Anyone eat here or know anything about this place? It's the Red Cat restaurant on 23rd & 10th
The Red Cat, an unpretentious neighborhood restaurant in Chelsea that became a destination, will close at the end of December after nearly 20 years in business. (It's closed)
The reason is none of the usual suspects: a big rent hike, slumping traffic or the need for a costly renovation, said the chef, Jimmy Bradley. He has simply decided to quit. But at 51, Mr. Bradley is not retiring. “I’m ready for a change,” he said. “We’ve had a great run, and I’m certain there’s another great chapter for me.”
He said that he had no idea what that chapter might be, but that he loves to be in the kitchen. For several years he ran the restaurant but did not cook, but earlier this year he returned to the stove. The Red Cat, which Mr. Bradley opened in 1999 with the restaurateur Danny Abrams, slowly drew a citywide following for its low-key charm, casual yet professional. In a New York Times review in 2005, Frank Bruni called it “a place with sophisticated food but not a whiff of arrogance about it,” and praised the way it “simmers attractively without sizzling flamboyantly.”
Mr. Bradley said he told his architect, Mark Zeff, that he did not want the Red Cat to look like a New York City restaurant, but more like “New England goes to Paris, without a stop at Martha Stewart’s house.” Mr. Zeff installed hanging Moroccan light fixtures that Mr. Bradley thought dubious, but came to appreciate.
The name was meant to short-circuit any preconceptions. “I thought the name sounded whimsical and friendly, and it didn’t tell you anything about the restaurant,” Mr. Bradley said. He went on to open the Harrison, in TriBeCa, just after the 9/11 attacks devastated that neighborhood; it closed in 2014. He and Mr. Abrams, who is no longer a partner in the Red Cat, also opened the Mermaid Inn; Mr. Bradley is no longer involved in that business.
“My goal was to have my own business by the time I was 30,” Mr. Bradley said. He was 31 when he became the chef and an owner of the Red Cat, on 10th Avenue. Chelsea was a much different place back then, with no High Line, art-gallery scene or sleek high-rise condominiums. London Terrace had elegant apartments; nearby there were, and still are, public housing projects.
Gentrification has not had a huge impact on the Red Cat’s business Mr. Bradley said. The condos often have absentee owners who don’t come in for a bowl of lentil soup or a plate of local skate, and tourists plying the High Line are not particularly tuned in to the restaurant’s presence. “It’s difficult for small businesses in New York now,” Mr. Bradley said. “My staff can’t afford to live nearby like me. They get home at 2 a.m. and have to be back at work at 9.”
Mr. Bradley grew up in Philadelphia and Rhode Island, where he still has a house, and became a cook because he preferred the restaurant jobs he worked while at the University of Rhode Island to the classroom. He arrived in New York in 1994, and cooked for a number of chefs, including Jonathan Waxman at Bryant Park Grill, who became a friend but whom he also regards as a mentor. Over the years Mr. Bradley has, in turn, employed and nurtured a number of chefs and restaurateurs, including Harold Dieterle, Joey Campanaro, Brian Bistrong, Amanda Freitag, Alicia Nosenzo and Gabe Stulman. They worked at the Red Cat, the Harrison or Pace, another TriBeCa restaurant which has become Mr. Chow Tribeca.
Mr. Bradley said he has been a partner in seven enterprises, most of them restaurants. With Mr. Waxman, Mr. Campanaro and Jason Giagrande, a food-service executive, he owns Four J Foods, a company that produces soups, coffee and other items. He did not dismiss the notion of opening a Red Cat elsewhere. “I own the name, and I think it would be easy to relocate it,” he said. “But if I open another restaurant, I’d want to be in the kitchen. It’s the most fun job I ever had.”