Cited by New York Magazine as offering ‘The Best Pancakes’ I didn’t need much persuasion to have a sneaky look into Clinton Street Baking Company.
Located in Downtown Dubai this New York casual restaurant is best known amongst foodies for its all-day breakfast offerings and delectable dishes having created quite a storm on the UAE culinary scene since its inception last year.
In the style of a modern-day diner, Clinton Street is a relaxed, unpretentious eatery that prides itself on offering delicious comfort food for the masses. Clinton Street Baking Company was initially launched in 2001 with the sole aim of making the best baked goods New Yorkers had ever tasted and since then has grown to be quite the global player. In 2014, brothers Hisham and Ashraf Samawi brought the concept to the Middle East and opened the Downtown Dubai outlet.
I spoke to co-owners of Clinton St. Baking Co. and Community Food & Juice, dynamic duo and husband and wife team, Chef Neil Kleinberg and DeDe Lahman as well as Hisham himself on the concept behind this unique eatery as well as their plans for the future.
What was the reasoning behind the opening of Clinton Street Dubai?
Hisham: I used to live in New York right around the corner from Clinton Street Baking Company. It was my neighborhood restaurant and my favorite restaurant in New York. Wasn’t long before the rest of New York discovered it and I started having to wait for 2 hours just to get in. When I moved to Dubai in 2006 I quickly realized there was nothing like Clinton Street here. My friends were always complaining about how there were no good breakfasts or high quality American restaurants in Dubai. One day, when I was visiting New York and eating at Clinton Street, it occurred to me that I should try to bring it to Dubai. I sent them an email to see if they were interested and was pleasantly surprised to hear they were open to the idea and the rest is history.
Clinton Street is essentially a family business, how does this strength show through in the brand, and translate to the Dubai branch?
Dede: As a family business, everything we do is done with love and care. We have created a business that supports what we love to do (cook well and feed people good food) and because our names are attached we are always motivated to proceed with quality and style. Our Dubai branch is also owned and operated by family members who uphold the same quality and care.
Clinton Street has successfully won many awards since its inception in 2001, are there any Middle East awards that you have your eye on winning?
Hisham: Awards are always nice to get as validation for the hard work you put into it but you really can’t focus on them. All I am worried about is providing the highest quality food and service possible. There’s not many casual dining restaurants using the kind of ingredients we are or putting the amount of effort into preparing the food so I’m sure the awards will come soon enough.
Clinton Street has been cited as having the best blueberry pancakes in New York City, something the residents of Dubai will be excited to hear, what is the secret behind this breakfast staple?
Hisham: People think making something like pancakes is a very simple thing but Neil has perfected the recipe, which is the recipe we use here in Dubai. It is a combination of technique and using the highest quality ingredients possible. All the ingredients we use in our pancakes are organic from the eggs to the milk to the blueberries, which is why you get a burst of flavor in every bite. People are always shocked when they try our pancakes because they didn’t know pancakes could taste this good.
How did the idea for Clinton Street come about?
Dede: Clinton Street was launched in 2001 as a small neighborhood bakery and slowly we evolved into a full on restaurant based on the needs of the neighborhood. We just started serving what we thought our neighbors and guests wanted to eat and very quickly word on the street got around that we had pretty stellar food. “nothin-fancy-just-good-eats” is what NY Magazine wrote about us and we thought that was very apt. We believe we elevate American classics to the next level and are proud to serve the most comfortable luxurious food around!
Clinton Street is one of the few American bakeries and restaurants in Dubai, do you think this has contributed to its year long success?
Hisham: Clinton Street opened with a bang and overwhelming support from Dubai because it filled a void that has existed in Dubai for high quality casual dining with an emphasis on all day breakfast. Most places stop serving breakfast at 11:30 am but we serve our full breakfast menu from 8am-11pm daily and even serve breakfast for dinner. At the end of the day a restaurant will only get continued support if it has good food and service which is why we emphasize providing the best we can all the time. PR and marketing or a brand name might get them in the door the first time but it is the quality that keeps them coming back for more. That and Chicken n Waffles…
Are there any plans to open further outlets in the Middle East?
Hisham: We have the license for the whole Middle East and will be expanding to other countries with time. Many brands get hot and expand too quickly which sometimes compromises quality. Our goal is to always maintain the highest level of quality so we can provide the same amazing food throughout the region.
Downtown Dubai is an area that is being rapidly developed, was this the reason for it being Clinton Street’s first Dubai location?
Hisham: Downtown Dubai is the iconic epicenter of Dubai with a great captive market of residential and offices. We wanted to avoid being in commercial areas such as malls because we wanted to give our customers a true and authentic feel for what we do. The layout of the Burj Views location actually mimics our New York branch.
What differentiates Clinton Street from the vast amounts of restaurants in the City?
Hisham: Clinton Street may seem like a simple and casual restaurant but the amount of work we put into the food and the quality of the ingredients we serve is very hard to find. The salmon we use for our salmon Benedicts is actually smoked in house from wild Norwegian salmon. We make our own ice cream from organic milk to use in our milkshakes. We make our own hot sauces, raspberry jam and smoke our beef ribs in house for 15 hours to get them the way we want them. We make everything in house in order to provide the best tasting food we can. We also serve dishes that you cannot get anywhere else in Dubai such as our iconic Fried Chicken and Waffles.
It’s very rare when customers say a certain dish is the best they have ever had but we hear that a lot about many of our dishes.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu and the one Dubai residents must try?
Unanimous:The dish that has become our iconic best seller is our Fried Chicken and Waffles. It’s an amazing combination of salty and sweet, soft and crispy. It may sound like an odd combination but it just works.