BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Two Bridges has a new go-to spot for H&H bagels, cold-brew coffee and soft-serve ice cream — also for White Castle cheeseburgers, TV dinners and cheap cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Trigger, the mononymous, conical-hat wearing operator of the former Continental rock club-turned-cheap shots bar in the East Village, hopes the quirky and hip combo will be a winning formula for his new Two Bridges Luncheonette, at 135 Division St., just east of Ludlow Street.
Hipsters know this neck of the neighborhood as Dimes Square. Everyone walking around and hanging out looks like a model — or, well, just very cool. Along with models, there are artists, other creatives, skateboarders.
Across the street is the ornate white terra-cotta facade of the former Loews Canal Street movie theater from the 1920s, a popular stop for walking tours. A few steps down the street and you can buy fresh hunks of Chinese-style beef jerky for $7 a quarter pound.
It’s a vibe the longtime local small businessman really likes.
“I happen to live around the corner,” he said. “It’s the last bohemian neighborhood in Manhattan. And right now it’s the hottest neighborhood in the city. I’m surrounded by great restaurants. I’m just looking to do something casual and fun.”
His new cafe is right by the “Skaters Triangle,” where skateboarders like to hang out.
In fact, he wanted to call his place Dimes Square Luncheonette, but deferred after the owners of Dimes restaurant, which gives the area its name, asked him not to.
“They are the O.G.’s here,” he said, “and I respected that.”
Trigger launched with a soft opening on Friday just serving food and coffee. He hopes to start selling beer and wine this coming week once he officially gets his license to do so. Starting out, he plans to open at 4 p.m. and stay open till midnight, but will eventually start opening at 8 a.m. and stay open until anywhere from midnight to 4 a.m., depending on the amount of business he gets.
“Coffee and bagel shops usually close by 5 p.m.,” he noted. “I’m trying to go beyond that.”
In addition to White Castle cheeseburgers, also on the menu will be TV dinners — yes, really — actual TV dinners. It’s a kitschy concept Trigger thinks customers will dig.
And, in fact, it also fits with his layout. The 600-square-foot space doesn’t have a traditional kitchen since the building co-op board won’t allow it, not wanting any venting of cooking fumes. Instead, he has a convection oven and microwave. Some others who looked at the space passed on it due to the cooking limitations.
In addition to H&H Bagels — which, many tout as the best bagels in the city — he’ll also have ACME smoked fish, including salmon, another iconic local brand.
“You can’t beat that,” he said, adding some people get excited after seeing the two brands — plus White Castle — on his exterior signage.
“They’re psyched about that,” he said.
As for the cafe’s classic-looking sign, Trigger modeled it on the old-school diners of his youth that he knew growing up in Brooklyn.
Inside, the place features matching ’50s-style “cracked ice” formica tables and chairs custom-made for the luncheonette. There is also outdoor seating out front.
The interior walls are painted pink. Other retro touches include glass-block insets on the wall inside and a big vintage ’50s wall clock. Along with a takeout window opening onto the sidewalk, there is also an inside service window from the kitchen to the dining area.
After giving it a lot of thought, Trigger decided to have a television screen inside showing sports and possibly old black-and-white movies — but plans to keep the sound off.
He says he has installed a good sound system and will play great tunes — from the ’50s during the day, like Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald, and at night classic rock, reggae and hip hop.
Basically, the area lacks soft-serve ice cream and “no one is showing the game down here,” he noted — though noting that he has no plans of being a sports bar.
As for the soft-serve, he’ll start with vanilla (which, he noted, is more popular than chocolate), both vegan and nonvegan, and eventually add chocolate, again, both vegan and nonvegan.
Speaking of ice cream, in late 2021, Trigger opened two soft-serve places called Lucky Star, one on St. Mark’s Place and the other at Clinton and Delancey Streets, both takeout only. He added hot dogs at the Lower East Side one, and had dreams of adding coffee at both, feeling it would be a better business model, since ice cream is mainly seasonal. In the end, though, he decided to close the Lucky Stars and instead focus on the new Dimes Square store. It was always his favorite of the three since it’s in a cool area, is bigger and offers indoor seating — plus, he can serve beer and wine.
“I made a choice and it wasn’t easy,” he said of closing the other two ice cream shops.
As for coffee, he knows cold brew is in demand, so he has a Kegerator customized for java.
His business model is going to mirror some things he used at Continental after he turned it into a dive bar in 2006. That’s where the cheap beer — $3 PBR — comes in.
“My choice is to do volume — and everybody’s happy,” he said. “The customers are happy. The bartenders are happy, they’re getting tips. And the owner’s happy. It’s going to be a luncheonette with beer and wine and food.”
He ran Continental for 27 years on Third Avenue just north of St. Mark’s Place, but the building was eventually demolished in 2018.
“I’d still be there, but they developed that corner,” he noted.
During Continental’s 15-year run as a rock-and-roll club, the likes of Iggy Pop, Guns N’ Roses and Joey Ramone were among the top acts that played there.
The Luncheonette won’t have that same music focus — but it’s still part of the same basic industry: service and hospitality.
After his first job working at a bar/restaurant while at college Upstate, Trigger knew he enjoyed this kind work.
“I love it,” he said. “I said, ‘That’s it. I found my niche.'”