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Closed for Business: Cozbi, 351 5th Avenue

Cozbi, the small boutique on 5th Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets, has closed. The front window has been papered over, the sign has been taken down, and the phone is disconnected.

Opened in the summer of 2011 by Honduran clothing designer Cozbi Cabrera, it showcased her handmade dresses, skirts,  and outerwear for women and children. Aside from designing clothes, Cabrera also made quilts and muñecas, hand-sewn dolls with custom-made outfits that sold for up to $1,500 (and earned her an appearance on Oprah). The average item at Cozbi averaged well over a hundred dollars, however (blouses cost $145 and sundresses cost $200), which most likely limited her customer base. 

She also ran a shop on Court Street that closed before this one opened. If you're in the market for a quilt or muñeca, they're still available through her online store.


El Gran Castillo De Jagua to Move into Z-7 Diner Space up Flatbush

It's been known for a few months that the landord who owns the building that's home to Dominican restaurant El Gran Castillo De Jagua has been trying to push them out, and it appears as if he's accomplished that task. They'll be closing up shop at the end of March, but luckily, they're not moving far.

Over the weekend 7-Z Classic Diner, the mediocre eatery that replaced the popular Parkside Diner in 2012 on 7th between Park and Sterling, shut down, and signs were put up in the window saying that "El Gran Castillo de Jagua is relocating to this location." I took a short walk to Gran Castillo, which has occupied the corner space six storefronts away for the past 40 years, and a manager told me that they'll be leaving the space on March 31.

It was previously rumored that they'd be moving into the gutted space up the block last occupied by a mattress store if forced to close, but this is actually far more promising news, for obvious reasons. It's still a decent-sized space, and there's already a long counter and a full kitchen. It appears as if the Z-7 folks packed up pretty quickly and left most of their equipment behind, so hopefully the closure doesn't last for too long.

This stretch of Flatbush Avenue is one of the most-coveted stretches of real estate in the city at the moment, and landlord Stuart Venner of Vlacke Bos Realty has been in the process of booting out other tenants of this prime corner, including a barber shop and bakery Little Miss Muffin ‘N’ Her Stuffin', for months. An emergency care facility is slated to move in the space next door that has been vacant since 2011; hopefully the fact that temp signage has been up for 10 months is not an indicator that this corner will remain vacant for years as well.

Gran Castillo has been the anchor of this block for decades, but it's nice to see that they'll just be moving a few storefronts up. The manager assured me that the menu will remain exactly the same.


Bonnie's Grill Adds Hot Dogs, Ribs to the Menu

Bonnie's Grill, a Fifth Avenue mainstay for spice-rubbed grilled Black Angus burgers and Buffalo wings since 1999, added a couple of new permanent items to their menu on Tuesday: namely, ribs and hot dogs.

At the narrow restaurant, dominated by a long counter and a grill constantly inundated with flaming burger patties, at least 90 percent of those who visit buy wings or burgers, and the bustling staff has always seemed perfectly okay with the limited menu. But these new additions are the first non-sandwich items to be added in years.

The ribs are St. Louis-cut spare ribs made with Berkshire pork, slathered in homemade barbecue sauce and sold at $15.95 for a half-rack with your chouce of fries, salad, soup, chili, or cole slaw. They're most likely not smoked, but slow-cooked ribs still can taste pretty darn good.

Grilled hot dogs are also made with Berkshire pork and are applewood-smoked. I tried one and it was clear that this was a pretty high-quality hot dog: it had natural casing, was closer to the size of a bratwurst than a standard hot dog, and was nicely smokey and not too agressively-spiced. A manager was unable to tell me what company produces them, but my guess is that they're from Schaller & Weber or a similarly well-respected German butcher.

You can get them plain on a New England-style bun for $6.95 with a few pickle chips and and side, and poblano pepper relish or Reisling-braised sauerkraut cost $1 extra. For $7.95, they'll top it with their vegeterian chili, cheddar, and raw diced onion.


Have You Been to Grand Central Oyster Bar?

Grand Central Oyster Bar opened a few months ago in the massive space that was last occupied by Fornino, and while the news that it was coming was certainly huge, there was very little fanfare around its grand opening and not much word about it since.

If you've walked past the restaurant since it opened, you most likely saw that there weren't many people inside most of the time: not browsing the fish market or sitting at the oyster bar in the first storefront, not drinking cocktails at the marble-topped bar or eating light bites at the mod tables behind it in the second, and not filling up the sparse and spacious dining room in the third. And Yelp reviews have been less than stellar.

So if you haven't dropped by yet to check it out, why not? And if you have, how was your experience?


Is The New Ninth Street C-Town Signage a Union Market Rip-Off?


The C-Town supermarket on 9th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues got some new signage recently, and FIPS is wondering if it's ripping off Union Market's design.

So to compare, here's what Union Market looks like.

The color scheme is pretty much spot-on, down to the olive green and the white outline, and the star is tough to ignore. The font may different, but it's hard to deny that Union Market's logo was certainly at least a reference image. It's also been re-christened Steve's 9th Street Market, which basically removes any doubt that Union market was certainly an influence.

For a little backstory, this building has one of the most illustrious histories of any in the neighborhood. It was home to the 2,400 seat RKO Keith's Prospect Theater from 1914 to 1967 (hosting the day's top acts - including The Marx Brothers, Burns and Allen, and Fanny Brice - and launching the careers of Three Stooges), and after that it sat empty for years before being gutted and converted into a supermarket and condos in the late 1980s.