Only their friendship is kosher.
In an only-in-New York culinary story, two new restaurants on the Upper East Side share a wall, but when it comes to the menu, they are worlds — no, universes — apart.
Luke’s Lobster, a specialty lobster roll storefront, and Eighteen, a kosher meat restaurant, opened just a week apart in May, and they coexist side by side on East 81st (Luke’s at 240, Eighteen at 242) between Second and Third avenues, a single wall separating them. Not only that, the two establishments have forged an unexpected relationship.
“They’re the best neighbors,” said Tammy Cohen, a part owner and marketing director of Eighteen.
And the feeling seems to be mutual, though the food only goes one way.
“When they had their soft opening and we were still working, they actually brought over a plate of sushi for us and it was great,” said Ben Conniff, co-owner and vice president of Luke’s Lobster.
And, according to Cohen, other Luke’s workers come in regularly, especially for the chicken kabab sandwich. But “the joke is always, ‘Look, I come in your place and you can never reciprocate.’ We can’t even be caught standing near their restaurant.”
At the seafood restaurant — which has a second location in the East Village, patrons have only a few choices — lobster, crab or shrimp. Eighteen offers a more eclectic menu, with a range of burgers, sushi, salads and grilled entrees.
The kosher restaurant also has lunch specials for local students from Ramaz, catering for Shabbat and holidays and is developing a “Shabbox” program with the Columbia Hillel to offer an affordable Shabbat meal to college students. The head chef, Haim Dadi, worked for the Midtown eatery Mr. Broadway for 23 years before opening Eighteen.
Luke’s Lobster, which has the feel of a weathered lobster shack, is run by two 20-somethings, Conniff and Luke Holden. The seafood comes straight from Holden’s home state of Maine (Casco Bay in Portland, to be exact) — in fact it comes straight from Holden’s father’s seafood company.
And the food diversity on the block doesn’t stop with these two restaurants.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” said Conniff, who noted relationships with Spigolo, an Italian restaurant and Cascabel Taqueria, a Mexican eatery.
So while Luke’s and Eighteen aren’t borrowing cups of sugar from each other, the two have shared tips on acquiring a liquor license (both pending) and have shared storage space.
“Everyone’s supportive on this block,” said Cohen. “This neighborhood is fantastic.”
And, says Cohen, “if you’re not in the mood for a lobster, we have burgers and salads.”