From India To Spain: Bindi To Become Jamonera

What do you do when you’ve got three restaurants and a food market, a spare liquor license and an underperforming Indian BYOB? If you’re Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney, you drop the Indian concept and turn the space into a Spanish wine bar. On September 24, the pair will close Bindi, their 4-year-old Indian restaurant across the street from Barbuzzo, and reopen it as Jamonera sometime between early December and early January.

The explanation for the drastic replacement?

“After a while you get tired of hearing people say, ‘We don’t eat Indian food,’” sighs Safran.

The BYOB, cash-only Bindi has proven a poor fit for the neighborhood and with the ever-growing epicurean empire Safran runs with her partner, Turney.

“As a business model, a BYOB is fine when you’re not paying a chef and someone else to run the front of the house,” she says. “But we pay a lot of money to keep top people. Otherwise, they go somewhere else.”

Futher, Safran points out that the neighborhood gets a lot of tourists who don’t get the BYO thing and who aren’t prepared to pay in cash. But as a BYO, Bindi’s revenues couldn’t support the thousands of dollars a year it would take to accept credit cards or reservations through an outside online system like Open Table. (In case you’re wondering why Lolita, the pair’s bring-your-own-tequila restaurant, is different, Safran says Lolita has a long-standing reputation and makes money off its creative and ever-changing margarita mixes.)

When Safran and Turney decided to bring a second liquor license into their corporation, they first thought they’d bring it to Bindi. Then they realized it probably wouldn’t provide enough payoff, so instead, they turned toward something they know. Safran studied in Seville as a college student and was a Spanish teacher in a former life. The two frequently travel to Spain and have another trip planned for fall. A Spanish restaurant, then, was a logical choice.

They’re bringing in Urban Space to redesign the interior and add a ten-person bar to the front. They’ll serve small plates, not tapas, which are smaller, and they aim to cultivate a space that puts patrons at ease. Their name, Jamonera, refers to the stand a Serrano ham sits on to be cut.

And, voila (or however you say that in Spanish or one of the 18 official Indian languages), by the beginning of next year the world will have one more Spanish wine bar and one less Indian BYOB.

“Ten years into opening restaurants, you learn a little something,” concludes Safran. “And people’s perception of Indian food is limited.”

Bindi [Official website]

The Safran/Turney Empire [We Love 13th Street]