Jun 1, 2021
What’s next for Greenwood Heights restaurant Lot 2?
A visit to a beloved local joint on the brink after a year from hell
Lot 2 is a quintessential neighborhood Brooklyn restaurant. Cozy with quirky elegance inside the square, minimalist storefront, on a bucolic block with elevated views, the New American eatery has been feeding the Greenwood Heights community since 2008. And now its future is in doubt.
The realities of the pandemic and the uncertainty of its aftermath have forced its sole proprietor into soul searching as he figures out a path forward. He’s not alone, either. A running list of New York restaurants we lost to the pandemic is dizzyingly long. For now, at least, Lot 2 abides. There are so many just like it, though, teetering on the brink.
Chef-owner, Danny Rojo, came to New York from California in 2008 a few years out of culinary school. The plan was to bolster his resume and bolt. Didn’t work out that way. After a stint at Bouley in Tribeca that ended with a serious foot injury suffered on the job, he bounced around New York kitchens until linking up with the newly opened Lot 2 in 2009. When the original chef-owner left, Daniel gained equity and pioneered, with his new partners, a fresh approach focused on the community.
“We decided upon the idea of being a place in our neighborhood for people to come on a regular basis, for special events or just whatever,” Rojo says. “The more we tried to make that part of our identity, to not just serve the neighborhood but to become part of the neighborhood, that’s when it all started to click. It became easier. The feelings became genuine. The things we were selling became real. We’re not making people feel like they matter, they actually do matter.”
The ethos of outreach involved the menu, as well, a shift from the original charcuterie-focused offerings to a New American, farm-to-table, comfort vibe that had an array of offerings and one of the best burgers in Brooklyn.
“We tried to pivot towards things more familiar, more accessible. There was a market for a good, honest burger, so we spent some time figuring that out and the whole sensibility of the menu moved toward accessible, familiar food, still seasonal. I was still ambitious at the same time and wanted my farmer’s market cred,” Rojo says .
‘The best we can hope for’
With Daniel in the kitchen and partner Dawn Kinstle behind the bar with her effusive personality and innovative cocktails, Lot 2 quickly became a neighborhood favorite, bolstered by a popular Sunday Dinner prix fixe that exemplified the restaurant’s identity.
And then the pandemic came. And being open for business six nights a week became four nights a week. And when January came, four nights a week became two. And then Kinstle left in early May, and Lot 2 had one owner.
“I thought about shutting it down, but I love this place. It’s such a part of my identity,” Rojo says. “It’s such a part of the community.”
The limited schedule has its blessings as it stretches PPE funds and provides a reprieve for Daniel and his staff from the grind of nightly restaurant work during stressful times for service professionals. This reserves energy for Friday and Saturday nights and makes the evenings feel special for both staff and patrons.
Still Rojo is realistic about what the past year has done to all of us.
“There are limits to how much support you can get from a community when they are trying to support so many other people and they are trying to figure out how to support themselves,” he says. ”The two days still give everyone the opportunity to have their weekly visits. It works just enough to kind of keep it going, which has been the best thing we can hope for here.”
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