Oh, what four lowercase letters and a period can do. On Forest Hills' newly rejuvenated Restaurant Row—aka 70th Road—the vacant, boarded-up former location of Rouge sprouted an enticing promotional sign recently. It advertises a new bar and grill that will be opening up in that prime location. It will be known as aged. No, my shift key is not broken, and that full stop acts as both the end of the sentence and the final character in the four-character name of the restaurant. There are no capital letters in the name of this restaurant. There is, on the other hand, punctuation. The name is one syllable, as if to indicate that the owners are too busy and important to add another. And it is — oh, could this possibly be happening? — an adjective.
You can imagine my excitement. Forest Hills, after all, is filled with the kind of Italian restaurants that proudly read “Ristorante Italiano” on their awnings, and one imagines the owners pronounce those words with short, nasal vowels, as Bugs Bunny might—”Riss-ta-RANN-tay Ih-TAIL-i-ANN-o.” You will note that Italian superchef Mario Batali does not open Ristorante Italianos—or is it Ristorantes Italiano? Ristorantes Italianos? Forest Hills alumna Lidia Bastianich would never dream of it, either. Just “Ristorante,” maybe, for a touch of the old country, but the Italiano seems a bit desperate, perhaps indicating that the restaurateur lacks confidence in his or her Italianness.
But I digress. The point is that aged. is a great name for a restaurant. Why? Just because it's the kind of thing that people who know what they're doing name their restaurants, that's why.
I have no evidence whatsoever that aged., which, it must be noted, does not yet exist, will not be terrible. For all I know, Sizzler will grill up a better steak—I presume from the name that steak will be a significant part of the menu. Judging by its location, it will almost assuredly be overpriced, as is its neighbor, fancy new MoCA, a place that offers nearly identical cuisine to a number of local restaurants approaching double digits, its main innovations being a more sparkly exterior and significantly higher prices. But I do know one solitary thing about aged., and that's its name. So far, it's batting 1.000.
Somehow, in this astoundingly nightmarish economy, Forest Hills is classing up a bit. Exhibit B: öko, a new yogurt-coffee-and-dessert place on Austin Street, whose name, while nonsense, is one letter shorter than aged. and also contains an umlaut. Listen to how awesome öko is: It peddles sour yogurt and fair-trade coffee, bakes homemade cookies and pies throughout the day, and its two other locations are in the East Village and Park Slope. Its website boasts that it “is a proud member of Businesses donating 1% of Sales to the Natural Environment,” whatever that means.
I paid a visit to öko last weekend, on exactly the kind of unseasonably frigid day that calls for a cup of fair-trade coffee, and business was booming. The people working behind the counter were chatty and concerned, and my chocolate-walnut blondie was delicious. Is this really the same one-square-block area where Twin Donut (motto: “When Dunkin Donuts has too much dignity to move in”) is set to open?
The business that öko was doing validates what I've been saying about Forest Hills for years. Businesspeople are finally starting to notice the obvious reality: When a worthwhile, well-thought-out, reasonably with-it business opens around here, it succeeds, every single time. I don't know how aged. will do, but if it looks nice, the service could be worse, and the food is halfway decent, people will show up — I promise.
Twin Donut is still coming, dollar stores and chintzy discounters abound, and the high-end retailers the luxury Windsor condo clearly was holding out for never quite made it—developers Cord Meyer eventually gave up and submitted to a veterinary clinic and the inevitable tanning salon. But the next time you see a disappointing new business open up here in town—and there will be a next time, and it will be soon—just remember: It's not because we can't support better. It's just for lack of trying.
The writer, Steve Tiszenkel is the host of the Website, queenscentral.com. Log on to read more about Forest Hills and surrounding neighborhoods.