“I hate going to fancy restaurants and eating disgusting food,” Damon Dash explains, in between smoking a joint and answering a phone call from his daughter, confirming her upcoming trip to Disneyland. “Like, I’m not eating foie gras and all that nasty [stuff]. I’m not that guy.”
We’re at Dash’s downtown art gallery, Poppington, talking to the Harlem-born hip-hop mogul, entrepreneur, and film producer about the latest title he plans to add to his ever-lengthening resume: restaurateur. Dash, along with his son Boogie and rapper Cam’ron, recently announced plans to take over Dish, a Mediterranean-themed restaurant in DUMBO that debuted last fall but closed in recent months. The revamped concept is tentatively set to open later this month, along with an adjacent lounge called Dash.
Here, the rap-game rabble-rouser opens up about his thoughts on food and hip-hop converging, what you can expect from the Dish menu, and why you might never get in.
Real Talk with Dame Dash (the food edition)
What made you want to open up a restaurant right now?
It was an opportunity that presented itself. A friend of mine that was investing in it and she locked me in. It’s been in business for few years, I’m just trying to evolve it and make it more sophisticated. Really, when I looked at the restaurant, I was so excited. I was like, “I’m doing it!” and then I Instagrammed it, and then I had to do it. I’ve never done a restaurant before other than at a vanity level. There’s a little lounge in it and it holds about 50-75 people and it has a little stage, so I’m definitely going to be doing things where the people that inspire me get to showcase whatever they’re doing in a very intimate way. There are things I do just to showcase how good I am in creating an environment. I think I like to win. I like to be the best. I think some epic shit will happen.
Do you have an opening date yet?
We’re supposed to launch in August. You know, shit goes amuck, but it’s supposed to happen.
How did Cam’ron get involved with the project?
That’s my man. He was with me and I was like, “Yo, you want to do some Harlem shit?” We’re figuring out how it will work, but that’s what I do. I wouldn’t get a restaurant to make a living out of it.
How would you describe the menu?
I’m going to have a night menu, or at least I’d like to. It’ll be real selfish—stuff that I love. It’ll be empanadas or breakfast or some shit. For me, I’ve got to have a cheeseburger, chicken fingers, and a cocktail. I like ghetto gourmet. Give me a slider with a little White Castle burger, but make it with some Kobe beef or some shit like that. I like avocados. I like eggs, French toast, challah bread—all of those kinds of things. I get the munchies a lot, but also I try to stay in shape. There’s going to be a healthy menu and something gluten-free. Also, my son’s cookies.
I like ghetto gourmet. Give me a slider with a little White Castle burger, but make it with some Kobe beef or some shit like that.
Have you been working with chefs to develop the dishes?
Not me, but my son. I’m gonna get involved in that process in a minute. I’ve been so focused on some other shit, but I do want to take the time and do that. I’m gonna shoot movies because I love that and have my son take care of what I can’t until I can get focused. But, there will definitely be a future of me eating the food.
Is there a front-runner for your favorite dish yet?
We’re developing it now. My menu’s going to be the nighttime menu, but during the day, I don’t know. They may keep it Mediterranean because that’s what it was. I think there will be guest chefs every now and again. I want to do interesting things because my business model isn’t necessarily to make money off of restaurants. As long as I cover my cost, I’m pretty cool. But I want to do cool shit and I don’t want to approach it like anyone [else] does because I don’t have to. Like, if I make I hit record and it covers the cost for a year, I might not even open up. I might turn that shit into a private club. You never know what could happen. I’m more or less just trying to create an exclusive, cool vibe.
I like the fact it’s in DUMBO, ’cause you got to go over the bridge and shit. I like being a destination.
You mentioned getting Cam involved for a Harlem connection. Will Harlem be represented in the restaurant?
Hell yeah. Empanadas—that’s going to be Spanish Harlem. Whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be authentic.
There seems to be a lot of cross-pollination between food and rap—Action Bronson has a cooking show, and 2Chainz put out a cookbook with his album. Do you think that there’s more potential for crossover now?
Of course, why not? I like Action Bronson’s cooking show a lot. But, it’s not about crossover—it’s an opportunity to be seen through the Internet. If have somebody that has 36 million views, you’re guaranteeing yourself a spot on some corny-ass network. It’s not about asking for the opportunity. It’s about proving and then capitalizing on the momentum.
What do you think people’s reactions will be toward the restaurant?
I don’t really anticipate people’s reactions. I anticipate mine. If they like it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t. I don’t really care. I hope that they like it, but I’m not letting everybody in anyway. They might not ever know. What’s their reaction about not being able to get in? I don’t deal with bullshit. That’s why I like the fact it’s in DUMBO, ’cause you got to go over the bridge and shit. I like being a destination. I’m tucked in Chinatown [at the Poppington gallery]. It’s not even on the Lower East Side. So I like this destination thing. Even my Instagram is a picture of my dog. You have to find me. But at least I know if you find me, you’re really looking.