Death Ave Envisions a Long Life Feeding Needs of Hudson Yards Neighborhood | chelseanow.com

Death Ave Envisions a Long Life Feeding Needs of Hudson Yards Neighborhood

Courtesy of Death Ave Owner Michael Tzezailidis designed the interior, using reclaimed wood (all of the tables are made from a single piece of oak).

Courtesy of Death Ave
Owner Michael Tzezailidis designed the interior, using reclaimed wood (all of the tables are made from a single piece of oak).

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC  |  Saying someone “has a vision” has become a trope — but spend some time with owner Michael Tzezailidis at his new restaurant near the emerging Hudson Yards neighborhood, and it is clear that he planned Death Ave with foresight.

Start with the location: 315-317 10th Ave., between 28th and 29th Sts. When Tzezailidis went looking for space, he started in neighborhoods like Union Square, where the asking price for rent was $50,000 per month.

“I would sit down and I would crunch my numbers and it just didn’t add up,” he told Chelsea Now at his restaurant. “You can’t make money doing that. I don’t care how busy you are.

“It forced me to start looking for up-and-coming neighborhoods. And I was looking at all kinds of different places, of course. I thought it would be a good idea to come close to the Hudson Yards.”

Upon seeing the backyard that was part of the property, he said, “I think I can make this work.”

Courtesy of Death Ave The octopus, cooked for eight hours and finished on a grill, typifies Death Ave’s patient method (the lamb shanks and ribs are also cooked for eight hours).

Courtesy of Death Ave
The octopus, cooked for eight hours and finished on a grill, typifies Death Ave’s patient method (the lamb shanks and ribs are also cooked for eight hours).

Tzezailidis and his partners signed a lease in 2011 and the idea of being neighborhood “anchor pioneers,” a title which they tout on their website, took root.

“One of the exciting things about this neighborhood, obviously, is Hudson Yards. Yes, we’re Chelsea. This might be the border right here,” explained Tzezailidis. “Hudson Yards is really just an exciting new development for the city. Most people don’t really comprehend the amount of building that’s going on here. We’re happy to be part of it.”

Thus far, the boundary of Hudson Yards is considered from 30th to 34th Sts., from 10th Ave. to the West Side Highway.

In 2011, there was no construction on 28th or 29th Sts., he said, recalling that it was residential, one-story buildings. In the future, he said, there will be about “10,000 people just on these two blocks here. That was very reassuring.”

Courtesy of Death Ave This large backyard space inspired the Death Ave team to become “anchor pioneers” of an emerging Hudson Yards neighborhood.

Courtesy of Death Ave
This large backyard space inspired the Death Ave team to become “anchor pioneers” of an emerging Hudson Yards neighborhood.

Tzezailidis and his partners first opened a beer garden and restaurant called GastroMarket in 2012. They opened the restaurant knowing that they would take over the building next door and expand.

It was a “gigantic undertaking” to renovate what was an old, rundown deli, he said. Three years ago, when he was looking for vintage photos of the neighborhood for decoration, he learned about the history of Death Avenue — so named for the street train that killed many people from the 1840s to the 1940s.

“Amongst ourselves,” he recalled, “we thought, wouldn’t Death Avenue be an amazing name for a brewing company? We took the risk of going with that name because it’s kind of morbid and there’s a learning curve.”

Courtesy of Death Ave The Death Ave aesthetic started with eight casks perched behind the bar, at the front of the restaurant.

Courtesy of Death Ave
The Death Ave aesthetic started with eight casks perched behind the bar, at the front of the restaurant.

“People hear the name and they think Iron Maiden,” he added.

Death Ave opened in December of last year. Its full name is Death Ave Estiatorio & Zthopoieio, which means restaurant and brewery in Greek, and nods to Tzezailidis’ heritage and culture.

A first-generation American, his parents are from Greece and he grew up in Astoria and Long Island.

“I grew up in a Greek household,” he said. “Everybody in my house — I lived with my grandparents, my mother, my father’s side, my aunts [and] my uncles — everyone was cooking. We weren’t a family that went out to restaurants. The restaurant was the home.”

He acquired certain tastes, he said, and this is reflected in Death Ave’s brunch and dinner menus.

“It’s fun doing this too, the Greek menu, playing with it. Usually it’s not messed with,” he explained. “We’re not flipping it over, upside down on its head. We’re just incorporating it into some dishes that are kind of mainstream.”

For example, instead of French toast, Death Ave serves Hellenic breakfast toast.

“Instead of putting maple syrup, we put the petimezi, and we’re actually using a Greek bread that’s called Tsoureki,” which is kind of like a sweet brioche, he said. Petimezi is a classic grape syrup that the kitchen makes from scratch. Bushels of grapes are mashed using a wine crusher, boiled down, and then all the traditional steps are taken to make it.

The petimezi is also used as the base for the barbeque and spicy chili sauces. It complements a dish of roasted grape bread pudding that is served with homemade ice cream.

Tzezailidis also highlighted the octopus, which is cooked for eight hours, and finished on a grill, “which is definitely something different than what everyone else is doing.” There is a lot of slow cooking as both the lamb shanks and ribs are cooked for eight hours.

“Everything is made in house — everything — our ice cream, our sauces,” he said. “The only thing that comes out of the kitchen that’s not ours is probably ketchup.”

The care that is taken in the kitchen can be seen in other aspects of the restaurant. Tzezailidis designed the space and deemed it “a real labor of love for me.” All the wood is reclaimed, mostly coming from the oldest department store in Tennessee (which has since closed). The tables are made from one piece of oak, he said.

When the backyard is open, blankets are placed on the backs of the chairs, as they do in Switzerland, he explained. Every detail has been considered.

The Death Ave aesthetic started with the casks that are perched behind the bar, at the front of the restaurant.

“I went to a beer festival and the breweries broke out all these great casks,” he said. “I’d never really seen them before. I just thought it looked so cool the way they had set up.”

These stacked casks spurred the idea to have them behind the bar. They bought an old produce refrigerator and customized it, which keeps the eight casks at 55 degrees. Four beers are now featured (Founders Pale Ale and Stone IPA among them), which will one day be replaced with a line of Death Ave beers. Currently, the other four are for the cask cocktails, which include the Older Fashion and the Fig Julip.

He said that the casks were definitely the first step towards the restaurant brewing its own beer. He took Chelsea Now on a tour of the brewery-to-be, where seven huge, shiny beer tanks await, and where there will be a private dining area. It is slated to open in April. Also on the tour was the adjacent cafe, which serves coffee and Greek-inspired takeout.

The brewing of beer also has roots in his childhood, as he remembers crushing grapes growing up.

“I haven’t put anything on the menu that’s not inspired somehow by my background,” he said.

Tzezailidis worked in restaurants before, starting in junior high as a dishwasher, then moving on to bartending and waiting tables during college.

“I had one foot in this business,” he said. “Getting into the restaurant business for me wasn’t so much of an eye opener. I already kind of knew what the business entailed.”

The father of three (a seven-year-old son, a five-year-old daughter and a four-month-old boy), Tzezailidis said that having kids “is a real motivational factor. You’re not doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for family.”

He wants Death Ave to be the neighborhood spot.

“I’m not looking for a short flame,” he said. “I would love to see this place here in my old age.”

For further information, visit deathave.com, like the restaurant on Facebook or follow its Twitter and Instagram @DeathAve — or call 212-695-8080.

Comments

  1. […] were only a few establishments in the area, and tipped her hat to Michael Tzezailidis, owner of the restaurant Death Ave at 315 10th Ave. (btw. W. 28th & 29th Sts.), for trying to cater to locals as […]