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Chef and co-owner Miguel Franco makes a dish to order at Burlap Sack (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Chef and co-owner Miguel Franco makes a dish to order at Burlap Sack (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

507 Third Ave. at 201 East 34th St.

“I want my food to hug people,” Burlap Sack Potato Eatery co-owner and chef Miguel Franco says on a beautiful spring day, the doors of his new restaurant open onto the busy intersection of Thirty-Fourth St. and Third Ave. And what is more comforting than the spud, the versatile starch that is the world’s number one vegetable crop. “Everybody eats potatoes,” Franco, formerly of Dos Toros Taqueria, adds, explaining why he and partner Jared Ringel, cofounder of the business development agency First Dynamic, chose to make potatoes, a member of the nightshade family that is low in calories and rich in vitamin B6, potassium, copper, and vitamin C, the staple of their menu. They were also heavily influenced by poutine, the late-night Canadian staple beloved by people with a buzz on, which combines French fries with brown gravy and cheese curds. At Burlap Sack, diners get to choose the type of potato base — baked traditional or sweet, baked medallions, traditional or sweet fries, or tater tots — then select toppings and combos including grilled chicken or steak or ground miniature turkey meatballs, cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella, or Parmesan cheese, vegetables (broccoli, scallions, chives, diced onions, garlic, olives, pico de gallo, sauteed mushrooms), and sauce (chipotle aioli, garlic aioli, red pepper aioli, buffalo, queso, sour cream, or “Dad’s marinara,” a recipe from the father of a silent partner).

Burlap Sack has moved into a Murray Hill corner with quite a history (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Burlap Sack has moved into a Murray Hill corner with quite a history (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Everything is freshly made except for the tater tots, and all ingredients are carefully sourced from organic, free-range, non-GMO farms; Franco, who hails from Colombia and has an engineering degree, and New Jersey native Ringel (along with another silent partner, a childhood friend of Ringel’s) hope to add egg, tofu/tempeh, and pork options soon, as well as other surprises, all of which are gluten-free. They spent more than six months trying to find the right location, ultimately deciding on a spot that has seen many businesses come and go. Franco knows the area well, having stayed there as a child many times when his family traveled to New York City to go Christmas shopping at Macy’s. Franco and Ringel answered some additional questions shortly after the restaurant officially opened.

twi-ny: What are your personal favorites combinations?

Jared Ringel: Hand-cut sweet potato fries, grilled chicken, sautéed peppers and onions, pepper jack and cheddar cheese, scallions, broccoli, pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, chipotle, and garlic aioli.

Miguel Franco: Baked potato, grilled steak, pepper jack cheese, sautéed peppers and onions, sautéed mushrooms, olives, pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, red pepper aioli and sour cream.

Burlap Sack offers unique spins on potato dishes (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Burlap Sack offers unique spins on potato dishes (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

twi-ny: What about with patrons?

JR: With over three thousand different possible combinations, there is no one customer favorite dish. We will say that the most popular base is one of the baked options, as people have embraced it as a healthy lunch option. Beyond that there is no clear-cut favorite combination. People love the fries too, though. There’s not many places that hand-cut, double-fry, and fry-to-order.

twi-ny: How has the neighborhood taken to the restaurant?

JR: The Murray Hill community has been amazing since before we opened. Business owners and neighborhood patrons would stop by to check out our progress while we were in construction. Since we’ve opened, our customers have told us they’ve been anticipating the opening for some time and that the food has exceeded their expectations. Some of our regulars bring new coworkers and friends every time. It’s great to see support like that.

twi-ny: Of course, you realize you’re in a space that has been through a slew of changes over the years, to ice-cream and frozen yogurt shops to a Colombian deli and a Pie Face that took off in the middle of the night.

MF: I’m confident we can break that curse. I love cooking. I want to create a memory with every bite.

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