Is Keith McNally Killing The Bowery As He Tries To Revive It?

by BILLY GRAY · March 3, 2010

When Pulino's opens Tuesday, upscale foodie havens will occupy three of four corners at Bowery and Houston. And while the Bowery revival is old news, the gourmet boom here is notable, since the fourth corner's got a restaurant supply store--the kind of place these newcomers depend on and destroy.

A Whole Foods monolith was the first to make this stretch of the Bowery safe for fanatical locavores in March 2007. World-renowned chef Daniel Boulud opened DBGB, his self-consciously modest sausage and beer joint, across the street two years later.  And now comes Keith McNally--king of the Rigorously Relaxed Manhattan Restaurant--with spiffy pizzeria Pulino's.

I'm not really complaining about any of these places. As annoyingly earnest as Whole Foods and its customers can be, NYC was and still is in desperate need of decent supermarkets. It also has a beer corner (which wound up on Christie Street instead of the Bowery where any alcohol dispenser should be) with cheap 64 oz. growlers. I'll probably give DBGB a try once I get over my hatred for the Avalon real estate company whose hulking, charmless condo towers (DBGB sits on the ground floor of one) encroach on my beloved Mars Bar. And who could dislike McNally's other places like Lucky Strike, Balthazar or Schiller's? Or pizza!

But oh the irony of all these glossy restaurants endangering the timeworn supply stores that, well, supply them. Because as much money as a place like Chef Restaurant Supply might make off a DBGB or a Pulino's, it's unlikely to make up for the skyrocketing rents such destinations (literally, since no one from the neighborhood visits them) justify.

The Bowery used to be known for four things: drunks, punks, lighting stores and restaurant supply stores. The lighting district is going dark as I type. Will places like Chef join it? And what will newcomer chefs cook with if they do?