A few blocks from where she grew up in Prospect Heights, Tara Noble and her family frequented an acclaimed little restaurant called Garden Cafe that was run entirely by a wife-and-husband team. It closed after a 24-year-run in 2009, but it planted a seed for the kind of restaurant Noble hoped to open someday. “I remember being very inspired by how much they could create with their four hands and the passion to do it,” Noble says.
She’s empowering her team to do just that at Cecily, a radical new restaurant that’s had Greenpoint buzzing since its opening a few weeks ago. Some restaurants in New York and around the country have dabbled in collective ownership, but Cecily has a profit-sharing model that remains rare in the industry. The hope is that once the restaurant is a success, employees will share in the profits based on the number of shifts they’ve worked there.
That was nonnegotiable for Noble and her partners Kristin Ma (also the beverage director and sommelier) and executive chef Zach Frieling, who all came from hourly jobs in the industry and wanted more stability for their community. “We want to treat our employees well, and we want to be accessible to the neighborhood and feel like we belong here,” Noble says.
You’re also unlikely to have seen the dishes and wine selections Cecily has in store—you can generally have a full-on dinner here regardless of your dietary restrictions. Read on for everything you need to know about one of the city’s most exciting openings right now.
What to eat
Frieling, a Four Horsemen alum, has created a menu of big-and-small plates with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, but a vegetarian restaurant this is not. “We’ve got a porchetta that’s fabulous, but we don’t want anyone feeling like a second-class citizen because they don’t eat meat,” Noble says.
That means cool riffs on familiar dishes like the chicharones made with porcini mushrooms that are best eaten dunked in a fluffy egg yolk dip. “It has that umami richness of chicharones, but the chips themselves are totally vegan,” Noble says. Or go for the hearty butter beans stew that’s a warming wintertime special with collard greens, onions, and a hunk of sourdough to sop it all up. Oh and that porchetta you’re probably wondering about, it comes with a zippy salsa verde and crispy potatoes.
What to drink
There’s no doubt Cecily’s wine list is one of the coolest in town right now. Ma, after all, comes from years of experience at wine hotspots like Anfora and Estela. Expect bottles from small family growers in Galicia, Catalonia, and other regions in northern Spain. There’s also an especially strong Burgundy list.
That same level of thought extends to cocktails, too. Take the La Onza, which is similar to a boozy horchata. Ma toasts pumpkin seeds to make an orgeat that’s added to blanco tequila. “It’s the most labor intensive cocktail, but naturally it is the fan favorite, so we can never take it off,” Noble says.
Where to sit
Cecily screams neighborhood restaurant vibes. Thirty-seven seats are spread out between a bar and across several hidden nooks and crannies (the space used to be an art gallery). “I get a lot of people coming in being like, ‘This looks like a living room,’” Noble says. “But it is the most architecturally strange living room you’ve ever been in,” she adds with a laugh.
But Cecily has embraced that strangeness by creating a cozy and intimate space full of rugs, banquette seating, and sconces, all of which will make you want to keep going back.
When to go
Because the restaurant is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Mondays at Cecily are kind of like lively Friday nights, and “it is a very fun day to be here,” Noble says. Other than that, the restaurant is open Thursday to Saturday 5:30 pm to 11 pm and Sunday and Monday 5:30 pm to 10 pm.
Tanay Warerkar is a content marketing manager at OpenTable, where he oversees features content and stays on top of the hottest trends and developments in the restaurant industry. He brings years of experience as a food editor and reporter having worked at the San Francisco Chronicle, Eater, and the New York Daily News, to name a few.