HENRY’s is a Modern American Bistro located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It is a large and exciting restaurant and bar with Broadway’s largest sidewalk café. The Dining Room and Bar are designed after an Arts & Crafts masterpiece, the Gamble House, with mahogany wainscoting and French doors looking out over the busiest street in the world.
Why did you decide to open a restaurant?
I’m not a chef, but I traveled the world working in fine dining establishments. Over the years I’ve experienced all aspects of the restaurant – from dishwasher to bartender, maitre’d to manager. I returned to NYC in the 1990’s and felt that my Upper West Side neighborhood was underserved. There was a deep base of foodies looking for a place to take their families. After much planning and research, I opened HENRY’s on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 1999.
How do you balance work and family?
Well, I was lucky in that I ran my own business and had already established the restaurant before I married and we started our family. I had devoted so much time to work that I think marriage and fatherhood gave me some much needed perspective. I do a lot less late nights. I make more sacrifices and choices. I use my commute to and from the restaurant to switch hats from business to family priorities. And I have definitely learned to work a lot smarter and multi-task. I believe you need to trust that family can be your priority and that second priority (work) will thrive and in a decade you can return to redirect.
What makes Henry’s Restaurant family friendly?
I think we have a unique approach. We don’t offer toys or crayons, but we do actively participate in supporting parents. Our staff is trained to deliver service to families in a way that allows them to sit at the table, happily eat, enjoy family time together, and allow the young ones to experience the joys of dining out. I believe that restaurants are fundamental in the civic fabric of any community. Restaurants are where we learn to live and eat with one another and where each culture develops its identity through food and social custom. Restaurants are one of the places we learn to live together.
Many of our staff are parents themselves. They understand the needs of parents dining out with their children. For many years we didn’t have a separate menu for kids, but we’ve recently changed that. Our chef developed a three-course “Family Menu” so that both the kids and parents are served simultaneously, and there is that built-in payoff of a fun dessert at the end. We source 75 to 80 percent of our foods locally which is higher than most restaurants. Our menus, design, décor and service style create an accessible atmosphere for patrons of all ages. I want our customers to depart feeling good. Our tables are covered with checkered cloths and the walls are filled with bright, food-themed poster art from the Herman Miller Company’s “Summer Picnic” series to create a fun, casual environment.
How does being a dad influence your work?
After President Obama’s Address I was inspired to serve. I approached the head of my son’s preschool and offered my services to their food community. We invited the school cooks, the head of the parent association, the school leadership and a loyal HENRY’s customer/pediatric neuroscientist to join me and our chef Mark Barrett to discuss food. We toured their facility, identified their needs and offered assistance. It wasn’t complicated – we supplied some floor mats, cutting boards, sharpened their knives and sent over some of our appliance repair people to get everything smoothly. We also provided some very basic direction on types of foods to pursue and avoid on their menus. Now I review their invoices and we share information between cooking staffs. This one small step led to me getting involved with other school kitchens and organizations such as Wellness in the Schools (WITS) and New York Coalition for Healthy School Food (NYCHSF). Someday I’d like to work with hospitals in a similar way.