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‘Uncle Jack’s’ To Open New Concept And Speakeasy On Ditmars

Location of Jacks

Future location of Uncle Jack’s Meat Company

Sept. 3, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge

A Food Network personality and New York City restaurateur has plans to open a sprawling grill and speakeasy concept on Ditmars Boulevard.

Willie “Jack” Degel is the founder of the Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse chain, which has locations in Bayside and Manhattan, and a burger offshoot called Jack’s Shack.

He is also the star of 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.

Called Uncle Jack’s Meat Company, the restaurant will sit at 36-16 Ditmars Blvd., formerly the Square Hardware shop. The property owner confirmed that Degel is leasing the space.

Opening may be several months off, but Degel has already developed extensive plans for what he called the “experience” of Uncle Jack’s Meat Company. He described the restaurant as a “middle-concept, hip, cool, grill environment.”

He ran through several items on the expansive menu, which includes everything from filet mignon to roasted kale to rabbit. Appetizers and sides (“the sides are an experience”) are intended to be shared; they range from roughly $5 to $20 and include meat, seafood, vegetable dishes and more.

“Everything’s farm to table,” he noted.

Specially-created desserts will include a “homemade peanut butter banana jar,” filled with dulce de leche and other toppings, and a “fudge brownie soufflé,” a denser, sundae-like version of the classic dessert.

“I love what’s old, but I like to make it new again,” Degel said.

This philosophy will carry into the décor at Uncle Jack’s Meat Company as well.

“The whole place [will be] built to look like old, early meat warehouse factories, from the meatpacking district in the early 1900s,” he explained. “But then you’re going to have luxurious seating, plush red leather, big stools.”

He will also install a meat case to display different cuts and information about them.

“Like [in] a butcher shop, but it’s a bigger, unique, custom design,” he said. “It’s a visual meat experience.”

Degel plans to seat about 80 in the main dining room, about 40 in a bar-lounge up front, and 25 to 30 in an outdoor dining area.

Meanwhile, in the basement, Degel plans to open a speakeasy called the Laboratory, complete with a passcode-guarded entrance disguised as a meat locker door.

According to Degel, daily code words will be texted to “VIPs” to gain entry to the Laboratory. When asked what makes a VIP, Degel said, “by your affiliation already with the brand.”

“Become a regular, or you’re already a regular at one of my successful restaurants, or you’re networking through my management, my chefs, my people,” he continued.

A Flushing native, Degel said he was drawn to Astoria’s energy.

“I love that Queens and Astoria is more of a melting pot. It has such a mixture of people,” he said. “It’s great that it’s all mixed up, and people like to go out.”

Degel said he is currently in the permitting process, and hopes to open after the new year.



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LOL…Sounds like a trendy ‘smelling diet’ to fight flab! You can then always walk down Ditmars sniff the souvlaki lady stand, sniff the coffee at Dunkins and Starbucks and then sniff a burger and onions on 23 Ave and 31 street. I mentioned the above places because I love passing by those places when I am dieting LOL

Anonymous visitor

This is a great thing for the neihborhood. We need a Whole Foods instead of Trade Fair and we need an Apple Store instead of a TIme Warner Building. Astoria and Ditmars are the place to be. Hip and Cool with still an ethnic Vibe. Instead of putting each other down we should all be proud of our thriving community. The landlords in Astoria built this community with a great deal of hard work and ethnic pride. They embraced tenants and some even cooked for their tenants and made them part of the family. They are the American Dream Go Astoria

Anonymous visitor

I have lived in Astoria my entire life. I am Greek American and I am proud of the changes that are occurring. Anyone who is in Astoria for any period of time is a native. We welcome changes which improve the vibrant nature of our neighborhood. We are slowly becoming the food capitol of the city. Look at Williamsburg and Long Island City. As a home owner I hope you guys invest in the neighborhood and work together to make it the most sought after neighborhood in the city.


There are still a few old and outdated stores in this area that serve very little purpose for this changing community. Before 60Beans Coffee & Tea opened up, there used to be this old newspaper/deli that looked like it had mold growing from the walls and ceilings. I remember walking into one dollar store on Ditmars that reminded me of an episode of Hoarders (some remaining stores still look that way). I bet those landlords cant wait till there lease is up. Happy about this new business…Good Luck ‘Uncle Jack’s’


Nice. I hope he does a couple of shows or advertises the Astoria/Ditmars area even more. It is good for all local business. With on line shopping and big name stores close by, these old stores’ can not stay open. Even the repair people I call order on line and/or shop at places like Home depot for a better array of products and prices. I would rather see these places being leased and renovated then just sit there.


