Manhattan to Montauk (Bridgehampton Stop) with Almond’s Eric Lemonides and Jason WeinerJason Weiner is married to Almond. In more ways than one. As executive chef and co-proprietor of the Bridgehampton institution Almond Bistro he continues to champion the same ingredient-driven, locally sourced cuisine he’s been preparing for nearly 30 years. Weiner opened the Bridgehampton Almond in 2001 with co-owner Eric Lemonides, who was weaned on red wine and Coca-Cola and whose East Ending dining resume looks like this: Walked into a newly opened Della Femina looking for a waiter position, walked out GM, opened Pacific East (straddling Amagansett and Chelsea) and then his own Almond with childhood friend Jason, which got its own Manhattan outpost in 2008. We asked the boys about what the go-to dishes at each location are, what an ideal day of New York City eating looks like, and why their Open Table password is “mamasmeatballs.”
You’re in the city and you have 24 hours to have three squares (breakfast, lunch, dinner)—where are you going?
Eric Lemonides: I don’t really do breakfast. That being said, my first meal of the day is usually around noon and most likely somewhere on my walk between home and Almond. Recently I’ve fallen in love with the Greek yogurt at Leonelli in the Evelyn Hotel.
Lunch? Again, usually like to stay in the neighborhood and no one makes a better chopped chicken liver sandwich than Eisenberg’s on 5th ave. They’ve been there since the 1920s for a reason.
Dinner. Sushi. Blue Ribbon Sushi on Sullivan street for sure. It is hands down the comfiest and liveliest sushi restaurant in NY. There’s tons of great fish out there but the crew on Sullivan St. welcomes every customer as though they’ve been a regular for years.
Would you like us to guest bartend at the restaurant? We make a great punch.
EL: We think the better question is do you really wanna work for us?
Truth is we’ve gotten calls from a few of the nut allergy people—isn’t that the name of a band? Should be.
The best unlikely food and wine pairings?
EL: Every once in a while I’ll grab a bottle of Sancerre on the way out of the restaurant and stop at the halal cart on 28th and 5th. 1 a.m. chicken and rice and a glass of Sancerre is pretty awesome.
Can you defend mixing red wine and Pepsi?
EL: 100 percent. I actually grew up in a bistro called La Gamelle and at 13 would sit at the bar & drink red wine & Pepsi. True story.
What’s the most-ordered item in Bridgehampton and most-ordered item in the Flatiron location?
Jason Weiner: A quick back of the cocktail napkin calculation tells me we’ve sold over 60 tons of mussels in Bridgehampton over the past 18 years. On 22nd St., the buffalo cauliflower is a thing. Tried to take it off the menu a couple years ago. Things got weird in a hurry.
We may have danced around in circles and downed a couple bottles of chartreuse the week we opened.
Almond in the City has been open nearly a decade. How did you exorcize the ghost of Rocco Dispirito?
EL: We go to the school of working with what you’ve got and making things work. When we moved into the space on 22nd St. there were bits and pieces of Rocco’s all over the place. The password to our open table system is still “mamasmeatballs.”
Yeah, there’s no reason to ever change that. Was there a seance though?
EL: We may have danced around in circles and downed a couple bottles of chartreuse the week we opened but I don’t remember an actual seance.
What’s the secret to the Bistro Burger being so delicious? You can tell us. We won’t tell anyone.
JW: The same reason the rest of our food is, hopefully, delicious. We get great ingredients from people we know, cook them, step out of the way and try not to screw things up.
Be that way. Why don’t you serve Almonds? Whatever happened to truth in advertising?
JW: Truth is we’ve gotten calls from a few of the nut allergy people—isn’t that the name of a band? Should be. Maybe a Brian Eno/David Byrne side project?—over the years asking if the coast was clear to eat at the resto.
But seriously, how’d it get the name?
JW: Well, my wife is the lovely and talented artist, Almond Zigmund. So there’s that.
Safe to say you are the only bistro that moonlights as a maker of Pan-Asian condiments. Where did you get the idea to make kimchi and Sriracha?
JW: I see how you might find that to be a contradiction or an oxymoron or something. But it all begins with localism. That’s the common thread. The ingredients need to come from someone we love and they need to have a story we know. That’s true of the food we serve at the restos as well as all the stuff that goes into KimchiJews bottles and jars. Also, we’re into food that’s smack you-in-the-face delicious and utterly devoid of pretense. It’s a peasant-street food ethos. While that sometimes leads us to duck confit, let’s say, there are gonna be other times it ends up as a kimchi tamale.