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Noah Bernamoff of Mile End Goes Through 4,000 Pounds of Meat A Week

noahmileend.jpgWhen Noah Bernamoff, 29, opened Mile End Brooklyn in 2010, people went so cuckoo for his Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches that the deli regularly ran out of meat by mid-afternoon. He and his wife, Rae, and business partner Max Levine, have the system down now, enabling them to deal with the crowds at their new Manhattan spin-off on Bond Street, Mile End Sandwich. Further stretching their resources this weekend, they'll be serving smoked meat sandwiches at The Great GoogaMooga Festival in Prospect Park. GoogaMooga, billed as an amusement park of food (75 topnotch vendors), drink (35 brewers, 30 winemakers) and live music (The Roots, Fitz & the Tantrums), was co-founded by Superfly Presents, the same people behind Bonnaroo. Noah called from his car to chat while he was waiting to be let into the park to set up his food stand.
What's the scene like at GoogaMooga right now?
So far it seems a little disorganized, a lot of trucks and golf carts waiting to get in. It's a beautiful day and the weather is supposed to be great this weekend.
How much meat are you planning on selling?
Probably around 400 to 500 pounds of smoked meat each day.
All your meat is smoked at the same facility in Red Hook, right?
Yes, we're serving the same meat at our Brooklyn place and at our new place, all of it hormone and antibiotic-free. It's funny that some people think we're smoking the meat on-site at the sandwich shop when we only have 435 square feet.
I've read complaints on Yelp about you only having standing room, that your sandwiches can be messy to eat standing up.
We're going to add some stools to the community table. We'll see how it goes.
I assume the rent is higher in Manhattan than in Boerum Hill, maybe a reason you don't want people to sit for a long time.
We definitely want to move people through the space quickly.
Are you getting a liquor license?
We are going to try to get a beer and wine license. When we first proposed it to the community board they were obviously not amused. There shouldn't be anything to prevent us from getting one in a few weeks. It's tied to a few zoning things. We'll go back and approach the subject again.
And you're opening a shop in Red Hook soon?
Our commissary kitchen, where we make everything, is on the Brooklyn waterfront and there's a really nice little area, about 250 square feet, where we're going to open a little market. We'll sell a lot of our products -- meat by the pound, fresh-baked bread, pickles, our sodas. It should be ready in the next couple of weeks.
What will it be called?
Mile End Market.
Have you run out of meat at all at your new sandwich shop?
Thankfully, we don't have those issues anymore. At our first place we couldn't make enough of it. We were making 20 to 30 percent of the smoked meat we're making now. We go through 4000 pounds a week.
You were a law school drop-out before you went into the restaurant business. Has it helped you?
Law school teaches you to think and write in a certain way, look at things from a different perspective. I don't regret going. It's been useful. I dropped out after my second year when I really knew after my first year I wasn't going to finish. I'm not sure why I went for one more year.
When you only had a year to go to get your degree, I imagine your parents weren't happy.
They were confused a little bit. But they always kind of got it.
You're not 30 yet and you've done pretty well for yourself.
I have to admit my 20s have been very memorable.
What's your most memorable moment?
Probably getting married two-and-a-half years ago. Rae and I went into business together right after that. I didn't have a specific ambition; it was very spontaneous.
Was Rae in the restaurant business before?
No, she worked on producing audio guides for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She's spearheading the new website we're putting out in a month or two, which will be more content-oriented.
Soon you're going to have three locations for your meats. Are there more places in the works?
We're always thinking of what's next.
Photo from Blackbook

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