Chef personality and restaurateur, Chris Santos, known for his trendy, upscale restaurants and his reoccurring role as a guest judge on the cooking competition show, Chopped (one of my favorite shows, by the way), has a lot in store for this spring. April marked the 11-year anniversary of his first NYC restaurant, The Stanton Social, and this month he will be opening another branch of the pawn shop inspired Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas opening at The Cosmopolitan. In addition, he has just added some new sweet and savory dishes to his menu at Stanton Social (Beauty & Essex too). I spoke with chef Santos about The Stanton Social and how it came to be one of NYC's favorite spots to be social, while dining in style.
The Daily Meal: When you first opened The Stanton Social, what was the inspiration to focus on smaller, shareable dishes?
Chef Santos: It was really more of a function of how I like it eat. I found myself going to restaurants especially with larger groups, and ordering multiple appetizers to share and just a few entrées to share collectively, or even at times no entrées at all. I felt then — and still do now — that the action of sharing food, passing platters around the table… etc., is just a fun, social way to eat. No pun intended I promise.
Why do you think The Stanton Social became such a popular favorite among [trendy] New Yorkers?
Honestly, I feel like I was in the right place at the right time. The Lower East Side where The Stanton Social calls home, made sense to me because there really was no place like it anywhere in the neighborhood. Our unique combination of social dining, gracious hospitality, and a high-energy environment just resonated with people.
How do you come up with innovative dishes that people both love and are surprised by?
I try to reimagine classic dishes in a new, whimsical, and playful way that allows groups of diners to socialize in a different way then they normally would when going out to eat.
What are your favorite dishes from the newly launched spring menu items?
We don't actually change our menu seasonally. Our menu is constantly evolving so over the course of a season you may only see one change here and there. By the end of the season, if you look back to the beginning of the same season, it will look quite different. It's a 365-day process, not seasonal. Having said all that, some of my favorite new dishes are the wild mushroom and spinach ravioli with parmesan brodo and black garlic and also our take on a classic wedge salad with spring asparagus, toasted hazelnuts, and buttermilk blue cheese.
After a decade in the LES, what are some of the reasons you believe The Stanton Social has managed to stay relevant and constantly busy?
Certainly because the neighborhood has become very popular, which is helpful. With that popularity has come many new restaurants which keeps us on our toes every single day. Now 11 years in, I think our status as a go-to spot in New York City is a testament to starting fresh every day, focusing on great food, warm hospitality, and making sure our guests have a blast while dining with us.
Does The Stanton Social cuisine embody your personality and style of cooking? How?
Yes. Compared to Beauty & Essex, I think you would say that the cuisine at The Stanton Social is a little "looser," where pretty much anything goes. I'm definitely an anything goes kind of guy.
New Menu Items at The Stanton Social include dinner items such as the wedge salad, with baby iceberg, spring asparagus, toasted hazelnuts, a variety of vegetables, with a buttermilk blue cheese; and a lamb Osso Buco Arancini with a Sicilian mint and parsley pesto.
On the sweet side, new indulgent items include the Bird’s Nest, which has crisp phyllo, Greek pastry cream, spiced citrus syrup, and candied pistachios; addictive chocolate, peanut butter cake pops; and a powdered jelly "Twinkie," a vanilla sponge cake with raspberry filling.
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