Most restaurateurs specialize in one style of food—burgers, steak or Mexican—with one audience, either high-end or quick-service. And then there are partners, Adam Schop and Stephane Bibeau, who are making a name for themselves in New York City, based on their eclectic style of eateries.
Their firm SB Hospitality has opened Steak Frites Bistro, a French Bistro that specializes in steak, Zillions Pizza, an old-fashioned pizza joint, and Lovely’s Old-Fashioned, a lunch counter that serves burgers for under $10. All are located in Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood once known for its gangs, that has been gentrified and borders Times Square, where Broadway plays, hotels and tourists predominate.
Schop, a former chef and restaurateur who is also a partner in Miss Lily’s, a Jamaican eatery in the East Village (which closed its SoHo outpost during the pandemic) with another at the Skylark Hotel in Negril, Jamaica, joined forces with Bibeau, whose background is commercial real-estate and building development. To capitalize the three eateries, they combined a variety of sources including self-funding, three separate angel investors and part-debt.
Bibeau has been involved in Hell’s Kitchen for 30 years “knows all the people on the street, in the stores and in the walk-ups and is the unofficial mayor of Hell’s Kitchen,” said Schop, who brings his creative expertise with food and recipes to the partnership.
They opened the three eateries in quick succession: Zillions Pizza in February 2022 followed by Lovely’s Old-Fashioned in April 2022 and Steak Frites Bistro in December 2022. Steak Frites accommodates 70 guests inside with 8 on its terrace, Zillions squeezes in about 12 standing room only and Lovely’s has 10 counter seats.
Though formulaic eateries work for many restaurateurs, these entrepreneurs are demonstrating that an independent spirit and finding niches in a defined market can succeed as well.
For Schop, the proximity of the eateries meant as much as the diverse cuisine. “We have a group of people who love to work with us, so if we can leverage their expertise and human capital, we can open a few locations with a core group of die-hard talent,” he said.
Concentrating their three eateries in Hell’s Kitchen seems right because “of the redevelopment of the Westside and influx of travelers to midtown, it would be the perfect place to organically grow our hospitality company,” he said.
Location, location, location
Why open a French bistro steakhouse behind the Port Authority Bus Terminal, that many consider seedy. Schop replies that it’s a strategic location two blocks east of the Javits Center, four blocks north of Moynihan Station and Hudson Yards, and in proximity to a slew of hotels, attracting tourists.
Steak Frites Bistro came naturally to Schop, who is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and cooked in several French and fine-dining eateries.
On Ninth Avenue, its rent is lower than closer to Times Square, and “that works well with square footage and resources we need to operate a busy restaurant, open 7 days a week for lunch, brunch and dinner,” Schop noted. It can spend more on “dry-aged steaks and big red wines,” he said proudly.
How Are They Competing Against the Established Steak Houses
Asked how Steak Frites Bistro can compete against heavyweights such as Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn, Wolfgang Steak House and Benjamin Steak House, among many, he replied that their bistro/steakhouse offers “better value for our steaks than competitors.” Diners can choose a double cut rib steak for two for $92, less expensive than most rivals. .
Then the duo opened Zillions Pizza, on 42nd Street, so why move from an upscale French bistro to a casual pizza joint, which seems like a detour in the road. “Who doesn’t love pizza?” Schop replied, and he added that the corridor between 8th Avenue and 11th Avenue, right on 42nd Street, had a scarcity of pizza shops.
Zillion’s also has a marquee that makes it look like a theater, saying Voted Best Pizza in Hell’s Kitchen. “The Marquee is a not-so-subtle throwback to storefronts of the theaters that once peppered the Deuce (nickname of 42nd Street) in a time not too long ago.,” he said. Besides pizza, the menu consists of chicken wings, baked pasta and fresh prepared salads.
Burgers For Under $10 in NY City Is a Rarity
New York Times restaurant reviewer Pete Wells described Lovely’s Old Fashioned on Ninth Avenue, as a “non-greasy spoon with smart details.” The burger bun is “buttered and toasted and the patty has been seared on the griddle but not completely steamrollered.”
Besides its signature burger, the menu offers onion rings, French fries and hot dogs. “Our guests say it reminds them a place they went to when they were growing up, irrespective of where they grew up,” he said.
Next up, the duo is planning Local 42, where Dave’s Tavern, a quintessential New York City dive bar, that stood for years, which closed during the pandemic. It’s slated to debut by late October or early November once Con Edison does it magic.
Schop wants Local 42 to be a “safe place for tourists and locals, offering inexpensive drinks and better than average food.”
They have no definitive plans for establishment #5, but the partners need to “look inward, making sure all of the operations are stable and growing, and are honing in on all the opportunities that are ongoing,” noted Schop.
Asked the key to the success of their soon to be four establishments, Schop doesn’t miss a beat and replied, “It’s quite simple: people. It’s the people who work here and the people who spend their hard-earned money on our food.”