FIRST LOOK: Popular Caterer Portable Provisions Set to Open New UES Restaurant

Popular caterer Portable Provisions to open restaurant in its East 81st Street space/Upper East Site
Community Board Member Marco Tamayo accused Portable Provisions small restaurant space of being a large catering hall | Upper East Site

MANHATTAN – There’s a new restaurant coming to Yorkville from the woman behind the super-popular Upper East Side catering company Portable Provisions— and it’s set to open in the East 81st Street space previously occupied by Alice’s Tea Cup, Chapter III. 

Upper East Site’s photos show the transformation happening inside the mid-block restaurant located between Second and Third Avenues.

Popular caterer Portable Provisions to open restaurant in its East 81st Street space/Upper East Site
Popular caterer Portable Provisions to open restaurant in its East 81st Street space/Upper East Site

Outside the restaurant, located on the south side of the street, the big change you’ll notice is the storefront and awning are no longer black and dark purple— instead now painted an eye-catching white— plus the old, decorative wrought iron over bars the windows has been removed, giving the Portable Provisions event space-turned-restaurant a warm, inviting entrance.

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Inside the soon-to-be restaurant, you’ll see a space that has been completely renovated. The walls all received fresh paint and furniture can be seen arranged in a different layout from Alice’s, which closed in 2019— including a couch and cushioned chairs near the front windows where elevated seating had previously been located.

Though, it’s clear that the restaurant’s furniture is not all in place just yet.

Popular caterer Portable Provisions to open restaurant in its East 81st Street space/Upper East Site
Popular caterer Portable Provisions to open restaurant in its East 81st Street space/Upper East Site

With just over 600 square feet of interior dining space, the new restaurant will include ten tables with seating for 48 guests— plus another eight at the bar— with a maximum occupancy of 64 people, according to Portable Provisions representative Michael Kelly. 

Details of the new restaurant revealed during last Tuesday’s Community Board 8 Street Life committee meeting where the company sought a recommendation for their state application for a liquor, beer and wine license.

“A lot of people who [the owner has] catered for, in their homes and once in a while at the place, basically pushed her into doing it, because they want to come to her restaurant to have a meal,” Kelly told the committee.

“Our primary focus is to be a farm-to-table, clean, local, seasonal, regionally-sourced community restaurant,” Portable Provisions owner and chef Kat Alexander said Tuesday.

A standard practice for new eateries looking to serve alcohol that usually lasts only a few minutes, the committee meeting turned fiery when Community Board 8 member Marco Tamayo began accusing Portable Provisions of misleading the committee over whether the planned restaurant would really be a catering hall.

Popular caterer Portable Provisions to open restaurant in its East 81st Street space/Upper East Site
Popular caterer Portable Provisions to open restaurant in its East 81st Street space/Upper East Site

”Don’t make a definition for yourself in convenience to serve your client,” Mr. Tamayo scolded Mr. Kelly— accusing him of trying to get around the mid-block building’s zoning which would prohibit a catering hall.

“You know very well the definition of catering,” Tamayo added.

“Kat also has a catering business, where she does outside catering,” explained Mr. Kelly, the Portable Provisions representative. 

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“She would have some private parties here, but it will mostly operate as a restaurant,” he added, noting that’s how most other New York City restaurant’s operate.

Triggering confusion and dragging out what is typically a short exchange, Tamayo even went as far as to compare Portable Provisions’ new restaurant to a catering hall at a large church on East 64th Street and one planned inside the controversial Blood Center tower– drawing the ire of a fellow board member.

Popular caterer Portable Provisions to open restaurant in its East 81st Street space/Upper East Site
Popular caterer Portable Provisions to open restaurant in its East 81st Street space/Upper East Site

“This has been what, about a half hour, forty five minutes of hearing stuff like this, of accusations, and I do find it difficult,” Community Board 8 member Barbara Rudder told the meeting Tuesday. 

“It’s not what our Community Board should be for,” she added.

The clearly frustrated owner, Kat Alexander, pleaded at the meeting, “it’s the community that wants this [restaurant] and it’s the community that we’re trying to provide this for,” explaining how hard they’ve worked to ensure the business survived the pandemic.

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At one point, Ms. Alexander even told the committee “I just feel like Marco is trying to kick me while I’m down and I don’t understand why.”  

Eventually, the Community Board 8 committee worked through the confusion and voted to recommend the Portable Provisions restaurant receive the full board’s recommendation for their liquor, beer and wine license application.

The restaurant won’t be using its backyard, but will eventually be building an outdoor dining structure on East 81st Street in front of the restaurant.

It’s not clear if Kat and her team are bringing popular dishes from the catering business to the restaurant, but one can only hope her Charred Eggplant & Ricotta Napoleons, Madeira Chicken with Roasted Mushrooms and Burrata with Honey Roasted Plums make the final menu.

It’s not clear when the new Portable Provisions restaurant will open— or what its name will be— but we do know it’ll be open from 8:00 am to 10:30 pm Monday through Thursday, 9:00 to 11:00 pm Friday and Saturday and Sundays 10:00 am to 10:30 pm.

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