June 9, 2016 By Michael Florio
Permitting issues have delayed a Food Network personality and New York City restaurateur’s plan to open a sprawling grill and speakeasy concept on Ditmars Boulevard.
Willie “Jack” Degel planned to open his new restaurant, Uncle Jack’s Meat House, at 36-16 Ditmars Blvd. in March, he said.
However, he said he has had issues receiving permits from the city, due to the fact that the shop was previously two distinct buildings, before former tenant Square Hardware knocked down a wall and turned it into one large location.
He said the City now wants him to treat the space like two locations.
“The City wants two separate sprinkler systems, two gas mains, two water mains, and so on,” Degel said.
“It is a complicated process,” he added. “I have never been delayed like this.”
Property owner Salvatore Barretta confirmed that the hold up is due to the split space.
The Department of Buildings did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Degel is meeting with City officials next week and hopes to be able to move forward after that.
He is now hoping to open this fall, targeting September/October.
“We wish we were open already,” he said. “We are ready to feed, entertain and do whatever we can do for our customers.”
Degel is the founder of the Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse chain, which has locations in Bayside and Manhattan, Unlce Jack’s Steak Sandwich Shoppe in Madison Square Garden and a burger offshoot called Jack’s Shack. He is also opening another Uncle Jack’s Meat House in Georgia in July.
The Meat House will differ from the Steakhouse chain, as there is no dress code, and the average check will cost about half as much, according to Degel.
The restaurant will offer a variety of appetizers and salads, as well as burgers, sandwiches, steaks and a full bar.
“This is a much more toned-down version of the steakhouse,” he said.
Appetizers, such as buttery mashed potatoes, roasted local mushrooms, truffle cream corn and Long Island duck meatballs, will run between $8 and $16. Salads will range between $8 and $14. The vegetables, such as the mushrooms and ingredients in the salad, will change depending on what is in season, Degel said.
Entrees will include a long bone pork chop, which is slow roasted, as well as a dish called the Jack Pot, which will have lobster and shrimp cooked in a pot. They will range between $24 and $32. Desserts will range between $7 and $10.
“Everything here is so different,” Degel said.
The bar will feature a variety of craft cocktails, scotches, bourbons and locally brewed beers. It will also have up to 40 wines, all locally sourced.
Some items will be the same as the steakhouse, such as the steak sandwich and the burger. The steaks, such as the prime New York strip and the dry-aged 35-day Fred Flintstone chop. Steaks will start at $45.
The restaurant will have an outdoor café with 30 seats outside. Inside, the bar can seat 32 people, with room for an additional 40 people to stand. The dining room seats up to 90, while a speakeasy-style bar in the basement can seat up to 50 people, according to Degel.
“The restaurant is set up for people to come and share and have a sick experience,” he said. “It is very affordable.”
There will be different music in each section, to help create a different environment in every level of the restaurant, Degel said.
Degel is excited to open in Astoria.
The community-feel, as well as the growth and diversity that the neighborhood offers attracted him to Astoria.
“I would go to Astoria as a little kid and I love the neighborhood,” he said.
He believes the restaurant will thrive with the changing Astoria demographic.
“People are leaving the city [Manhattan],” he said. “All the younger, cooler people are moving to Astoria.”
He is hopeful to establish regulars in the neighborhood, as he has with his previous locations.
“It’s going to be a sick place,” he said. “It’s going to be hot and going to be packed.”
Degel also stars on Food Network’s Restaurant Stakeout, where he assesses restaurants by watching employees through hidden cameras – a practice he keeps at his own establishments, according to the show’s website.