Bruce Bromberg on Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, Which Opens This Week
Update: If you were hoping to hit this fried chicken joint on opening day, you're going to have to wait just a bit longer. We get word that this restaurant's debut has been pushed back until later in the week.
In the meantime, continue on for our chat with Bruce Bromberg about the Blue Ribbon empire and Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken.
Just over 20 years ago, brothers Bruce and Eric Bromberg kicked open the doors to a tiny Sullivan Street restaurant dubbed Blue Ribbon. Soho was then a transforming neighborhood, and "people told us, 'No one will go there, it's too far west, and it's dangerous,'" recalls Bruce. But people did go there, and two years later, the brothers debuted a sushi spot down the block, the first expansion in what would eventually become an organically grown empire, with 10 NYC restaurants and one Las Vegas spot.
And on Monday, the Blue Ribbon family expands again: Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken will make its entrance in the East Village.
Bruce maintains that there's no real strategy behind the types of restaurants the brothers pursue. "We just like creating things and doing things and doing the next project," he says. "There's never been any real, focused plan on what we need to open next. We just see a space and say, 'Oh my god, we could do this.'"
So long as the brothers can raise the bar, at least. "We name them all Blue Ribbon," Bruce explains. "The benefit to that is that we built this reputation, and we have incredibly loyal customers. But there's danger, too: Each thing has to be better than the last thing we opened. It has to be part of the family, or it could potentially tarnish the reputation."
Fried chicken, though, had been kicking around for two decades, since the dish has always been a staple on the menu at the original Blue Ribbon. The Brombergs drew their original recipe inspiration from a delivery spot their father used to order from in Jersey. "Dad would serve it with honey, and that was our biggest treat," says Bruce. "It's one of those dishes at Blue Ribbon that people just love. We're elevating the mundane normal fare to an extraordinary level."
The fried chicken concept came to life when the brothers saw the space at First Street and Second Avenue two years ago. "We said, 'This is it. What do you do in this space? This is what you do in this space,'" remembers Bruce.
The guys began filling out the details of their restaurant, which they describe as "casual" and "moderately fast." They put together a menu that highlights fried chicken, of course, but also a chicken burger, fried chicken necks and backs, and a take on a liver and onions dish their mom used to make for them. They've also developed several house-made ice creams, which draw inspiration from dishes and flavors in their other Blue Ribbon venues. Examples include an ice cream version of the chocolate bruno, a dessert that's been on the menu at Blue Ribbon for years, as well as a flavor that channels the hot sauce.
The new joint also firmly establishes the Blue Ribbon brand in the Lower East Side and East Village, where the guys also have Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya and Blue Ribbon Beer Garden. "It's a fantastic neighborhood," says Bruce. "It's the epitome of New York. You get everyone here: people who've been here for 60 to 70 years, young people, old people, affluent people, artists, and business people."
Check out Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken when it opens on Monday.