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Week of April 8, 2002
Andrew Silverman already had four restaurants on one block of Park Avenue South -- from L'Express at the north end to City Crab at the south, and Duke's around the corner -- when yet another space there became available, and he puzzled over what else he could possibly feed the Gramercy neighborhood. After much soul-searching and market research, plus the occasional California sojourn, he reached a conclusion: frozen margaritas and chili-roasted chicken, both of which can now be found at Chango, his new piñata-hued cantina. Designer Nancy Mah (who built Sushi Samba, next door, for Silverman and his partners) transformed the old Medusa space with swooping dropped-ceiling panels, coyote fencing, and a perimeter of raised booths. And nothing on the menu (which will soon be available for delivery) costs more than the $18.95 dry-rubbed gaucho steak.
239 Park Avenue South, near 20th Street
 Cuisine: Mexican


Ciao for Now
If the East Village's Ciao for Now already has a small-town, lived-in feel about it -- a coffee-mug collection dangles from hooks along the counter -- that may be because the husband-and-wife owners, Northern California transplants Kevin and Amy Miceli, hauled in all the furniture (a kitchen table, some chairs, and knickknacks like those mugs) from their Jane Street apartment. Further contributing to the homeyness of this bakery-café are Amy's breakfast pastries and homemade granola, an organic coffee from Woodstock with a cult following, grilled cheese sandwiches, and the irresistible scent of baking brownies, for which customers willingly wait. If not for an engaging scruffy-chinned Henny Youngman -- in -- training counterman, you might never guess you're in a former tattoo parlor off Avenue A.
504 East 12th Street
 Cuisine: Baked goods/ Sandwiches


Ronald Starns spent ten years at March, working the front of the house and coolly deciphering Wayne Nish's intricate tasting menus for nonplussed diners. Gary Jacobson spent fourteen slinging huitlacoche as executive chef of Zarela. That's enough combined stress and Manhattan restaurant experience to convince us that their new Carroll Gardens collaboration, Alma, should come off without a hitch. Built from the ground up on a gritty stretch that's on its way to becoming yet another Brooklyn restaurant row, the duplex is all carefully crafted wood and exposed brick with a showpiece American-walnut bar. The slightly upscale pan-regional menu, with entrées from $10 to $18, spans all the requisite spicy stuff -- from mashed-to-order guacamole to mole poblano -- but will emphasize seafood specials like striped bass wrapped in hoja santa leaf and braised in a shrimp-and-mussel broth. Come summer, when the outdoor upper deck is completed, you'll be able to quaff your margaritas alfresco with a lovely view of Brooklyn piers and the Manhattan skyline.
187 Columbia Street
 Cuisine: Mexican



After the beating this place took as Marika, the new management kept the chef -- Lespinasse alum Neil Annis -- but changed the name, and made just enough minor renovations to justify a relaunch. This time out, the idea is for the food (confit of Alaskan king salmon, roast rabbit and grits) to garner as much attention as the design.
208 W. 70th Street
 Cuisine: French-American


The Little Bigger Place
The much-loved Mexican-American lunch counter formerly known as the Little Place closed after 9/11, and in one of downtown's most inspirational stories has ambitiously expanded into the space next door. Now there's a high, molded ceiling, funky colander chandeliers, and table service. But nostalgic regulars still park themselves at counter stools to watch the cooks dish up tacos, turkey burritos, and the $6.25 house special: soup, a blintz, a roll, and a brownie.
73 West Broadway
 Cuisine: Mexican-American



Openings Archive

Week of April 1
Washington Park, Wild Lily Tea Room, Kitchenette Uptown, Industry (food), Cinnabar, Chateau, Osteria del Sole
Week of March 18
Fiamma, Blue Smoke, Rouge, Tournesol
Week of March 11
Elmo, Rochjin Asian Noodle, Soy, Nong, Si Si

and more ...

Photos: From top to bottom- Carina Salvi (2), Patrik Rytikangas
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