Alec Gropman, sous chef at Uptown Social, and his father are both making lamb shank for Christmas this year. The only difference is the younger Gropman plans to put the meat on a pizza, along with garlic mashed potatoes, gruyere and carrot chips.
“It is definitely unique, and definitely awesome,” Gropman says of the pie, among the highlights of a “Red Sauce Christmas” menu he’s created for the upper King Street sports bar. Gropman is also serving pumpkin cavatelli, lobster ravioli alla vodka and zeppoles on Christmas Day from 4 p.m. onward. Prior to the event’s start, Uptown Social will offer its regular menu.
According to owner Keith Benjamin, the restaurant draws a surprising amount of holiday traffic.
“It seems like in our New York restaurants we wouldn’t open until nighttime because people wanted to be with their families,” says Benjamin, who earlier this year led NYC Best Bars’ expansion to Charleston. “Here, with so many tourists, as opposed to a five-course dinner, they want something laid back.”
On Thanksgiving, Benjamin says, Uptown Social was packed by midday. Its holiday turkey sandwich, topped with sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy, achieved sold-out status at 6 p.m.
Benjamin says the restaurant is committed to staying open every day of the year, but he likes recognizing that some days are different from the rest. And since he’d struck a hiring deal with Gropman allowing the culinary school grad to take control of the menu once each quarter, they decided to schedule this season’s “pop-up” to coincide with Christmas.
For a summertime event Gropman put together a menu of beachy dishes, such as fish tacos, crab salad and beer cheese nachos. He’s also considering doing a dim sum pop-up in the future. For the holidays, though, he wanted to pay tribute to the “Italian grandmother” at a restaurant in Fairfield, Conn., who taught him how to make pasta, and his father’s influence.
“He was the typical griller dad but he was my first culinary mentor,” Gropman says, adding that Russ Gropman constantly sends him pictures of what he’s cooking. On Christmas they’ll no doubt trade lamb shank pics.
Uptown Social, 587 King St., will stay open on Dec. 25 from 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m.