Last winter, a fire forced the popular Upper East Side seafood restaurant Flex Mussels to shut down for months as its new space on Third Avenue was built. Fast forward nearly a year, the new Flex Mussels is thriving and we now know what will open in its original Upper East Side space. Flex owner Alexandra Shapiro revealed Tuesday night that she is resurrecting a piece of family history that also happens to be part of UES history — her father’s first restaurant, Hoexter’s (pronounced Hexter’s, the ‘o’ is silent) which opened in Yorkville back more than four decades ago.
“Right after we had a fire at the old flex on 82nd Street, I was looking online on Etsy for old New York restaurant memorabilia and I came across a matchbook from my father’s first restaurant that was opened on 82nd [street] and Third [avenue] in 1977,” Shapiro explained to Community Board 8’s Street Life Committee which she appeared before Tuesday night seeking a liquor license recommendation.
“I’ve kind of made it my life’s mission to find old relics from his projects in the past and I’ve really never found anything,” Shapiro added, “this felt really meant to be.”
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“We will be bringing Hoexter’s back,” she proudly announced, adding that the revival in the old Flex Mussels space located at 174 East 82nd Street, near the corner of Third Avenue, will be “a real old New York neighborhood place.”
The original Hoexter’s, owned by Alexandra’s father Robert Shapiro, was a perpetually crowded hotspot around the corner on Third Avenue near the corner of East 82nd Street, where Shun Lee Cafe is currently located.
It was featured twice in the New York Times, first in 1978 — just five months after opening — when the elder Shapiro’s establishment was described in an article as ‘subdued,’ yet also a ‘dramatic and handsome modern setting’ with good service.
The author also raved about the food, writing that “the bread is so irresistible we had to have it removed from the table, before it became impossible to eat anything else.”
Ms. Shapiro says her father speaks often about Hoexter’s Potted shrimp, “a classic, mild-flavored English cold appetizer, consisting mainly of fresh mashed shrimp set in butter with a sting of cayenne,” according to the Times.
Two years later, in 1980, another review in the New York Times recommended readers try the delicious mussels Hoexter, which came “steamed and served in a golden tomato broth thickened with cream.”
Apparently, great mussels just run in the Shapiro family. Based on Flex Mussels’ popularity, we should have known.
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The new Hoexter’s experience in the old Flex Mussels location will be holistic, according to Alexandra, with a “really beautiful design” that is “classy, but approachable.”
“That’s the goal. Just a nice comfortable place for the neighborhood with great food that people want to eat,” Alexandra told Upper East Site.
Continuing to pay homage to the past, we’ve learned the new restaurant will also feature a mural that hung in the original Hoexter’s decades ago. If all goes as planned, Hoexter’s could be open for a new generation of Upper East Siders to enjoy by early summer.
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