Chef John Fraser, Dovetail,New York, Upper West Side, NY, Manhattan, 10024, New American, Contemporary American, Chef John Fraser, Where to eat on the Upper West Side, Recommendations


What Happens When - Soho  |  Dovetail - Upper West Side  |  New York, NY



Q. What Happens When is:

A. At its core, what the restaurant is, is a temporary one. It’s going to last for nine months and it’s going to change iterations nine times and then it will die. That is the most meaningful and central figure, that in nine months, it is going to go away and change for its lifetime.

Q. What makes it different from a pop-up restaurant?

A. For me, this is not a pop-up. A pop-up exists for a couple of days or a couple of weeks, it’s with borrowed staff from other restaurants or catering. It’s in a space that is not specifically designed for food and drink, it’s just a chef, or a restauranteur or a group or even a brand of clothing or what have you, entering a space, throwing something together, and leaving.

This is very much a restaurant. I would prefer it to be called a temporary restaurant, as opposed to a pop-up. We have the restaurant bones. We’re not borrowing a KitchenAid mixer from uptown, we bought the KitchenAid mixer for here. We bought the sous vide machine, we bought the chairs and tables.

If it means we have to use borrowed words from other concepts in order for people to get it, I’m fine with that. But, it’s not a pop-up, it’s a restaurant that just happens to have an end date.

Q. So what importance does that place upon it? Or is it just the opposite?
A. Well, it offers a certain amount of intensity. If I were to tell you that you have nine months to live, you would fit as much experience into those nine months as you possibly could. We don’t have to think about what is going to happen in the marketplace, what is going to happen in terms of trends ten years from now. We don’t have to prepare ourselves for the fact that we have investors that have to be paid back over a certain amount of time. So, it frees us to be creative and take risks that perhaps someone like myself, with Michelin and New York Times, and all these other kinds of accolades, could never make.

Q. What is that freedom like?

A. It was very risky to me. Dovetail was my dream. I don’t want it to seem like I’m turning my back on Dovetail. When you’re running a restaurant like Dovetail, you get to cook everyday, but you don’t necessarily get to touch every customer. In a space like this, with a small kitchen and small dining room, there is a feeling of back to basics, where I get to be involved in every person’s meal.

We’re also in a different neighborhood. The Soho expectation of a restaurant and what people want to eat and how they want to eat is very different from an uptown one, so it gives me the ability of wearing two different hats. There lives inside of me this person, who is established and wanting to do something very traditional and speaks to history and then, there lives in me this person who wants to be progressive. So it allows me to wear both hats, which is very exciting for me, yet a little bit selfish.

Q. Every month there is a new theme, with this month being Nordic. Can you tell us more about that?

A. Through the collaboration between myself, the interior designer [Elle Kunnos], the composer [Micah Silver], and the brand/website designer [Emilie Baltz] - we’ve come up with these mood boards that turn into collages. We start with a general first pass which is color, images and perhaps texture, and then we go back to our little corners and start to create.

You’ll be able to see the inspiration on the back of each month’s menu and see the things that have inspired us to create the space, the sound and the food.

Q. How different is it to collaborate in this way?

A. Usually what happens in restaurants is that the chef is the person inspiring and people are grabbing from him or her in order to create. In this place, it’s the opposite way, where I get to grab from other people and create something, which is very exciting for me.

Q. You raised money from the community instead of investors, how does that work?

A. How can we afford to change the space over nine times, because it’s a bad business model at the end of the day. We put together a very, in restaurant terms, low budget of $20,000, which we’re asking people to pledge - whether it’s $5 or $2500, through a fundraising site called Kickstarter. In return, they receive something small like a name on a wall or a little box of salt or a pamphlet of photographs.

What people are doing is saying money should not rule creativity. They are saying ‘I’ve got money, you’ve got a really great idea and I believe in it so much, that I want to give you the money to help you to continue to grow and continue to live out the sort of passion and the dream.’ It gets me a little emotional in a way because I don’t know these people and they don’t know me, they only trust that we’re going to use their money wisely.

Q. Are you having fun?

A. No. But I’m growing like crazy! There is something about the product that is really inspiring and it’s incredibly loose and it feels tangible and I love that part of it.

Q. Are you going to be sorry at the end of the nine months?

A. I think I’ll be happy when this is over. To be honest the process has been ninety-five percent of it. There is no other real reason to do this, except that it’s important to all the people involved and it’s showing to be important to the outside world as well somehow, so that feels good.



Q. What resources do you like for kitchen gear?

A. Zabar’s - I love the upstairs area. Also, Broadway Panhandler, downtown.

[See details.]

Q. Any websites that you follow?

A. Because I spend most of my time in a kitchen, I’m fascinated with people who are able to travel around the world and arduously and painstakingly document their meals with pictures. I follow Food Snob, Lux Eat and Ulterior Epicure.

[See details.]

Q. Which cookbooks could we get you to recommend?

A. Larousse Gastronomique [buy it here] - it’s my favorite. It’s the bible.

The Noma cookbook [buy it here] - I cooked with chef René Redzepi at The French Laundry.

[See details.]


Q. Where do you like to eat in New York City?

A. Well, I’m actually a vegetarian in my regular life. I taste meat at the restaurant, but when I go out, I generally like to eat ethnic food.

I go to Kin Shop. Harold Dieterle has great vegetarian Thai dishes, very robust.

Blue Ribbon Sushi, the one of 58th Street, also has great vegetarian options.

Roberta’s in Bushwick for pizza. Just rustic, great food.

Bettola - one of my favorites. I really like their thin crust pizza.

[See details.]

Q. Have you tried anything new lately?

A. Graffit - I actually looked at that space before they took it over. I found it awkward at the time, but I love what he [chef Jesus Nunez] has done with it and how the space really flows now. He’s a fascinating person. I really respect what he’s doing. I loved the Muscatel Gelee dessert and the meatballs. Really delicious.

[See details.]

Q. You worked out in Montauk, any favorites there?

A. The Shagwong, where I worked, is one of my favorites. It’s one of the few fisherman bars left. It’s so true to itself.

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Q. Where do you like to head for a late night drink?

A. Bar Veloce - I like their model; one captain, one bartender, one panini maker.

Daddy-O - I love the vibe there. I go for the Negroni, with Aperol instead of Campari, they serve it in something that feels like a fishbowl.

Employees Only - always something good there.

[See details.]


Details of John Fraser’s recommendations on where to eat and drink in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Montauk.


- Turnip Ceviche

- Braised Cucumber Salad



- Chef Harold Dieterle

- Chef Michael Anthony

- Chef Mike Price

- Sommelier Joe Camapanale


John Fraser’s recommendations on where to eat and drink in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Montauk.


Photo Credit: Patrick Kolts & Find. Eat. Drink.

Q & A


Upper West Side

New American

103 West 77 Street

New York, NY 10024 (view map)

T: 212.362.3800 (make a reservation)




Fri: 12pm- 2:15pm


Sat - Sun: 11:30am - 2:15pm


Tue - Sat: 5:30pm - 10:45pm

Sun - Mon: 5:30pm - 9:45pm




25 Cleveland Place

New York, NY 10012 (view map)

T: 212.925.8310 (make a reservation)



Tue - Sun: 5:3opm - 11pm