Seeking what he calls a “new way forward,” Pat O’Malley is changing the name of Hungry Pigeon, the Queen Village restaurant that took a public beating four months ago after racist online comments by his former business partner.
Hungry Pigeon will become Fitz and Starts, effective Oct. 14. The last day as Hungry Pigeon will be Oct. 11.
“It’s a bit tongue in cheek,” O’Malley said of the name, playing off the location at Fourth and Fitzwater Streets and “everything that’s going on in the industry and obviously with our own personal history."
In early June, staffers lashed out after a string of posts on former partner Scott Schroeder’s now-deleted Instagram account, including one that read, “Thank you Black America. You had me at hip hop and fried chicken.” The staffers denounced what they called Schroeder’s “anti-Black rhetoric as well as his recent lashing out at former employees." Neighbors festooned the restaurant windows with messages of protest.
The restaurant briefly closed. Schroeder quickly stepped away from the restaurant, and later ceded his interest to O’Malley, who continues as the sole owner.
Other changes, besides the name:
There is no tipping — rather a 20% service fee added to all checks that O’Malley says raises wages among both front-of-house and back-of-house employees. He’s hired some new workers, “but a bunch of people stayed on after that situation with Scott went down.”
A bottle shop, with a small wine list and beers from local producers such as Tired Hands and Stickman Brews, will be added, as well as a retail bakery. “You can pop in on your way home for a loaf of bread and some pastries and a bottle of wine for dinner,” O’Malley said.
The menu overall is more casual. Where Hungry Pigeon’s brunch was light and easy, dinner was, in O’Malley’s words, “kind of elevated. … We’re trying to maintain a sort of luncheonette-cafe-bar vibe" at Fitz and Starts. Rather than push boundaries, “we’re trying to find a middle ground of things being comfortable and recognizable and good and delicious but also not being that far out of the box.” In sum, dinner will feel more like brunch was, with sandwiches and seasonal vegetables. “Things like ratatouille, and a seasonal pasta dish and warm vegetable salads, pickles, cheeses.” He described it as “somewhere between Fountain Porter and Good King Tavern.”
O’Malley, who was pastry chef at Balthazar in New York before he and Schroeder opened Hungry Pigeon in January 2016 to great acclaim, said he has moved into a role as an administrator. Colin Freeman, last at Kensington Quarters, is now chef, and Emily Buckman, a Parc alumna, is pastry chef. (Her brother Ethan owns Stickman Brews.)
Fitz and Starts will operate outdoors only for now, from Wednesday to Sunday with brunch from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends, opening at 5 p.m. those days for dinner.