Sometimes I find myself far away from home. The other day, I was on 51st between 2nd and 3rd . I came to interview nightlife legend Billy Gilroy (Nell’s, EO, Macao Trading Co.) and ended up having lunch with Billy, his son Devon, and publicist Alan Rish. We met at the Pod Hotel and ate in the Pod Café. I sometimes forget that Manhattan nightlife isn’t just between Canal and Chelsea and that other types of venues like hotel lounges and rooftops are viable and vibrant alternatives to what is often the same-old same-old of downtown. For me, sitting in this outside, art-oriented space with Billy and the prodigal son — Devon happens to be the Pod Café chef — was like a mini-vacation. Years ago, uptowners would flock downtown, but it was rare for a downtown hipster to venture north. Exceptions like the summer parties at Tavern on the Green have always existed, but are still rare. A downtown sensibility in design, service, staffing, and music does find its way into the breeder areas of our town though. The Pod hotel and café recognize that downtown is a state of mind — and that the boutique hotel, which so often embraces downtown aesthetics, is a worldwide trend.
This is a very artsy place for 51st and 3rd. Billy: Yes, that’s the faux-Liechtenstein.
Since you just fed me, I have to say nice things about Devon’s food, which is actually great. Billy: He was at Chanterelle with David Woltocks — my chef now at Macao. I actually met David through Devon. Devon was at EO for a year, then he went to apprentice and went on to the staff at Chanterelle for a year, then he went on to A Voce for a year under Missy Robbins. He’s a serious food person. Another fun thing about Devon is he grew up working for David Barton and Susanne Barsch. David Barton is one of my best friends
David Barton of David Barton gyms — he’s a Chelsea icon — and Susanne Barsch still does those great parties over at Vandam. She is one of my mentors. Devon you worked in this club kid, fashion, gay, party-crowd club world. Which world did you want to live in — the chef world or that fabulous club world? Devon: Well, I was a teenager. I grew up in the country, and I would come to the city and be exposed to all this stuff, so as a teen it was great. I don’t know about pursing it as a full-time career. When I was getting over that — that’s when I started getting into food, around the time I was 18.
What are you trying to do here with the food? Devon: I’m trying to do a simple farmer’s-market-oriented menu. So everything is made in house … probably 85 percent of what we have here is local, so it’s pretty cool. All our jams are made here, we make all our own chocolates, we make all our own cheese.
I just had your mozzarella, which you made in-house. And now I’m having a — what is this? Devon: A strawberry rhubarb truffle.
It’s really good. The food’s great. I feel like I’m in a sanctuary. It’s very peaceful back here Devon: Yeah, it’s quiet here. You can’t hear anything from the street, especially when the jazz is playing. It’s really cool.
Beer and wine? Devon: We’re trying to move towards using microbreweries. So everything is local, American, and then you have the East Coast microbreweries and Finger Lakes wines to kind of compliment wheat we’re doing . I think it’s kind of a fun little foodie place, but it’s very, very simple. Billy: Artisanal.
What’s it like working for your dad? Devon: It’s great.