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Vinegar Hill House to expand

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The dream team behind Vinegar Hill House will expand its operation with a cafe next door, giving devotees of the bucolic dinner retreat even more to love — and opponents more to complain about.

Sam Buffa and Jean Adamson, who established the popular and isolated Vinegar Hill eatery almost three years ago, have plans for a 20-seat offshoot with similar old-timey interiors and sophisticated, seasonal fare.

It would open in the fall.

“There’s no place to get coffee or get lunch nearby,” Buffa said. “We hope to be that establishment — a place to go during the day and to relax at night.”

Community Board 2 has recommended a beer and wine license for the new establishment, and the State Liquor Authority is expected to grant the permit within eight weeks.

Minor construction has begun at the corner of Hudson Avenue and Water Street for a café that will serve coffee in the morning, and beer, wine and light noshes throughout the day.

It will feature bar seating, but Buffa said that the new boite is not a pub but a place to unwind. And unlike its 40-seat predecessor, the cafe won’t have outdoor seating.

The existing restaurant accepts limited reservations, so the cafe will also be a place for diners to wait, instead of milling about the desolate cobblestone street.

But not all Vinegar Hill residents are excited.

Vivian Scott, who has lived in Vinegar Hill for 30 years, said diners often leave past midnight and dawdle in the streets as they wait for car services, which honk when they arrive.

“The owners argue that having this extension would take people off the street, but in a way, it just increases the numbers,” said Scott, who protested the restaurant’s expansion at a community board hearing.

Buffa said he would work to control the noise by working with a single car service that won’t need to honk as it makes its postprandial pickups. He said he would also station a hostess outside at 10 pm to make sure people respect the neighbors.

He also denied neighbors’ concerns that the new café is actually a pub in disguise, pointing out that the cafe will close at 11 pm on weekdays and 11:30 pm on weekends.

“A lot of people in the neighborhood think it’s going to be a late-night drinking establishment, but we never wanted that,” Buffa said. “That’s why we never applied for a full liquor license.”

Vinegar Hill House opened in 2008 as the only restaurant in a quiet, largely un-gentrified nine-block neighborhood. The quaint eatery was an instant success, garnering accolades from national media and bringing hordes of diners to the sleepy cobbled streets.

Even before the House opened, local media eagerly awaited the new venture from the hip Manhattan darlings: Buffa is co-owner of the Freemans Sporting Club clothier and barbershop, and Adamson was head chef at Freemans.

Vinegar Hill House [72 Hudson Ave. between Front and Water streets in Vinegar Hill, (718) 522-1018]. For info, visit www.vinegarhillhouse.com.

Updated 7:05 pm, May 24, 2011: Includes more of the most important things in journalism: conflict and context.
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