I have eaten at a few of his restaurants, they were all very good but he needs to ditch the fake reality show.


Hey……I prefer mom and pop type businesses….trash the big chains…. ” big name” restaurants do nothing for the neighborhood, they actually increase rental properties for all. Never heard of this guy anyway….i guess its a low end operation. No more Greek or Japanese restaurants ..over saturated.

Leave Astoria As You Found it

Because when rents go up, apartments are shared by random roommates that have no investment in the neighborhood. Because when rents go up, my children cannot afford to live in their own neighborhood. Because when rents go up, I cannot affordably retire in my own neighborhood.


This is happening all over NYC. Taxes increase, rents increase and yes some people move in and some move out! If you cant afford to live in Astoria then move and wait until you get kicked to the curb when rents go up there also. Its a privilege to live in NYC not a right!


Great thing that a prominent NYC restaurateur like Willie Jack Degel is taking an interest and making a significant investment in Astoria. He is influential in the NYC restaurant sector and others may follow his lead. Uncle Jack’s Meat Company can only enhance the value and equity of Astoria.


Wow 99%ers are jealous haters . Go yell at your mother after she bumps your leg by accident in the basement passing your bed with the laundry loser. Dont hate on a guy whos busting his ass busy building an empire while your busy growing your beard! Step aside and shut up because without guys like us men jerkoffs like you would have noone to support you while you lay in bed until noon wodering where you went wrong and who to blame. Keep it up willie, great location best of luck , your friend Mooney


Why don’t all you anti-hipsters pool your funds and open a store you like, instead of bitching about every new business?


Because useful businesses are actually being displaced when neighborhood-destroying assholes chasing the next “vibe” move in with money falling out of their pockets and getting LLs to jack up commercial rents. Does that answer your question? Maybe you’ll start to care when every mom n pop shop is forced out of business and you have to either schlepp to Home Depot or order online every time you need a screw for your cabinet or a plunger.

The freaking hipster cliche dump that is this place has NOTHING original going on, ZERO. It’s a carbon copy of a million other places springing up all over the place.

Perhaps you should refer to these:

Of course, adding the rando “VIP” concept is just another way of saying “we like to sell a false gloss of status to Dbags with too much money.”


I am confused on this issue and am startled by how few others feel the same. I have been in Astoria for 6 years. Am I a local yet or am I part of the problem? Who decides that? I think most of us want to live in a society where new people are welcome and that we recognize that new people will change the place they live in. If money wasn’t involved would this be an issue of intolerance and xenophobia?


What people like you may not be considering here is that what is called ‘gentrification’ is, in reality, the symmetric opposite of degradation. Areas that have been degraded for long and which people fled because of the lack of good urban conditions concerning safety, urban services a.s.o. present the opposite symptoms when revitalized.


Better yet, why doesn’t your gentrifying transplanted self and others of your kind leave the neighborhood the way you found it, or just fkn LEAVE.


I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s in Astoria. Most of my friends fled Astoria in droves for safer streets and better schools. Things change for the worse and things change for the better. Immigration patterns change too. Mom and pop stores are a thing of the past for Astoria. In reality, “shoemakers did not raise their kids to become shoemakers”. I like this new vibrant vibe. It is wonderful to see young adults and families and new business opening in our neighborhood.

Anonymous visitor

Thats ridiculous Astoria was never unsafe
It was full of greeks and italians
People fled back to Greece because of high interest rates which then collapsed and they all came back made money and went to Manhassett

Astoria has always been cool for those of us who grew up here it was an unknown hidden jewel Now discovered by all


Twenty or thirty years ago, Astoria did have an ethnic and religious majority which I found very uniformed and dull…I grew up by Astoria park and I recall the dangers (such as ignorance, prejudice, drugs and crime). Astoria’s cultural diversity of today is a change for the better. The youth of today are more open and accepting of people and things beyond what they know and/or used to (which I believe technology and communication has played a big role in)

Anonymous visitor

What does finishing college have to do wuth anything? You are putting people into categories based on their level of education?.You think you are better because you hold a degree?


Exactly! So people like Anne should stop criticizing “gentrifying” people which is another way of saying people with a formal education that bring in a higher incomes.


NC, OH and NB the true melting pot of Astoria. The heart of Astoria. Take the speak easy and VIP status to the food network.

TownieMagic 8 Ball

I can’t wait to get food in my beard at this Hipster eatery made especially for me and my transplant kind.


Jesus, how many hipster BS clichés can you pack in go one place? Take it to Brooklyn pal. PS enough with the “speakeasy” thing. Simple test: If you advertise and the only criteria for admission is 98.6 and a wallet, it’s not a speakeasy.


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