Smile To Go, El Rey, Broken Coconut and more trendy restaurants going the retail route

Broken Coconut had only been open for a couple weeks when the restaurant partners were approached by Saks Fifth Avenue for a holiday pop-up.

The cafe, specializing in health-conscious fare du jour like grain bowls and dairy-free coconut yogurt, was already planning to expand within a few months of opening its first location in NoHo in October. So they jumped in, opening a café on the fifth floor of the midtown department store after Thanksgiving, where it’s serving a limited menu of toasts, yogurt and coffee through the end of the year.

“For us, it was more of a brand-building thing,” said partner Mike Dollaway. “We thought the exposure at Saks Fifth Avenue would be good for us as a brand.”

As you do your last-minute holiday shopping, you might notice other trendy eateries sharing addresses with retail. The chain Poké Bar debuted adjacent to the Herald Square Urban Outfitters. Smile To Go, the prepared foods offshoot of NoHo cafe The Smile, has an outpost in Shinola’s DUMBO location in Empire Stores. Nick Morgenstern’s Cali-inspired cafe El Rey has an annex in the year-old Todd Snyder flagship across from Madison Square Park.

Designer Todd Snyder was a longtime fan of Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream before getting turned on to the Lower East Side cafe.

“I had always wanted a cafe in the space, so we worked together to build something custom,” he said.

Beyond fandom, other retail-restaurant partnerships were born from shared employees. The Smile co-owner Carlos Quirarte is also the Director of Culture for Shinola, which specializes in watches and leather goods. The Smile already had a newsstand for coffee and pastries in Shinola’s TriBeCa store before opening Smile To Go in its DUMBO location.

“We like their brand, we like what they stand for,” said Melia Marden, executive chef and partner of The Smile. “We don’t sell the same thing obviously, but I think we appeal to the same kind of customer.”

Other concepts just made marketing sense: Last month, Tiffany drew two-hour waits when it opened a cafe on the fourth floor of its Fifth Avenue flagship to literally have breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Design store-restaurant hybrids, where you can buy the flatware, glasses and plates at your table, are also having a moment. This month, Flatiron eatery Black Barn and DUMBO interior store Blackbarn Shop opened a restaurant and store in Chelsea Market. And on Dec. 21, Stephen Starr opens La Mercerie, a restaurant and cafe inside design store Roman and Williams Guild’s new SoHo flagship. Pastries, coffee and cocktails will be available to start, with full service in mid-January.

Restaurants in retail are nothing new — they’re a department store tradition — but Marden sees shared spaces continuing thanks to a plethora of new concepts.

“There’s a lot more variety in fast-casual food, the kind of food you might eat while you’re out shopping,” she said.

Dollaway also sees struggling stores turning to restaurants to help bring in foot traffic.

“I think retail is having a hard time getting people in the door, with everyone shopping online,” he said. “They’re looking for new ways to bring in traffic and trying to bring in brands that are new and hot.”

One of the hottest openings is yet to come: Saks is in the midst of a renovation that includes opening an outpost of Paris hot spot L’Avenue next year.

New spots where you can snack, then shop

  • Black Barn Shop, Cafe & Bar, a design store and restaurant in Chelsea Market (75 Ninth Ave.)
  • Blue Box Cafe, so you can have breakfast at Tiffany’s (717 Fifth Ave.)
  • Broken Coconut has a holiday pop-up on the fifth floor of Saks Fifth Avenue (611 Fifth Ave.)
  • El Rey Annex, the second location of the California-inspired cafe, inside the Todd Snyder flagship (25 E. 26th St.)
  • La Mercerie, a cafe, bakery and restaurant in Roman and Williams Guild’s new flagship (53 Howard St.)
  • Poké Bar, a national chain that opened its first NYC location adjacent to an Urban Outfitters(1333 Broadway)
  • Smile To Go, counter-service spot inside the Shinola in Empire Stores (49 Water St., DUMBO)