Bistro 821 Celebrates 30 Years

Bistro 821 is a Fifth Avenue South mainstay, serving inventive New American and fusion fare

Bistro 821’s prawns with crispy sushi rice. Photo courtesy of Bistro 821
Bistro 821’s prawns with crispy sushi rice. Photo courtesy of Bistro 821

Along Fifth Avenue South, much has changed across three decades, but Bistro 821 remains constant, serving inventive New American and fusion fare as envisioned by chef Jesse Housman, the proprietor, and a few others.

“We’ve still got the miso-sake marinated Chilean sea bass and a lot of other dishes Jesse is famous for,” says Shane O’Dell, his customer-turned-business partner. “The menu is almost the best of the best from the last 30 years. It’s driven by what guests like.”

 To celebrate the bistro’s thirtieth birthday, there are plans for a celebratory party that includes VIPs, previous employees, and a handful of regular guests. There will also be dinner specials that hark back to the early days popping up throughout the month.

Executive Chef Jonathan DeRue
Executive Chef Jonathan DeRue

There is indeed much to celebrate, such as surviving economic downturns, various hurricanes, and of course, COVID-19. O’Dell was concerned his favorite restaurant might not survive. He told his wife he might like to buy it if it became available. A few months later, he became Housman’s partner, bringing his business expertise from years in the automotive industry, which complements Housman’s culinary chops.

“I’ve always been the chef in the kitchen,” Housman says. “I had the opportunity to partner up with someone with business acumen. I’ve learned so much from Shane. He came at a crucial time, offered inspiration. The true potential for the bistro hadn’t been realized before.”

To lighten Housman’s load, Jonathan DeRue was hired as executive chef. DeRue came with solid experience, including a strong background in beef and wine.

Spending less time cooking, Housman has more time to consider the big picture. Now, he keeps his eye on what’s happening in the kitchen. “I throw a little something into the mix now and then,” he says. His staff is incredibly stable, with most averaging 13 years or more there, and he has recognized the fruits of nurturing them through the years.

“I’m really enjoying watching everybody grow,” he adds. “That’s one of the great pleasures of this business.” 

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