Why New York's Estela Brings Barack Obama to the Table

"He walks in, everybody was cheering. It was crazy," Mattos told Where Hollywood Eats of the 44th U.S. president.

Nestled between Mulberry and Mott streets on Houston Street in New York, the restaurant Estela is known for incorporating the diverse cultures of the Big Apple with bold, clean flavors.

Co-owner and chef Ignacio Mattos opened Estela with Thomas Carter back in 2013 in the building that once housed the Knitting Factory music venue in the late 1980s. Since opening its doors, the mission of the restaurant has been simple: create dishes that leave a lasting impression on customers.

“I love going to places where I know what I’m going to get. If I’m going to go eat at this place, I know they do these things really well than I always get that thing. So Estela is meant to be that,” Mattos tells THR.

From the endive salad to the tartare, the New American menu has attracted a starry list of customers including President Barack Obama.

“So, this friend was sitting [at a table] and it was like, ‘Listen, the president of the United States is coming.’ We kicked our friends off the table. [One friend] didn’t believe us. He’s sitting [and] all of a sudden [he] sees Obama, he’s in tears,” Mattos says. “It was truly insane. They sat there, they had a certain time to be in and out. And it was very beautiful to see what a generous being, the presence of this guy. He walked in, everybody was cheering. It was crazy.”

For Mattos, who has earned critical acclaim for his signature style of bold seasonal food, the kitchen feels like a comfortable creative outlet.

“I just love what I do. There is a creative outlet to it within that comforting element, but it also [is] regenerating and coming up with new ideas and new dishes, but it’s still how we keep our DNA intact that we find the identity of the place itself,” he says.