Business of the Month: Paradis To Go, 114 Fourth Avenue
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If you had access to a place that served a revolving seasonal menu of freshly-made, farm-to-table comfort dishes (with a twist) at affordable prices, you’d probably be a regular. As it happens, our neighborhood is fortunate to have just such a place, ensconced in a tiny storefront and now in its seventeenth year. It’s our December 2022 Business of the Month, Paradis To Go, at 114 Fourth Avenue at 12th Street.
Paradis To Go is the brainchild of Kim Paradis, a culinary school-trained chef who developed a passion for bringing people together through food, while leading a program in Seattle that invited local chefs to meet grade schoolers at the underprivileged public school where she worked. Thus inspired, Kim came back to New York to pursue formal culinary training, and then served stints at fine-dining restaurants such as Chanterelle and as a caterer and private chef both here and in France. It was during one of those gigs in France that she met her now-husband, Mickael Paradis, a French butcher with whom she came back to New York and opened Paradis To Go in 2006.
When Paradis To Go opened, there were hardly any restaurants or even coffee shops along Fourth Avenue. Kim’s new place filled that gap handily from the outset, offering great coffee as well as a wide selection of delicious breakfast, lunch, and snack items. Some, like the whole wheat blueberry scones and chocolate chip cookies, remain customer favorites to this day. Otherwise, the menu has been in a constant state of evolution, reflecting Kim’s catholic tastes and international influences, as well as her desire to offer her regular customers variety. The restaurant’s selection rotates every week, and those rotations themselves rotate every season. One could likely eat there every day of the year without fear of repeating a meal (unless one wanted to), and without fear of missing out on holiday and other specialties, such as corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and chocolate stout cake for St. Patrick’s Day, and gumbo, macaroons, and King cake cupcakes for Mardi Gras.
Otherwise, the menu contains an eclectic mix of approachable, first-rate items, a number of which are vegan or gluten-free. It includes breakfast staples, such as a quiche special, a spinach and feta pie, and turmeric overnight oats;
a range of fantastic sandwiches (e.g. calabrese salami, smoked mozzarella, and chimichurri on ciabatta!);
soups (e.g. rosemary chickpea!) and salads (e.g., quinoa salad with butternut squash and nuts); and a selection of warm main dishes (e.g. salmon with preserved lemon salsa), sides (e.g., polenta with smoked gouda and roasted tomato), and desserts.
A key to Paradis To Go’s longevity has been the quality and variety of Kim’s cuisine. Its success, however, has also depended on her ability to pivot in her business approach as the need arises. As nearby coffee shop competition proliferated, for instance, she shrank her coffee station (although she stands by the caliber of her coffee) and expanded her lunch items. More recently, COVID has forced even more drastic adjustments, leading her to expand her online presence, reduce her seating by 90%, and emphasize an expanded line of grab-and-go frozen dishes and retail items. While these changes could not entirely mitigate the steep drop in business during the pandemic, it did result in the introduction of a new set of food items that continue to fly out of the freezer even today, after in-store dining has resumed (albeit in limited capacity). Who wouldn’t want Kim’s mushroom pot pie, chocolate chip cookie dough, and vegetarian lasagna ready to pop in the oven at a moment’s notice? Not many, if the popularity of these items is anything go by.
Business, however, is still down at Paradis To Go compared to pre-pandemic levels — a situation now complicated by skyrocketing ingredient prices and a skilled labor shortage. Still, several factors have helped Kim weather the crisis. Her landlord, a second generation head of a family-run operation who appreciates the value of having good, reliable tenants and fostering a sense of business community, has worked with her and enabled her to stay open. Secondly, the crisis (re)introduced Paradis To Go to nearby residents, for whom the restaurant, which never closed, served as almost a lifeline. At first, these residents — some of whom were surprised to learn of the restaurant’s existence — helped partially to make up for the disappearance of Kim’s traditional clientele of students and workers. Since then, they have remained among the restaurant’s most loyal and regular customers.
Newly optimistic about the prospects of her business and mindful of people’s greater comfort with indoor dining, Kim is now getting ready to pivot again and increase her dining area, so people can once more enjoy her food, not only on the go, but also in her cozy space. So swing by. Whether you stay or go, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious experience.
For its dedication to providing the neighborhood with an ongoing array of satisfying gastronomic surprises, we are pleased to name Paradis To Go our December 2022 Business of the Month.
What special small business would you like to see featured next? Just click here to nominate our next one. Thank you! #shoplocalnyc
Here is a map of all our Businesses of the Month: