On a perennially hip stretch of Lafayette Street, between Prince and Spring, sits Jack’s Wife Freda. Even here, most neighborhood eateries are mostly vacant throughout the sort of culinary purgatory that takes place during the transition from lunch to dinner, especially on a weekday. To the surprise of passersby, this relatively new Soho stalwart is constantly bustling, and diners feel as if they’re walking in on an impromptu party – regardless of the time they come in.
In a neighborhood known for its exclusivity and of-the-moment cool, Jack’s Wife Freda is the kind of place where people linger over glasses of wine, share bites of Greek salad or grilled haloumi across the long, communal table, and people-watch through the windows that look out on one of Soho’s busier thoroughfares. It’s a restaurant that feels like home. Owners Dean and Maya Jankelowitz share a decidedly New York love story. They met working at nearby mainstay (and Keith McNally crown jewel) Balthazar – she as a maitre’d, he as a waiter. It seems only natural they’d eventually open a place of their own, and the result is both a product and labor of love.
Named for Dean’s grandparents, Jack and Freda, the restaurant is a testament to their love for each other and their penchant for entertaining. “In their house, it was always warm. There were always people over,” Maya told us. “Freda would even put candy in people’s pockets when they weren’t looking, and we do the same thing now with the chocolates we serve with our coffee.” All their devotion has paid off – Jack’s Wife Freda has been wildly popular since it opened two years ago.
The crowd, many of them regulars who often stop to chat with Maya and Dean, is a stylish Soho microcosm. From a seat at the bar, one may see groups of well-suited older men and expertly dressed down fashion girls at neighboring tables. The space is infused with cute and quirky design – from the menus to the sugar packets. “We wanted to foster that cafe atmosphere, with a European feel,” Dean explained. “You can do whatever you like – make the cafe part of your life, part of your culture.” Here, the food is light, with Mediterranean influences – homey, satisfying, and reasonably priced.
For those seeking a taste of Soho, Jack’s Wife Freda is truly in, and of, the neighborhood. When asked why he thinks the neighborhood has embraced the restaurant, Dean said simply, “We bring a low-key element to a high-profile neighborhood. It’s something that people are looking for.”
Jack’s Wife Freda
224 Lafayette Street
New York, NY
– Francesca Giacco
(Photos courtesy of Jack’s Wife Freda)