When Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis lost the lease on their popular M. Wells Diner in Long Island City, Queens just a year after they opened in 2010, the couple was determined to reopen soon elsewhere in the neighborhood. Their experimental, ever-changing seasonal menu has been described as “gonzo dining” and, apart from developing an ardent local following, was awarded two stars by the New York Times. Now they’ll be serving their signature foie gras/diner fusion at M. Wells Dinette, their new location at MoMA PS1.
Architect Guy Reziciner embraced PS1’s public school origins, researching “historical photographs of dining halls, school cafeterias and strict religious orders’ refectories” to reimagine the diner as a cafeteria with an open kitchen that doubles as a laboratory where Dufour conducts culinary experiments before an audience of diners. The menu is written on two chalkboards that hang across from framed class photos of former PS1 students, and diners form a line to place their orders, which they eat on classic mid century school chairs along banquet-sized wooden desks complete with cubbyholes. But don’t expect to find PB&J with the crusts cut off, unless it’s layered with bone marrow and served with a side of sweet breads. The sous-vide cooking, roe bar, and the washbasin brimming with raw seafood would give any lunch lady a run for her milk money.