Eric Finkelstein and Matt Ross, the partners behind the iconic Court Street Grocers, are set to open their first-ever, full-service restaurant concept called The HiHi Room next week, opening doors on Tuesday, November 12th.
Though Court Street Grocers, a family of sandwich shops, has only been open since 2010, it quickly solidified itself as one of the city’s most essential fast casual eating destinations with comforting and playful hoagies and melts (we’re partial to the Uncle Chucky) offered in tandem with regional (and, at the time, hard-to-find) pantry staples like beloved Kewpie Mayo side-by-side with Duke's version. It says a lot that when they expanded to Williamsburg (CSG now has four locations), they were just about the only place that could’ve taken over the closed Saltie storefront without Saltie’s depraved fans starting an uproar. Fittingly, today the Court Street Grocers team celebrates its 9th anniversary.
So you might find it surprising to learn that The HiHi Room, located in Boerum Hill (not too far from the duo’s original Court Street Grocers location in Carroll Gardens), will not be about sandwiches at all. Okay, there will be a few sammies on the breakfast and lunchtime menu. But, the kitchen, led by Battersby (before it closed) chef and co-owner Walker Stern, will be more focused on churning out "regional" dishes like shrimp with butter beans, Cincinnati-style chili with spaghetti, whitefish salad, burgers, scrapple, a play on Crab Louie, as well as vegetable sides. His kitchen, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, will also be led by Marc Howard who had recent postings at The Clocktower and La Mercerie.
Drinks will incorporate Court Street Grocers’ in-house soda bottles, in a beverage menu helmed by Mary Ellen Amato. She worked at Court Street Grocers in the past and was last seen in Red Hook (where she opened her own space called Rita, which closed earlier this year). Amato will adapt classic cocktails, including the Saratoga cocktail, a Hai Tai and a 50/50 martini with house bitters, in addition to wines, beers by Other Half and Folksbier and non-alcoholic options. “Our hope is to provide n/a cocktails that aren’t just sugar and acid. There will be both savory and sweet options, and a house-made ‘five alive’ juice during brunch,” says Amato, adding she doesn’t want anything to feel “dogmatic.”
The space, designed by Oliver Freundlich Design (who has worked with Court Street Grocers on several projects), is pleasant: tartan-like floor tiling, forest green accents, thrifted wall art and and humorous graphic design. The branding for The HiHi Room was done by Small Stuff, who has worked with the team since it first opened, known for making those hats and totes worn by Hot Dads all over Brooklyn. Strong nostalgic references have always been key to Court Street Grocers' identity, perhaps something helped along by Finkelstein and Ross's art school training at RISD.
“We felt strongly that the welcoming name should be reflected in the visual identity… to put a face to the name. We looked at nostalgic references, such as the iconic ‘smiley face’ designed by Harvey Ball in 1972,” shares the Small Stuff team.
Illustrator and part of the family restaurant Shopsin’s in the Essex Market, Tamara Shopsin designed swizzle sticks that double as bubble blowers as well as those kinds of paper-style placemats you see at diners with custom games for the kids, of which there are many in the neighborhood.
The name of their new project comes from the comments section for an Amazon review of a gadget where someone just repeatedly commented “HIHI.” If you head to the Court Street Grocers homepage, you’ll notice HI HI HI HI HI throughout; it’s an inside joke that appears all over.
The HiHi Room is located at 138 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11201 and will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.