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Taste of the LES: A Casa Fox

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Melissa Fox

We’re continuing our profiles of restaurants participating in the 10th annual Taste of the Lower East Side.  The event, benefiting the Grand Street Settlement, will be held April 29th. Today we’re featuring A Casa Fox, the Latin restaurant and catering company on Orchard Street.

A few years ago, Melissa Fox definitely didn’t see herself working in the food business. A film executive in Los Angeles, she decided it was time to come home, although she wasn’t really sure what was next in her professional life. It just so happens she was flying to New York on September 11th, 2001. Like so many other people, the events that day prompted Fox to do some serious soul searching. She began cooking for friends (mostly for therapy), and pretty soon strangers were calling out of the blue asking her to cater small parties and other events.

Three years later (in 2008) Fox decided it was time to find a space that could double as her catering headquarters and a restaurant. She settled on a storefront at 173 Orchard, which she completely renovated with a large kitchen, a fireplace, rustic furnishings and many personal touches (such as family photographs and momentos). A Casa Fox was born.

The menu features a variety of empanadas, traditional clay pots (such as braised pork ribs) and a selection of small plates (grilled chorizo, seared calamari, fried manchego). Fox says the restaurant blends the traditional Nicaraguan preparations inspired by her upbringing along with a few interesting pan-Latin twists. For the Taste of the Lower East Side, she’s preparing arroz con pollo.

Fox has found her passion in the kitchen and enjoys the community spirit on the Lower East Side. But the truth is the past couple of years have been a rough ride. For starters, she opened her restaurant just as the economy was cratering. For another, she’s directly across the street from 180 Orchard, one of the neighborhood’s most infamous stalled construction projects. Fox chose this location with the understanding that the complex across the street (an apartment and hotel development) would provide a steady stream of walk-in customers. Instead, she finds herself in a permanent construction zone with very little foot traffic.

But Fox remains optimistic.  Her catering business is beginning to pick up. She’s cultivated a good group of loyal customers. And she’s excited about the prospect of cooking alongside many of her peers at the Taste of the LES. “I have a lot to express through my food,” she said. In the next few weeks, Fox will be transitioning to a new summer menu, which will more strongly reflect her own interpretations of classic latin dishes.

If you’d like to learn more about the programs the Taste of the LES supports, check out our recent story on the Grand Street Settlement. And if you want to buy tickets for the event, click here.

Coming up tomorrow: Sugar Sweet Sunshine.

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