Jack's Wife Freda x Double Eleven
Home away from home
This piece is about more than making t-shirts for my favorite restaurant in New York, though I won’t discount it was an honor for me to offer a little piece of my world to Dean and Maya. In a time where we’re almost at choice paralysis, finding local spots to congregate and dine in on a regular basis is ironically becoming harder and harder. Though in New York City one such place exists for many. Jack's Wife Freda is homey, lively and nourishing to all the senses. It sums up what New York is about for me and takes me back to a time in the city that once was, where friendly, neighborhood spots were filled with locals, artists, creatives and every other type, colliding in tightly packed spaces, happily getting along with one another and enjoying the ambience. That's what Jack's Wife Freda is all about.
I've had the pleasure of knowing founders Maya and Dean Jankelowitz for many years now. I met them both when they were running some of Keith McNally's joints in Lower Manhattan. It's the perfect love story really! Two Maître D's working at the same restaurateur's establishments, help turn them into huge successes (they’re certainly why me and my friends went to them on a weekly basis), then split off to open the first Jack's Wife Freda in Soho and boom…a beautiful success story explodes all over the restaurant scene and social media to boot. And the cherry on top is that they are two of the most genuine, wholesome and loving people I know.
Jack's Wife Freda doesn't have Michelin stars (yet!), doesn't have white table cloths, doesn't have a menu that you need a dictionary to translate, doesn't have fancy furniture, nor overly eager or uptight staff, and that's exactly why I and tens of thousands of other people love it so much. Instead, it serves authenticity on a plate.
The food is fresh, wholesome, made with love and care, the décor is considered and artful, the staff are cool and relaxed, the music is what you want on your playlist and the energy is warm and comforting. It’s what I look for in a restaurant. I’m done with pretentious or self important, I’m done with overly thought out interior design and I have no time for attitude, no matter how successful you are.
Today’s modern restaurant must obviously tick all the boxes of great food, service, ambience and staff but beyond that it must have soul. The intangible element that is so often overlooked, because of exactly that…it’s intangible. It originates from within the owners or creators. It comes from that very sacred and personal place which ultimately touches every choice, action, word and note of the establishment. It can’t be manufactured, it can only come from one place; the hearts of the proprietors. And unless those guys are genuine and true themselves, it will never permeate the walls like it has done at Jack’s Wife Freda through Dean and Maya. It’s as simple and as complex as that!
I remember visiting the first location on Lafayette Street when it was a construction site to see what the couple was doing with this once unsuccessful, non descript space on an outer wing of Soho. It was unconventional and challenging, but as time progressed and the renovations transformed this diamond in the rough into the gleaming jewel it is today, I began to feel the soul of what they were creating.
On one of those days Dean asked me, “What do you think about the name Jack’s Wife Freda?”, I was honest and said I thought it was a mouthful! But oh how I have eaten humble pie! In a time where it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out, this has definitely won the crown. Not only does it have family significance and links back to their fond memories of food, but once you hear it a couple of times, you're not forgetting it, nor will all the people you take there, read about it or discover their instagram!
I would regularly visit from the opening day to days where Dean would worry about the afternoon ‘quiet period’ from 3-6pm. Who the hell wouldn’t worry opening a business that most fail in and your first venture on your own in a city laden with restaurants, critics and bloggers. That ‘quiet period’ was a momentary flutter in the growing pains of this startup. Today you’ll be lucky to get a table within an hour…at either location, morning, noon or night! What Maya and Dean have done is nothing short of miraculous, but most importantly, earned through hard work, dedication and passion. They eat, breathe and sleep Jack’s Wife Freda and want everyone to feel like it’s their home away from home as soon as they walk in the door.
I write with such vigor about all this, not just because they are dear friends and I genuinely love what they do, but because of an idea that exists here on a much grander scale. A scale that speaks to truth, goodness, intention, insight, understanding and values. The ingredients that transcend business and elevate whatever the creation is to a totally different plane and create an orbit of its own. And couple this with these two souls that emanate such a standard, not only in their personal lives but now their professional ones, well that's a place I want to hang my hat. A place I want to take my friends, family and loved ones. A place where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.