decor is simple but attractive, music (’40s jazz) is not quite too loud.” Matto Espresso (487 Sixth Ave., between 12th and 13th Streets) is a chain of coffee shops with more than two dozen locations in the city where all drinks and food are $2.50. The shop was giving out free coffee for the first two weeks after opening. Hercules Café (275 Bleecker St., between Morton and Jones Streets) is a different kind of coffee shop that serves bubble tea, waffles, iced coffee and smoothies. Pop-up Grocer (205 Bleecker St., at Sixth Avenue) is a strange store in that it is not actually a pop-up, and also because it sells a seemingly random assortment of products. The explanation could be that their “sourcing is guided by three core criteria: Is it new and interesting? Is it made responsibly? Does it look good?”


Bag-All (353 Bleecker St., between West 10th and Charles Streets) is a women-run company that makes bags. Isalis (353 Bleecker St., between West 10th and Charles Streets) is also women-owned and sells clothing and home goods. Astr (345 Bleecker St., between Christopher and West 10th Streets) also sells women’s clothing and features a wedding collection. Another store that sells wedding clothes is Sabyasachi Calcutta (160 Christopher St., between Greenwich and Washington Streets) but these are specifically for Indian weddings. The shop is gorgeous, as are the garments, with some prices in the five figures. This is noted Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s first store outside of India.


The Subway on Seventh Avenue at West 13th Street is gone, and a sign in the window promises that a Bagel Rx is coming soon. Rag & Bone has left 100 Christopher St., between Bleecker and Bedford Streets.

Coming Soon:

The owners of Silver Apricot are applying for a liquor license for a new project called Figure Eight. The location will be next door in the old Pearl Oyster Bar space (18 Cornelia St., between W. Fourth and Bleecker Streets). Neighbors received an e-mail from Silver Apricot asking them to sign a petition in favor of a liquor license. Raising Cane’s (10 Astor Place, at Lafayette Street) is a Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based spot that sells chicken fingers and crinkly fries. It is going in the space that was a Walgreens and, before that, the previous home of Astor Place Wines & Spirits. According to a liquor license application, L’Artusi Supper Club is planning to open at 105 Christopher St., between Bleecker and Bedford Streets, where I Sodi is now. In the application, the L’Artusi folks explain the expansion plans thus: “We have more demand that we can fulfill at L’Artusi and would like to create L’Artusi Supper Club that allows for the L’Artusi experience in a more intimate, communal, family style setting. Our intention is to offer both classic and new L’Artusi dishes created by our long time chef, Joe Vigorito. We also plan to host winemaker dinners, guest chef dinners and also private events from time to time.” According to The New York Times, Angel’s Share, a popular cocktail bar that was located on the second floor of a Japanese restaurant on Stuyvesant Street, through a hidden door, will be reopening at 45 Grove St., at Bleecker Street. The bar was opened by Japanese restaurateur Tony Yoshida, who also opened many of the Japanese restaurants on E. Ninth Street, all of which have now closed. The new location will be owned by his daughter, Erina Yoshida. Talea Beer Co. has three locations in Brooklyn, and will be opening their next one at 102 Christopher St., between Bleecker and Bedford Streets. They claim to be NYC’s only female-founded brewery.

Tacombi, on Bleecker Street, is now serving birria (meat stew) tacos with a dipping broth. (Photo by Caroline Benveniste)


In 2019, a food truck called Birria-Landia appeared in Jackson Heights. This was the first time that most New Yorkers had been introduced to birria tacos, crispy, fried corn tortillas filled with meat stew and served with a dipping broth. Now, birria tacos are widely available, and the most recent entry to the game is Tacombi, at 355 Bleecker St., at Cornelia Street. Their version is excellent and definitely worth a try, particularly during happy hour (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays) when drink deals are also available. Joe’s Pizza has a number of locations in New York, but recently, while in Tel Aviv, I noticed a storefront with a Joe’s Pizza logo that looked like it was on the verge of opening.

Please let us know if you’ve noticed any activity. You can let us know at We are looking forward to hearing from you!

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