It’s hard out there for cyclists living in New York City. Not only do we to contend with the world’s most hellish drivers but we also have to negotiate space for our bikes in Lilliputian apartments. Wouldn’t it be nice for a cyclist to just have a place to chill and quench the hunger and thirst from a long day’s ride?
Enter The Cannibal Beer and Butcher Shop. It’s the next-door offshoot of Resto, from owner Christian Pappanicholas, a combination deli and bar with over 450 beers and a small plates selection. It also has a retail shop that sells cycling gear.
With the Tour de France coming up on Saturday, June 29th, we couldn’t think of a better time to sit down with Pappanicholas to get the inside dish about The Cannibal: everything from the name (which is not an homage to Hannibal Lecter) to what beers really go best after a long day’s ride.
You don’t find too many places based around cycling, what made you interested?
There was a friend of mine who was on the wrestling team with me in high school and he was a big cyclist. I don’t know why it was intriguing but I always thought like he rode 30 miles at a time – that’s crazy. I went and bought a bike, but it was just recreation for me. I played competitive tennis my entire life, so I didn’t ride that much because I was playing for five hours a day. But when I came out of college, not being on the court anymore, one night one of my really good friends and I were at a bar and we talked about doing the marathon, and the bartender said, “You should do a triathlon.”
The best ideas come while drinking in bars.
True. So I got my bike and tuned it up. The next year, I did a triathlon and I loved it. Ten years later, and 19 triathlons later, I still ride my bike a lot. I wanted to get into real racing, just never had the time. It was a way to be in nature and obviously keep yourself in good shape. In the industry we work in, it’s not always easy.
Where do you ride?
We ride up the George Washington Bridge, to Nyack or Bear Island. Maybe we’ll go to Long Island. Because of The Cannibal we’ve met riders who we’ve started to ride with. That’s what we wanted, to build a community. A lot of guys in the industry ride. Nothing makes me happier than being on a bike in nature, grinding it out. I aspire to do a little racing but I know I’m not going to win the Tour de France.
Speaking of the Tour de France, it starts this weekend. What are the plans for the restaurant?
We have every cycling race being played [on TV] at The Cannibal.
When you do ride somewhere like Bear Mountain and you come back here and you’re ready to dig into a big meal, what do you go for?
It’s like depending on the day you have. The last ride we did I got beat up badly because I’m a big guy and I don’t go up hills that well. I turned myself inside out, so you come back and you want to eat anything under the sun. I think you want pretzel knödel because it’s filling, or steak because it’s salty and meaty and you need that protein. And then I want to drink really quaffable beefs, not necessarily a light style, but something you can pound down. There’s this fun thing about beer when you’re using it, in a sense, to hydrate.
Beer is a very good source of hydration.
And not like you’re going to have beer in your water bottle when you’re riding. When you’re done exercising in any capacity and you get that beer, nothing’s better. Like a Helles Lager.
It seems like you want The Cannibal to take on this cycling identity.
That is the goal. Trying to build a community. When you ride up Ninth Avenue and you stop at the Spoon and there’s 40 guys with bikes drinking coffee, when they ride home I want them to end up at the Cannibal drinking beer and eating sausages. We have bike racks in the backyard. I want guys with bikes coming in here. I like the idea that people can ride up and get what they need.
How much cycling gear do you sell?
Not very much. It’s an amenity. We’ll have our compressed air pump and we have the fun things on order. We’re going to have feed bags. You know in Grand Tours when they have to eat? Yhey have these long feed bags and it’s some power bars, an apple and a small cola. I want people to literally ride up and get their bag to go. That’s what we want to develop.
That’s unusual for a restaurant.
A very easy-to-go mindset. The idea of having a mechanic on staff is great, like to stand in the backyard with a full set of tools. We’re a very busy restaurant and that’s our focus, but this is an amenity we love.
When you were envisioning what The Cannibal was going to be, was anything influenced from cycling?
I think the cycling part came into it when we thought what the name was going to be. With Resto the inspiration was Belgium, and I love the culture. When we talked about opening a butcher shop, I mentioned we could name it after Eddie Merckx [a Belgian cyclist from the 1970s nicknamed The Cannibal], and we could bring the cycling aspect into it. One of the things I think about when I’m developing any concept is that I want it to be something I’m passionate about.
Any feedback from the professional cycling community?
Recently we had two sponsored riders who came to watch the Giro and drink some beer. I couldn’t have been happier.
The Cannibal Beer and Butcher, 113 E. 29th St., New York, NY, 212-686-5480, cannibalnyc.com