One partner is a father of three – two of which are one-month-old twins; Happy Father's Day, indeed! – and a veteran business man. The other is taller, though similar-looking, and fully immersed in culinary creativity. Together they form the well-balanced brother duo behind the new shop about to debut on Tarrytown's Main Street tonight just in time for Third Friday.
John Van Dekker (biz man/dad/pig mascot t-shirt) and Carl Van Dekker (tall foodie, vest and tie) met me in the still-spare but lovely former space. I never noticed the big windows before – blocked as they were by piles of rare boxed treats and olive oil bottles – or the shiny stainless hood in the back. That's about all that remains from the previous gourmet tenant. The brothers did all the renovation work themselves, save for making the stools and chairs and farming out some veneering assistance on the long dark wood counters (care of Eric Clingen, expert woodworker, around the corner).
They've made a lot of friends here while they've been at work in the months since Hassan Jarane moved across the street – various Villagers popped their heads in as we talked. But they also already had friends here. Carl spent some time (from 2004-2005) in the kitchen of .
The story goes that Carl actually came into Mint one day to get items to prepare for a BBQ he was doing with his chef friends (heritage pork belly sausage with kimchi and plum ketchup) when he found out Jarane was leaving and “it just clicked that this food would fit in Tarrytown and specifically in this space,” Carl said. Tarrytown, he said, is “a phenomenal community. One of a handful in Westchester with the vibrancy that it has.”
Then it was time to sell his perhaps more practical brother on the idea. They had been talking about doing a “white tablecloth” kind of place in the city together, but Carl fell in the love with the simplicity of doing one thing and doing it really well. “Small batch, highest quality.”
For brother John, it wasn't a go for him “until I tasted the food.” (On this occasion, it happened to be: salmon sausage, cucumber kraut, lemon aioli). Now that they've been so busy as carpenters, there hasn't been time for the food and “I'm dying for it,” John said.
These guys, despite Carl's most recent stint in LA and both of them doing the “requisite time in the City,” consider themselves Rivertown boys. They are from Hastings, where Carl now lives again at the urging to come back East from his brother. John lives in Cortlandt with his young family. Food runs in the family: their father went to Cornell School of Restaurant and Hotel Management and always worked in restaurants.
The brothers' background is widely divergent. John, has worked in a “couple Fortune 100 companies," and since then, he's opened a few businesses of his own. He's president of an insurance agency with a branch in Portland, ME and has a start-up web publishing business, both of which he will continue heading “to pay the bills.”
Carl, on the other hand, with a pedigree that also includes Gramercy Tavern and catering in LA, will be the guy squeezing sweetmeats into sausage casing on site. Which brings us to the unique vision for this venue: Village Dog doesn't see themselves stepping on the toes of nearby (or around the corner, for that matter, rounding out our new village dog fetish with a small menu of dressed dogs).
Here, you have “artisanal sausages” made from rare heritage hogs and grass fed beef and and even vegetarian options, all from local farms (like Flying Pigs) and using no preservatives or nitrates. The bread will come on a truck from Balthazar (that also happens to deliver pastry to ).
Until the kitchen was ready here, Carl's been making condiments and fermenting cabbage for kimchi in the kitchen space he is borrowing at Gramercy Tavern. There will be 28 such toppings on the menu. Even the soda will be housemade, for which the guys were up to 3 a.m. the other night installing a tap system.
Prices for dogs will start around $4, more for the sustainably caught salmon (since “it's important to protect our waterways,” said Carl). A handful of sides will include chili, soup. The menu ranges from classic (dog, craut, mustard) to the nod to their predecessor “Hassan” (lamb merquez, pepper relish and tziki).
For now though, consider tonight during Third Friday the “soft” opening with a few tasting menu items. Monday will be the real deal with the menu ready to go. There will be a dozen seats, though one hates to cover the beautiful terra cotta tiles which look imperfect in just the right way. The walls will feature their favorite animal but done up tongue-in-cheek, American Gothic (with pig heads) and their dapper pig mascot.
Though there's certainly other meat to be had here, the pig gets special love. “It's so classic American," Carl said. "The image of the American farm, the pig is ubiquitous to it.” Classic Americana also defines the hotdog. “We're taking something very approachable and relatable and doing something very different.”
For more info, see their website: villagedogtarrytown.com