Cory Nelson wanted to have some kind of food business after graduating from Howard University, because “I am passionate about eating.” D.C. and New York City were already priced out of reach, so he did a search for smaller cities with the same potential (lots of millennials in search of a good time) and Troy, New York came up. Working with a community development organization, he got a loan to create a “seven day a week food truck festival.”
I checked out the project the other day thanks to my friends at Yelp. It’s housed in a former coop grocery in the heart of Troy, a big open space with four windows for food service on one side, communal seating, a bar and a stage on the other. Troy Kitchen will act as an incubator for chefs who have worked in another restaurant and are ready to go out on their own. They get access to the kitchen and a food prep and service counter—everything they need so all they have to do is cook. The initial vendors are The Lobster serving fresh seafood rolls, K-Plate Korean Barbecue, Magdalena, a popular Mexican food vendor from the Troy farmer’s market, and a ramen place to be named later. They can stay a maximum of two years then someone else gets a chance. “Trying something new always has a risk,” Cory observed, “but here the risk is minimal.”
I tried samples from The Lobster and K-Plate and both were excellent. But their kitchen activity was the only sign Troy Kitchen was hours instead of weeks from opening; Cory’s uncle was mopping the floor and construction detritus was everywhere. Yet I later heard that the “soft grand opening” during the monthly Troy Night Out went off without a hitch. Cory Nelson is on his way.
This is a guy who has very specific ideas about what he wants and great confidence he can make it happen. There will be loud music (Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. at lunch, “high energy” at night), big open windows so passers by can see the excitement inside, purple lights to dress up the low slung 50ish building, and a fire hydrant sprayed gold at the entrance “because I can”. The color scheme (dark) and many of the other features were decided through polls on Troy Kitchen’s Facebook page.
“Food will bring them here, entertainment will keep them here,” he promises. “Troy Kitchen will extend the night.” The stage will feature live music and the bar taps will include both beer and wine (which makes it more affordable than poured from the bottle). Meal prices are supposed to top out under $10 so you can eat and have a couple of drinks, listen to music or watch an act, and be out the door for under $20. “A luxury experience at an affordable price,” says Cory. “And never a cover charge.”
What brought him to Troy specifically? “Architecture,” he answers immediately. “You don’t have to build anything because it’s already here—beautiful brownstones and tin ceilings. At one time Troy was the 4th richest city in the US, then it had a downturn, which meant that many of the buildings were preserved rather than being renovated.”
You can tell I am already a big fan of Cory Nelson, as I am of Troy in general. (And so are you, if you have enjoyed movies in which its nearly intact urban core has stood in for Victorian New York or London.) The birthplace of the shirt collar, the horseshoe, Uncle Sam and “The Night Before Christmas” is today a hotbed of hipster and tech activity. Cory’s timing and location are right on. Troy Kitchen is at 77 Congress Street in Troy, NY. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for the grand opening.