Smith Street is not so ‘Bueno’ anymore

Smith Street pioneer Jim Mamary has closed Bueno — and is moving to New Jersey.
The Brooklyn Paper / Andy Campbell

The pioneer of the Smith Street foodie scene has abandoned Brooklyn — and another restaurant legend says he’s heading out the door, too.

Jim Mamary, the restaurateur who built a French empire along the previously desolate strip in the late 1990s, abruptly closed three of his eateries last week without warning anyone (including his workers!). Now he’s moving to New Jersey (yes, that New Jersey), the Real Deal reported last week. The result? Bueno and Since 1963 in Boerum Hill, Fly Fish in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and a handful of hungry workers join the ranks of Mamary’s ebbing empire.

That’s bad enough, but Alan Harding, one of Mamary’s brothers-in-arms in Smith Street’s heyday, told The Brooklyn Paper today that he’s going to join his pal in the Garden State as soon as humanly possible.

“My hat’s off to him — he wants to go enjoy his quality of life,” Harding said. “It’s getting a lot harder to make a buck in Brooklyn. Rents [on Smith Street] are predatory. I’m right behind him.”

The closing of Mamary’s eateries are following in the footsteps of Patois, Mamary and Harding’s pioneering French restaurant, whose garlic snails changed the street’s unsatisfied face forever.

It’s unclear exactly what Mamary plans to do with the five remaining restaurants in which he still holds stakes: Pomme de Terre, Gowanus Yacht Club, Black Mountain Wine House, Café Enduro and Zombie Hut.

And Harding still has a piece of the Gowanus Yacht Club in Carroll Gardens, Pacifico in Boerum Hill and Sweetwater in Williamsburg.

And even today, there are plenty of restaurant owners on Smith Street who still hold Mamary in the highest regard, even though Bueno et al just weren’t making the cut.
Worse, Bueno broke the first commandment: Thou shalt not change thy name every two weeks.

“Bueno had great food,” said Maio Martinez, owner of Sample bar between Bergen and Wyckoff streets. “But it closed and opened a lot, [changing names from] Gravy to the Fish Shack to this.”

Martinez added that Mamary’s influence on the dining scene may have actually been his own downfall — restaurants springing up over the past five years on the strip have oversaturated the area with competition.

Her advice for would-be restaurateurs considering Smith Street?

“Go somewhere else,” she said.

And Alan Harding, the other Brooklyn restaurant pioneer, says he's next!
The Brooklyn Paper file / Gregory P. Mango

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