Top 5 Chefs in Queens
M. WELLS STEAKHOUSE
43-15 CRESCENT ST.
LONG ISLAND CITY
Fans of French-Canadian chef Hugue Dufour were upset when they heard that the original M. Well’s Steakhouse in Long Island City had shut down due to rent issues in 2011. Although Dufour and his wife, Sarah Obraitis, opened up the M. Wells Dinette within MoMa’s PS1 museum, it still hadn’t captured the originally wild and unpredictable restaurant dining experience that they had become known for.
“We were upset that the rent kept increasing because the landlord saw the traffic coming into the diner,” Dufour said. “We had to leave but we eventually opened the dinette to earn enough money that we could reopen our own M. Wells.”
You can easily walk by the joint without realizing it’s a restaurant that was awarded a Michelin star in 2015. Funnily enough, Dufour originally sought out a place that could fit something else he really wanted: a boat. He’ll have to keep looking for a place because the second M. Wells has taken off.
There are a fair amount of dishes that have placed Dufour’s cooking on the tips of everyone’s lips. At a Brooklyn food festival, he once served grilled cheese sandwiches that contained foie gras, pork fat and horse meat. He wanted to serve a dish featuring horse meat at his restaurant, but there was too much public backlash to go through with it. At M. Well’s Dinette, there was a dish featuring chicken blood straight from the butcher. And at his current restaurant, the classic crowd pleaser is Truite Au Bleu. The dish is such a staple that he created a two-ton trough near the bar that houses the live Cold Spring trout.
Dufour first heard about the meal after reading about it in an Ernest Hemingway novel. He explained that the game plan is simple, and all you need to do is “kill it, gut it, drown it in a white vinegar for a couple of seconds, then poach it in salty court-bouillon.”
Unlike most chefs who believe in cooking meals that are in demand, Dufour wants people to experience something that they haven’t had before.
“Unconventional food is tricky but it is important to offer so that people can enjoy different things that they would have never thought of trying before,” Dufour said. “How are people going to know if they like something if they have never tried it?”
After meeting in Florida, Dufour moved to Queens to be closer to the love of his life. Little did he know that he would take the borough to extremes. And Queens has certainly become his second home over cutthroat Manhattan.
“To me, Queens is the better place because this is where real people live and work,” he said. “I’d take a train to Grand Central Terminal and enjoy a meal at The Oyster Bar, but that’s as far into Manhattan that I’ll go.”
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