When we look back at 2020, the restaurants that launched this year may have wildly divergent origin stories. For Uncle Steve’s House of BBQ in Roslyn, that tale might begin with “It was a dark and stormy night …”
That would be the night owner Matt Prince raced around the darkened roads of Roslyn in a Jeep Wrangler delivering brisket during Uncle Steve’s first night in business as a so-called ghost kitchen.
Prince’s other business at 1 Railroad Avenue, Vienna of Roslyn, had been thriving when lockdown arrived in mid-March. In bat of an eye, events hit a hard stop. After reassessing his choices — and as takeout and delivery gained steam as a survival tactic for other restaurants — Prince realized that what might be missing in his immediate surrounds was a delivery-focused barbecue spot. Around that time, a culinary consultant Prince had worked with, chef Matthew Birnbaum, reached out and asked, “What are we going to do with Vienna’s kitchen?”
This challenging and unusual year has lent momentum to ghost kitchens, a restaurant model focused primarily on pickup and delivery. While “ghost kitchen” is a mysterious term, it’s just one of many nicknames for a kitchen-within-a-kitchen that has no public-facing presence beyond a web page or delivery app. Some Long Islanders had their first exposure to ghost kitchens this spring when Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings suddenly appeared in their delivery apps; as it turned out, Pasqually’s was a sub-brand of Chuck E Cheese, and one that operated out of Chuck E Cheese kitchens without any public tie to that company.
Prince, a career-long hospitality professional who had founded or overseen more than a dozen bar and restaurants, had never heard of the term. Yet it was unwittingly the model he adopted, installing smokers into Vienna’s kitchen to transform