Jack's Wife Freda, New York
Jack's Wife Freda, New York
Jack’s Wife Freda is one of those rare places where everybody knows your name (maybe not literally, but it sure feels like it!). No, it’s not the Cheer’s bar, but it can be compared to the famous television establishment in the sense that after you eat at the cozy restaurant a handful of times, you begin to feel like family.
It’s a restaurant that many people in New York identify as their veritable, “spot”. They come back night after night, brunch after brunch, to enjoy the food, and really soak up the incredibly warm and welcoming ambiance.
The owners, Dean and Maya are a husband and wife duo, and have single-handedly adopted many of the city’s full grown adults as their own children, serving them up beautiful and hearty American-Mediterranean food day after day, to warm their bellies and their souls.
In our second installment of Family Meals from around the world, shot in collaboration with Henry Hargreaves, we visited owner Dean Jankelowitz to find out how his staff enjoys their daily family meal.
We wanted to open a place that was a cafe – or what we knew a cafe to be. A place with breakfast lunch and dinner that you could go anytime of the day not necessarily just during meal time, and enjoy your food with a great cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or celebration.
We wanted our restaurant to be a place that really added something to the existing community. Jack and Freda were my grandparents. That’s how the name came to be, it just shot into my mind. So we went with “Jack’s Wife Freda”. The menu was put together with dishes we loved and it’s been fantastic.
I found that when we had family meal and everyone sat together it just became a lazy hang out session. I worked in restaurants my entire life. I truly appreciated when I could sit down and actually enjoy a meal, and observe what was going on around me in peace. Restaurants are such a chaotic environment, so I always appreciated the fact that I could sit alone and take some private time. I could enjoy the restaurant almost like a customer.
Because our staff can order whatever they like, it gives them the opportunity to try the different foods, or experiment with the menu…taste a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. It also humanizes the experience – the fact that its not just a huge pasta or salad. Everybody has different tastes and dietary restrictions, so the fact that they can order off of the menu really allows them to stick with their own preferences. They can truly experience the menu however they like.
The portions are also exactly the same as the customers would receive.
Our most popular dishes have been a result of our staff meals. The mediterranean breakfast, for example, came of age because one of our old waitresses would order all of the little sides for her family meal – a side of eggs, a side of labneh, salad, some pita bread and it ended up becoming the “Mediterranean Breakfast”. The spaghetti squash also ended up on the menu because we had some vegetarians working with us, they put that together. And the same with the grain bowl, thanks to a group of vegan employees playing around with the menu.
We have 5 to 6 people each shift. Everyone gets a chance to sit down whether it’s towards the beginning or towards the end. Depending on the pace of the restaurant, everyone gets between 20-25 minutes.
Dean’s Favorite Staff Meals: I eat the peri peri chicken 6 nights a week.
Maya’s Favorite Staff Meals: Maya plays around with the menu a lot more. She tries the salads and the egg dishes a lot. Occasionally she has the steak.
I think our family meal really humanizes the whole job for our staff. They get to order like customers, sit down and enjoy the food and experience the restaurant with a different perspective. It’s a nice little moment. Unwind, and enjoy the meal.
My favorite thing about owning our restaurants is being able to create something and be a part of it at the same time. It’s been a fantastic experience truly watching something grow.
Maya Jankelowitz, Owner
Lakis Pavlou, Bartender
Jovanni Flores, Food runner
Alexandra Sheenan, Server
Jessica Landucci, Manager
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