Dean & Deluca’s newly opened Meatpacking District restaurant is a natural progression in fast-casual dining.
Though STAGE is in some ways a departure for the pioneering fine-food market founded in SoHo more than 40 years ago, the restaurant synthesizes several dining trends into a familiar yet distinct experience.
First, there’s the design. STAGE is set up for speed, with touch screens, multiple ordering points, and a separate takeout door. Around the rectangular and proverbial “stage,” inside which staff prepare food and drinks in full view, tables form a U-shape along the exposed brick walls, giving the restaurant a sort of all-day-café vibe. The company brought in architect Ole Scheeren to conceptualize the space, culminating in a visual approach that relies on vibrant white, glistening stainless steel, and bright lighting to draw the eye to the “stage” in the center.
Then, there’s the menu. It emphasizes bowls and offers well-thought vegan and vegetarian entrees, two on-trend moves. Just as importantly, STAGE emphasizes freshness, baking items in smaller batches on-site throughout the day. Sam Goinsalvos, a corporate chef with Dean & Deluca, said that’s STAGE’s advantage.
“I like the idea of being able to feed people fresh food very quickly,” said Goinsalvos, who served as a sous chef at Il Buco and executive chef at San Francisco’s Tartine Manufactory. “’Good food’ can be tedious and expensive.” Faster food, conversely, often isn’t very good or particularly fresh, he said. STAGE hopes to buck that trend.
The initial breakfast menu is fairly limited, with options ranging from yuzu tea cake to a ham & cheese croissant. The lunch and dinner menus are more exciting, particularly the meatless options.
The harissa barley falafel sandwich—with tzatziki, cucumber, and roasted peppers—is the most distinctive lunch entrée, and its counterpart dinner falafel plate comes with a chickpea tomato salad. Both menus sport an Ora King salmon dish with lemon crème fraiche and a celery root slaw, and the dinner version also includes roasted beetroots and seasonal greens. Yet the trophy belongs to the lone vegan dinner plate: roasted celeriac with farro, mushrooms, radish, golden beats, seasonal greens, almond, lemon and pickled red onion.
Celeriac, or celery root, is a dense root vegetable that’s recently stepped more directly into the spotlight in the city. Brooklyn’s Hunky Dory café serves it as the “meat” of a sandwich, one of the restaurant’s best offerings. During a pre-launch event with Equinox’s Master of One gym class members, STAGE offered a special four-course menu built around the ingredient. The menu isn’t available in store, but the event’s main course—and best offering—was a close cousin to the light, veggie-forward roasted celeriac plate.
STAGE’s menus include meat options too, of course, from a turkey sandwich with leeks and spicy aioli for lunch to a pork belly and broccolini dinner plate with rosemary polenta. Customers can choose from several predesigned sandwiches and bowls at lunch or opt to design their own from the artfully displayed ingredients.
Fans of Chop’t, Fields Good Chicken, Pokeworks and similar fast-healthy chains will likely feel at home here, as will Dean & Deluca regulars and Whole Foods hot-bar devotees. The company aims to open a second Manhattan location soon, likely in Midtown, with possible wider expansion plans to follow. That could mean an abundance of celeriac and freshly baked bread coming soon.