Pay-What-You-Want Goes Wild!

Chef Zod Arifai of Blu and Next Door to stay open "a few months" in response to huge demand for novel policy.

Zod Arifai doesn’t actually put octopus or red snapper in his commercial blender (except for the sake of this picture). But he does rely on the machine to make most of his sauces. He calls the Vitamix “the most important thing in my kitchen—after salt.”
Chef Zod Arifai. Photo: Chris Crisman.

Update, Tuesday, August 25:

At 8 pm tonight, every one of the roughly 70 seats in Blu and every one of the roughly 40 seats in Next Door was occupied, and one party was still waiting to be seated at Blu. In 10 years of eating at or writing about Blu and its chef (seven years in the case of the newer Next Door), or just passing by the two restaurants on foot, which are not far from my home in Montclair, I have never seen both places jam-packed at the same time. I’m not sure I have ever seen Next Door jam-packed at any time, and I’ve seen Blu with not a seat to be had probably only on Fridays and Saturdays. This is what happens when a chef makes the front page of the New York Times with a policy that is foodie catnip. How many chefs have ever made the front page of the Times?–Eric Levin, deputy editor/dining editor

Original story, August 21:

Three days after his novel Pay What You Want policy was featured on the front page of the New York Times, Zod Arifai, chef/owner of Blu and Next Door in Montclair, has decided not to shut down the long-running side-by-side restaurants on the previously announced day, after service on Saturday, August 29.

Arifai said in an e-mail yesterday, “I’m staying open. Not sure how long, though. The customers are not letting me close. They are coming into the kitchen, virtually every table, and begging me to stay open.

“It’s no longer Blu or Next Door as they were,” he continued in a phone call today. “Pay What You Want suddenly has its own identity. I’ll definitely stay open a few months because so many people want to try this.”

Both restaurants will continue Eat What You Want, Pay What You Want with a single menu of under 20 items selected from dishes popular at Blu and Next Door.

The stipulation remains that food cannot be ordered as takeout, leftovers will not be wrapped and customers must clean their plates before ordering another dish.

Both restaurants are BYO.

Arifai said his ultimate goal is to open a restaurant in Manhattan. “I have found investors in New York City, and a lot is happening,” he said.

Blu is at 554 Bloomfield Avenue (973-509-2202), Next Door is at 556 Bloomfield Avenue (973-744-3600).

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  1. Lawrence Roma

    A novel idea to create publicity for himself before he opens a restaurant in NYC and fails miserably