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Interview with Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske of Best New Restaurant Nominee Wildair

Anna Mowry

May 02, 2016

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With its unfussy food and vibe, it's no surprise that Wildair, the second effort from Contra's Fabian von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone, has become both a critical and industry favorite. In our final interview with chefs who oversee our 2016 Best New Restaurant nominees, the duo discusses Wildair's origins, broad appeal, and signature dishes. 

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JBF: Wildair is named after an 18th-century prize-winning racehorse that lived in the neighborhood. First of all, how did you find out about this random historical fact? How much is the neighborhood’s history reflected in the menu and atmosphere?

JS and FvH: Jeremiah found the name while looking on Wikipedia. We liked that it had a historical connection to the Lower East Side. We base ourselves as a neighborhood restaurant in the present day, while looking into the past to pay tribute to the places that existed before us, like wd-50, Russ & Daughters, and others. These guys paved the way for us, establishing roots in the neighborhood long before we had opened. 

JBF: Your wine program consists of only natural wines. Can you talk about why you decided to go in this direction and how it’s been received by diners?

JS and FvH: It’s what we drink exclusively—we love it. Not to mention, our wine director, Jorge Riera​, is really passionate about natural wines, so it made a lot of sense for both restaurants (Contra and Wildair) to have strong natural wine lists. From natural wine lovers, the feedback has been amazing. As for guests who might not be as familiar with natural wines, everyone is typically very open to trying new things.

JBF: Can you talk about a dish or two on the menu that really capture the restaurant's point of view or philosophy?

JS and FvH: Two savory dishes would be the tartare and the potato darphin. They are both dishes that are best complemented with a glass of wine. It's the style of food we would want to eat if we were dining out. And for dessert, we always offer two options at Wildair: a tart and a panna cotta. Fabian envisioned simpler desserts that you might not see on the menu at Contra. The chocolate tart may be unassuming, but the idea was for it to be the best tart—and one you truly enjoy eating.

JBF: Wildair is very popular with chefs. Why do you think people in the industry are so into what you guys are doing?

JS and FvH: At the end of the day we want to have fun, while keeping it interesting and stripped down—we want it to always be a place where industry folks and everyday diners can come by for a great meal.

JBF: What are some of your favorite places to dine out in NYC when you’re not working? And what do you like to order? 

JS and FvH:  Always and forever, Minetta Tavern’s burger. We also love Estela and the ricotta dumplings there.

JBF: Last question: if you’re planning on coming to Chicago for the Beard Awards, where are you hoping to eat while you’re there?

JS and FvH: As many places as we have time for! We’ll probably make sure Parachute is on the list, as well as any of Rick Bayless’s places.

Learn more about the 2016 James Beard Awards.

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Anna Mowry is special projects manager at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.