An extension of home. A place to relax and get together. A laidback retreat. These were the ideas that fueled the birth of Chambers, a new Tribeca restaurant serving market-inspired American plates. “We wanted to create a space that wasn’t transportive,” says general manager Jared David.
David and Chambers’ opening team, which includes chef Jonathan Karis (formerly chef de cuisine at Gramercy Tavern), were determined to create a place that doesn’t whisk diners away to a far corner of the world. “Everyone’s trying to reinvent food, reinvent menus…the reality is, not everybody wants their mind blown when they go out to eat,” David adds.
That down-to-earth philosophy also extends to Chambers’ employees. “Following the pandemic, we set out to create a work environment that is far healthier,” says David. At Chambers, that ethos translates into being open only five days a week, allowing staff to take a real weekend.
Chambers is also committed to paying fair wages so its staff can work 45 hours a week and make a living, rather than putting in the typical 50-60 hours expected at many New York City restaurants. The same team works every night, with members cross-trained in duties to fill in if someone needs to take paid leave due to illness, or, in a recent case, a pre-planned Lady Gaga concert.
Chambers’ concise menu means less food prep—and less food waste. That’s beneficial for staffers, diners, and the planet. The offerings are divided into sequential chapters; First, Then, Followed By, With, and After, signifying the progression from appetizers to desserts. It’s playful and simple, delivering the precise vibe the team is aiming for.
“We have extraordinary talent in the kitchen, but the intent is to be unfussy, we’re not plating anything with tweezers,” David says. “It’s not high art on a plate. The focus is on the cook and execution.”
Chef Karis visits the Union Square Greenmarket weekly. Often, a dish will launch as a side before evolving into a menu staple. For example, the summer’s early heirloom tomatoes were first seen as an accompaniment, aged with a red wine vinaigrette, and eventually became a full appetizer with pistachios and local ricotta.
The menu is small and changes frequently, but David predicts that the only dish that will never budge is the Snowdance chicken, sourced from Sullivan County in upstate New York. The chicken is deboned and marinated, then cooked on a flat surface stove. It’s served alongside slightly wilted Malabar spinach (“A more succulent variety of spinach than most are accustomed to,” according to David) and finished with a sherry pan sauce.
Beverage director and Master Sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier focuses on curating a sustainable, delicious wine list. Wines from the nearby Finger Lakes and Long Island are served on tap from kegs instead of bottles—a 22-liter keg saves over 30 bottles, in addition to being reusable. Specialty European wines come from an importer friend who sources the bottles in France before shipping them by sail over to the U.S.; the wind-transported bottles require a smaller carbon footprint.
Most notably, the beverage menu starts with nonalcoholic drinks. “Why does this section always get pushed to the bottom?” David asked himself when reformatting the list. It’s an invitation to not drink if you don’t want to. Indulge in a homemade ginger beer or sparkling tea.
Chambers was born out of Racines, a wine bar with an industrial-meets-French farmhouse aesthetic. Though the insides were charming, they weren’t necessarily comfortable. Chambers, on the other hand, is all about encouraging people to linger. Everything is cushioned and cozy, with soft barstools and a banquette that wraps around the ends of the restaurant.
High-end speakers allow music to be played at a lower volume. But, perhaps most unique to Manhattan, the tables here are spaced two feet apart. “You can hear the people at your table, but not necessarily the people next to you,” David says. For a more convivial experience, diners can opt to sit at a communal table. “We’re not about cramming people in,” David says. “We believe in community and making connections.”
Chambers’ fall hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 6 pm to 10 pm. Seats at the communal table are saved for walk-ins until 6:45 pm each night; the bar is open to walk-ins as well.
Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner is a writer based in Brooklyn, where she lives with her wife and rescue dog. You can follow her on Instagram @melissabethk and Twitter @melissabethk