Raising the Restaurant Scene'New York has this gravitational force that people come here to create.'
"I feel like New York City runs through my bloodstream," says Michael Chernow, a native New Yorker and co-owner of the city's successful and expanding restaurant group The Meatball Shop. After just two years since debuting their no-frills establishment on the Lower East Side, Chernow and business partner Daniel Holzman are preparing to open their fifth location.
The restaurant offers, what else? Meatballs! But with diverse options that reflect the city in which it was conceived. "I think being able to customize a meal with your protein of choice, vegetable of choice, starch of choice is fun," Chernow says. "It's an experience. It's sort of like a choose-your-own-adventure approach to dining."
Chernow attributes his near-instant success as a restaurateur to the "eclectic, diverse, multifaceted place" he calls home. "Whatever you're looking for, you can indulge in any which way shape or form you'd like to, and sort of learn from amazing people," he says. "It's a melting pot of entrepreneurs and creatives that I thrive off of.
"New York City is arguably one of the most creative places on the planet," he adds. "New York has this gravitational force that people come here to create. Growing up here, I was exposed to it."
That exposure began at LaGuardia Arts high school — the inspiration for the 1980s TV series "Fame" — which both he and Holzman, The Meatball Shop's executive chef, attended. It continued as he worked at bars and restaurants in and around the city, where he regularly engaged patrons in conversation. In fact, one of The Meatball Shop's original investors was a regular at Frank on Second Avenue, where Chernow managed the bar for many years.
"My networking and business relationship skills and abilities were learned here in New York," he says. "I don't know how I would attribute any of my success had I not been exposed to the many people who have paved the path before me."
Chernow will talk to anyone, and he continues to build the relationships that boost his business at Soho House, a private, members-only club for people working in creative industries. The facility, which includes a restaurant, spa and heated rooftop pool, also provides an escape from his busy offices. "My door is open and people tend to knock on it a lot," he says. "I come to the Soho House once or twice a week, put on my headphones and just kind of get through all the emails I have to get through."
When he needs a complete disconnect, Chernow visits the Russian & Turkish Baths on 10th Street. He'll follow up with a cigar at Velvet Cigar Lounge. "If I take a 'Michael Chernow day,' then that's what I'm doing," he says. But what he enjoys most is spending time with his wife, visiting their favorite eateries in SoHo and the West Village.
An athlete, Chernow frequently makes long-distance runs through the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan, finding it a great time to think about his growing business. Chernow says his favorite routes take him across the East River bridges. "The run from Brooklyn to Manhattan when it's evening and the sun is coming down is one of the most beautiful, spiritual experiences," he says.
Check out Michael's New York City.