Famous for its wraparound lines, kitschy hometown aesthetic, and absurdly fluffy pancakes, Bubby’s is a culinary hotspot known around the world.
It’s nearly impossible to roam around Tribeca without witnessing a group of hangry Manhanittes gathered around the brunch hotspot like a flock of birds.
If you’re wondering where people like Lea Michele and Nick Jonas spend their Sunday mornings, it’s the celeb-laden haven we know and love as Bubby’s.
Why is it that this no-frills American eatery has become a New York institution loved by tourists and locals alike?
Eager to know more, we’ve connected with Ron Silver, the culinary entrepreneur behind the famous not-so-silver-dollar pancakes.
Whether it’s fried chicken, meatloaf, buttermilk biscuits, or seasonal pies, Ron knows how to feed our city’s roaring appetite.
Want to know the method behind their madness? Keep reading.
Bubby’s has been integral to the New York City dining scene for 31+ years. How does it stay culturally relevant after all this time?
We’ve been committed to NYC and our flagship Tribeca location since we opened in 1990. We started as a pie pop-up and then served Thanksgiving leftovers – it was a hit, and we haven’t changed much since. We’ve stayed true to our ethos, added a more robust menu of American comfort food, and found a recipe for success throughout the years.
And while we have many popular mainstays, we also have kept up with changing times. Life-changing events have hit our neighborhood, from 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and more recently COVID-19 - it’s all kept us on our toes and made us grow.
For example, during the pandemic shutdown, I took the time to learn to make bread. We then bought a bread oven and started making our own bread at Bubby’s. Now, we continue to make our bread, pastries, and more in-house. We even have a pastry case outside so people can get these items to-go, whether they are dining with us or not. We have the flexibility, willingness, and innovation to try and do new things while staying true to our core.
Notorious for its insanely long lines, how does this constant buzz keep the momentum of Bubby’s alive?
Our customers know that whether they wait in line or not, they can expect the same great meal. They’ve come to love, and even rely on this buzzy, energetic atmosphere. They’re coming for the food and experience, and we plan to keep living up to their expectations.
What is the logic behind your no reservations on weekend policy? How does this democratize the dining experience, while simultaneously making it more exclusive?
This has been the best way for us to maintain a steady flow during the busy brunch hours. We do take reservations during the week and evenings. While we have been known for brunch and pies, we also have amazing lunch and dinner offerings during those times. Our kitchen crew is extremely creative.
Why do you think New Yorkers are so attracted to Bubby’s and culinary institutions alike?
Bubby’s mission has always been to nourish and bring together our community. When guests come to Bubby’s, they feel like they are part of our family. We’ve strived to provide this consistent experience our customers can enjoy and rely on. There is something comforting about knowing what you are getting and knowing you can always come back for it–and for decades.
Bubby’s has been a Tribeca hotspot for over three decades. What aspects of your brand’s DNA have changed over the years, and what has stayed the same?
We definitely have some mainstays since day one, including our pancakes and pies. But we also do our best to innovate whether it be with seasonal ingredients and dishes, holidays – including Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, we even have a growing following for our Passover seder – and are always experimenting, similar to how we started an entire bread/pastry program. It’s twofold for us.
We like to be inventive, get creative with the menu, and give our neighbors something new and fun to explore. We also are proud to have had a consistency from day one that I can still see myself. When I look back on Bubby’s, I’m proud and truly satisfied to have built something with integrity.
You’re famous for having some of the best pancakes in NYC, what is your secret to success?
Our goal at Bubby’s is to find the best recipe, then put our own twist on it, and serve it in a consistent manner. We have an amazing team to make this happen and keep the energy going.
As for the success of our pancakes themselves, we have a tweaked James Beard recipe that’s one of the best-selling items–swapping some of the milk for sour cream is our secret ingredient.
This gives the pancakes a mild tangy flavor that partners well with the maple syrup. We make them very fluffy, slightly sweet, easy, and light to eat so they dissolve when you put them in your mouth. Guests usually opt for the fruit toppings, or of course paired with fried chicken. We even started to sell our James Beard pancake mix, guests can pick it up at the restaurant or we ship nationwide.
We also have our signature sourdough pancakes, and the secret weapon here is our, very nurtured, sourdough starter from the 19th century. The thin, super tangy sourdough pancakes are extremely popular at Bubby’s. To tie it all together, I actually started baking bread initially during the pandemic to keep our pancake sourdough starter from 1890 alive!
How has Bubby’s defined the ever-so-prominent New York City brunch scene?
We’re a neighborhood spot with good food and good vibes. We do what we think is right, make our customers happy, and the rest of the chips fall into place.
What differentiates Bubby’s from comfort food restaurants in Manhattan and beyond?
We beat to our own drum. We do what we like, what our customers like, and stay true to our ethos. We like seasonal ingredients, and we change with the seasons, not just with what’s hot. We have been serving sourdough pancakes long before sourdough started trending during the pandemic. We strive to keep our mainstays but also keep our community members and customers far away excited.
Where do you see the future of Bubby’s headed? What’s next for you guys?
We have a few exciting happenings at Bubby’s this spring and summer!
We’re partnering with another iconic NYC brand, Van Leeuwen. They are opening a new store in Tribeca (May 19th!) and we worked together to create a limited-edition ice cream flavor, “Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.” It’s going to be available at the new Van Leeuwen store, and at Bubby’s. Pie and ice cream are a delicious combo, and this is another example of how we can offer something fun and new to our customers.
We’re also opening an outpost in the new Delta Terminal at LaGuardia Airport. While we’ve had various locations around the city over the years, and 6 locations in Japan, this is our first time going into an airport. It’s an awesome opportunity to elevate airport food, and we look forward to reaching an even wider audience of both visitors and New Yorkers heading out of town. Stay tuned for more!
Besides Bubby’s, I’ve been painting for years – in fact, many of my pieces are on the walls at Bubby’s Tribeca – and I’ll be having an art show in NYC in the coming months. If you can’t make it, check out my studio site or the walls next time you’re at Bubby’s.
Photography by: Courtesy Bubby's