Q+A: Jay Strauss, Westville
The New York City-based restaurant chain, Westville, opened their first Brooklyn location in DUMBO in 2016, and the customers haven't stopped coming since. With a storefront on beautiful, historic Washington Street, the restaurant also has an attached courtyard and beer garden to be used during the warmer months. We sat down with Jay Strauss, Westville's founder, to chat about Westville's DUMBO location.
What is the mission of your business?
The mission is to provide really great, fresh food at fair prices with big portions and to make people happy.
When did you open the first Westville location? What did you do beforehand?
In 2003 we opened Westville West on 10th Street and Bleecker, and before that, I was a photographer.
How did you feel about expanding to Brooklyn and DUMBO, in particular?
I was trepidatious at first, as I didn't know what we'd be up against, but now this is my favorite location. I love the physical space, I love the neighborhood feel, I love the streets and the look, and it feels like home to me. It's especially beautiful in the restaurant's courtyard in the warm weather; there's nothing like it— nothing I've ever experienced in my 15-year career of Westville.
How did you come up with your restaurant's popular Market Plate?
Going back to the beginning in 2003, I knew I wanted to do a vegetable-forward place— and I've learned that we were on the cutting edge of that— but I wanted to do enough vegetables that someone could have a choice of what they want. Interestingly enough, we started by offering a choice of six vegetables, and people could choose four as part of the plate or an individual one as a side. But since then, the six jumped to twelve, to fifteen, to eighteen; I've seen it as high as thirty-two one day! There's a point where I tell the cooks and chefs, "the point is made, people have a choice!" But they love doing this vegetable thing, so I'm not here to stop anyone.
What's your favorite thing on the menu?
I tend to get a chicken plate with two vegetables, but since I'm kinda on the food side of the business, I love to see the specials that we produce every day. The customers seem to love them!
What's the best part about running this business?
I like the idea of building a business from just an idea and seeing it come to fruition as a reality. And then I just love to see a staff come together and see the customers start rolling in. The idea is to make people happy, and in the end, I like to see that that mission is accomplished. Having people show up is how that mission works for us.
What are your favorite spots in DUMBO?
I like the pizza place next door, Front Street Pizza, I like the Front General Store, and perhaps more than anything, I love Burrow pastry shop. It's awesome!