The Clam's Mike Price: Why Restaurants Celebrating One Ingredient Are Evolving Away From Fast Casual
New York has seen a slew of single-item restaurants open in the past few years, but perhaps none as refined as The Clam (420 Hudson Street, 212-242-8420), a West Village spot that celebrates its namesake shellfish in a sleek dining room rather than the fast casual digs normally devoted to this type of concept. The place comes from Joey Campanaro and chef Mike Price, who also partner together on another West Village spot, Market Table (54 Carmine Street, 212-255-2100) (Campanaro also owns the Little Owl in the same neighborhood).
All images by Jon Selvey
Price's affinity for mollusks came from a childhood spent in Maryland, where he lived 10 minutes from the shore of the Chesapeake Bay. That's also where he learned to love food and cooking; he grew up on a farm where his family grew its own food. "My mother tried to serve us Salisbury steak once, and it didn't go well," he says. "We weren't frozen meal kids."
The chef took his first restaurant job as a dishwasher at age 13, and he says he knew then that he'd be in the industry forever. In high school, he supplemented lacrosse and soccer practice with cake decorating classes, and he worked in a kitchen at a nearby Holiday Inn. The chef there went to culinary school, and he pushed Price in the same direction. Price took the advice and went to the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, a move that would eventually bring him to New York City.
After graduation, Price bounced around the city for a bit before heading down to Miami, and he returned to the Big Apple three days before 9/11. He signed on with Jimmy Bradley to open the Harrison in Tribeca, which he remembers as one of the first restaurants to open after that disaster. It was there that he met Campanaro, and though they went separate ways for awhile -- Price opened the Mermaid Inn in the East Village while Campanaro built the Little Owl -- they reconvened over Market Table six and a half years ago. It took them awhile to suss out exactly what that restaurant should be; the spot started as a half-restaurant-half-market before evolving into a full eatery. Once settled, though, Price began casting around for another space, reeling in a corner spot nearby.
In this interview, he talks about the evolution of single-item restaurants, why the West Village is the best neighborhood in NYC, and the secret to a good clam chowder.