Wildair alums are reimagining the all-day restaurant at NYC’s Demo

The menu at Demo, including this thinly sliced beef tongue dish, has Spanish, Italian, and French influences. Photo credit: Alex Hodor-Lee
The lengua tonnata dish at NYC restaurant Demo featuring beef tongue, bigeye tuna, and capers

The all-day-cafe used to be straightforward: an easy menu of avocado toast, grain bowls, and egg dishes that all worked just as well with a cup of coffee when doors opened at 8 am as they did with a glass of wine near closing time at 10 pm.

Now, there’s an exciting new kid on the block. Demo, from Wildair alums Jacob Nass and Quang Nguyen, and a third-partner Ian Henderson-Charnow, is breathing new life into this beloved genre of restaurants. “We wanted to create a space for our neighbors to come in and feel at home,” says Nass. “Familiar food with a touchstone of community.” 

Mornings here will be about coffee, pastries, and pantry staples out front. Come 5 pm, coffee will make way for a swanky aperitivo bar and the curtains behind it will part to reveal a dining room where you can have plates of Italian, French, and Spanish-inspired food.

Read on for everything you need to know about what’s sure to be one the coolest NYC debuts of 2024. 

What to eat

Demo has plenty of fun with the food, like this crispy risotto-ish creation with mushrooms that’s finished on a plancha. Photo credit: Alex Hodor-Lee

Nguyen’s menu has a good mix of recognizable dishes and ones you’re unlikely to have heard of. “I like the flavors of Spain, Italy, and France, but I also want the food to feel approachable, nothing that’s over anyone’s head,” Nguyen says.

Head over during the day for a latte and freshly baked cookies (miso chocolate chip, coffee cardamom, black sesame). Then stock your pantry with fancy tinned fish like Portuguese mussels and Danish freshwater trout or bittersweet Catalonian vinegar.

Dinner’s all about having plenty of fun with dishes like crab casino with jumbo lump crab meat that’s served in a scallop shell bathed in Café de Paris butter; a cheesy, mushroom risotto-like dish (arroz a la plancha) that’s crisped up on a plancha; and a lobster riff on steak au poivre with miso-seasoned fries.

What to drink

There’s a big focus on wine, and they’re largely off-the-beaten-path selections. That means an orange Alsatian wine (Les Vines Pirouettes) made from Gewurztraminer grapes, a chilled Spanish red (Finca Parera), and plenty of bubbly, like the Italian sparkler Rossissima. “We are carrying smaller producers who farm and vinify naturally,” says Nass, who curated the wine list.

Apart from wine, you can choose from German Pilsners and low-proof drinks like vermouth and soda.

Where to sit

The restaurant interiors are meant to evoke iconic spots from around the world. Photo credit: Alex Hodor-Lee

The Demo team looked to iconic spots around the world for interior inspo, including Downtown punk music landmark Max’s Kansas City and famed Cannes restaurant Luigi. “The overall design intention was to create our version of a classic New York restaurant,” designer Courtney Schneider says.

That’s translated to glossy red marble tabletops and counters, espresso-toned booths, and soft lighting. In the evenings, you’ll want to post up in the front room for some aperitivo or in the back for a full-on dinner. Plus, the chef’s counter can be an especially lively supper right across from the open kitchen.

When to go

The Demo team (from left to right) Jacob Nass, Quang Nguyen, and Ian Henderson-Charnow. Photo credit: Alex Hodor-Lee

The cafe is open 8 am to 3 pm daily. Demo opens reservations two weeks out, and the best time to snag a spot is earlier in the evening. Dinner runs Tuesday through Thursday from 5 pm to 11 pm (last reservation at 9:30 pm) and Friday and Saturday from 5 pm to 12 (last reservation at 10:30 pm).

Known for her pioneering food blog, The Strong Buzz, Andrea Strong has been writing about restaurants, chefs, and life around the table for the past 25 years. She lives, eats, and loads and unloads the dishwasher in Brooklyn.

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