Restaurant hopes fresh+fast=success

The restaurant at 145 Bruckner Blvd. has no tables for patrons, but men in hardhats, denim and Dickies, cram into the 400-square-foot eatery, ordering lunch from the owner, Hercules Kontogiannis, who is also the cashier.

Out of the Box restaurant opened Sept. 9 at 145 Bruckner Boulevard.

Workers are fans of new Bruckner Boulevard eatery

The restaurant at 145 Bruckner Blvd. has no tables for patrons, but men in hardhats, denim and Dickies, cram into the 400-square-foot eatery, ordering lunch from the owner, Hercules Kontogiannis, who is also the cashier.

Out the Box, which opened on September 10, is Kontogiannis’ first restaurant but the sixth to occupy the space in the last four years. Despite the bad karma Kontogiannis is convinced that a demand for food and a lack of restaurants nearby, along with an extensive menu, will keep his doors open.

Although Out of the Box has just three employees and no room for cold storage, the menu includes everything from pizza and salmon burgers to gyros and chicken.

“I just didn’t want to concentrate on one thing. I didn’t want to do pizza or just hamburgers,” said Kontogiannis. Focusing on just one type of food, he said, may have contributed to past restaurant failures in the area.

But it is the absence of storage space that really makes the menu unique. It forces Kontogiannis to buy fresh ingredients every day.

The 34-year-old said he initially thought buying perishable supplies daily was an inconvenience, but it quickly became a selling point and part of his brand: variety and high-quality food.

“A person’s going to spend his money on eating, and he’s going to spend it on eating right,” Kontogiannis said.

Quite a few people think Out the Box has the right stuff.

“It’s thick, it’s juicy, it’s awesome,” said Michael Sweeney of the burgers.

Sweeney, a construction worker who has worked in the area for the past two months, welcomed an alternative to McDonald’s. He thinks the restaurant will survive so long as the food stays as fresh and tasty as it is now.

When he first viewed the property, Kontogiannis said, he walked the neighborhood, asking residents, business owners and employees if they wanted an eatery on the block. There was little debate.

“They sort of said they need it, not just want it,” said Kontogiannis.

The surrounding neighborhood is flooded with construction crews working on developments up and down the street. The crews had few places they could go on their standard 30-minute lunch breaks.

Before the restaurant opened, Raymon Martinez had to walk up to 137th Street, leaving him almost no time to eat, he said.

To save the workers time, the restaurant allows customers to call-in their orders ahead of time.

Kontogiannis said neighbors have pitched-in to help. He said a woman who lives in a unit above the restaurant hands out menus to passersby as she walks her daughter to school to help drum-up new business.

The neighborhood, said the grateful entrepreneur, is “very genuine.”

A version of this story appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of the Mott Haven Herald.

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