The star who transformed fine dining in Harlem is opening up his latest restaurant, Marcus B&P
Marcus Samuelsson is a renaissance man.
The Ethiopian-born chef who got foodies to eat above 96th street at his high-end soul food restaurants in Harlem, plans to do the same in another untapped dining destination — Newark.
“I love areas that have a rich history. Harlem has this incredible culture with music and storytelling, there’s many similarities with Newark,” Samuelsson tells Moneyish. “There’s a return to urbanism, and our restaurants are very well suited to that.”
The charismatic, plaid-wearing Food Network star’s latest concept, Marcus B&P (56 Halsey St.), located across from Rutgers University, is inspired by local bodegas. The menu will feature his signature fried chicken, pizza and homemade pastas with main dishes priced between $15 to $22, along with a melting pot of bar bites, beer and pastries. It’s slated to open late October with 55-seats serving food all-day from coffee to cocktails with delivery to come.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in Newark looking at the moms and pops and the fish markets. It’s a very warm, diverse neighborhood,” says Samuelsson.
Hiring locally in a community where the unemployment rate — at 6.4% — is well above the state and national average with less than 20% of the jobs filled by actual Newark residents is a priority for Samuelsson. He’s created more than 200 jobs through his restaurants Red Rooster Harlem and Streetbird Rotisserie, and his annual food festival, Harlem EatUp! brings in around 15,000 visitors to the area’s small businesses.
“We think about the word restaurant and the need to restore the community – what could be more relevant than hiring from the community? Restaurant jobs are jobs that can’t be outsourced,” Samuelsson says.
“People are really eager to be part of it. It’s not just the chefs and the servers, we’re picking local companies to do the art and logos. It’s an opportunity to engage and include – these jobs don’t have to be done in New York.”
It’s all part of the revitalization of Newark. Marcus B&P will live in the Hahne & Co. building in the heart of downtown Newark, formerly the bustling Hahne’s department store headquarters which has been vacant for 30 years. The 400,000-square-foot property is now undergoing a $174 million renovation, and will include 160 apartments, 64 of which are affordable units with studios starting at $1,800 a month and $2,100 for a one bedroom. It will also include retail and commercial spots like a Barnes and Noble, Petco, Rutgers University tech-store Kite+Key and the city’s first-ever Whole Foods, slated to open this winter. Across the street is Military Park, which got a $3 million facelift in 2014, and is now attracting workers during lunch, and neighborhood locals taking Tai Chi or salsa classes on weekdays.
The renovation of the Hahne’s building was timed with the rise of Prudential Financial’s new 20-story building on 751 Broad Street in 2015. Prudential has also contributed to the city’s economic development, investing about $1 billion in revitalization projects nearby in the last decade. In addition to Prudential, Newark anchors several leading company headquarters including Public Service Enterprise Group, Panasonic Corporation, medical supply corporation ITD and leading kosher products brand Manischewitz.
“We want to make sure Newark reclaims its status as a destination city, and it’s quickly moving in that direction,” says Aisha Glover, President of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation.
Indeed, the city faced grave economic troubles when manufacturers started leaving Jersey’s biggest city during the Great Depression, eliminating countless jobs. By the 1960s, Newark became a poor urban area laden with crime and police brutality; during the 1967 Newark Riots, for example, $10 million in property was destroyed, dozens were killed and thousands were wounded. Newark’s reputation took a major blow then too, and many parts of the city became deserted and poverty-ridden.
The city’s revival began in earnest in the 90s: In 1997, the $180 million New Jersey Performing Arts Center opened downtown and since then, Newark has constructed its famed Riverfront Stadium and the Port Authority built a rail connection to Newark airport. Nowadays, downtown Newark has become a hot spot for restaurants, bars and growing chains including Dinosaur BBQ, a brick and mortar offshoot of the famed chicken and rice serving food cart Halal Guys, stir fried Asian chain Wok to Walk and gamer-beer lounge Barcade. The city has even caught wind of the fresh fish poke trend with newly opened Ono Grinds Poke just blocks away from the Hahne’s building.
“As New York has gotten more and more expensive in not only Manhattan and the outer boroughs, looking to other cities to open up in seems like a logical next step. Right now Jersey City is definitely a place on people’s watch list as opposed to other areas,” Jason Kaplan, CEO of JK Consulting hospitality firm, says.
“Can Newark become the next big place? Possibly. It still needs to go through much more gentrification, and gentrification always starts out with better restaurants. It does have a possibility. Marcus Samuelsson is definitely someone who can get it there.”
Today, Newark’s median household income is $30,966 with a 29% poverty rate, according to DataUSA.com. With new businesses coming in, there’s been an even bigger push to hire locally. There are an estimated 8,500 new construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs that have been created in the past year, with 10,000 construction jobs in the pipeline, the EDC confirmed.
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