"We like to say it's the greening of Tavern on the Green," Elizabeth Moss of Swanke Hayden Connell Architects told us of the famous Central Park restaurant's nearly complete renovation. SHCA was hired by Philadelphia restaurateurs Jim Caiola and David Salama to redesign and retrofit the almost 80-year-old eatery into a light-filled, LEED Silver-seeking destination that they hope will be more accessible to New Yorkers than its tony predecessor. The much-anticipated second coming of the Tavern will culminate in an opening on April 24th, but Inhabitat was able to sneak a peek at the new green space today. Read on for photos of the restaurant's three very distinct rooms and learn more about chef Katy Sparks' menu, which will be centered on local and seasonal foods.
As most New Yorkers now know from reading the numerous anticipatory articles about the re-opening, Tavern On The Green was originally a sheepfold built in 1870 to house 200 sheep who used the adjacent Central Park’s Sheep Meadow as an eatery of their own. The building was later turned into a restaurant at the behest of parks commissioner Robert Moses in 1934. As time went on, the Tavern, which eventually closed in 2009, became more and more geared towards upscale dining, and gained a reputation as a lavish experience filled with over-the-top rococo fixtures.
But the new Tavern, under the guidance of Caiola and Salama, will be quite a departure from its rather fancy pants antecedent. The giant chandeliers and famed Crystal Room have been replaced with more modest, hand-blown glass light fixtures and a clean, glass addition that will open up right onto the park. The entirely revamped space will be almost unrecognizable to past patrons, except for perhaps the dark wood ceiling beams that date back to the structure’s sheepfold days.
The Bar Room
“It was a bit like peeling off layers on an onion…or rather clearing away barnacles,” said architect Elizabeth Moss about the renovation. “When the Crystal Room was added, the building became disconnected from the park. Now we’re bringing back the building’s original horseshoe shape with arms that feel like they’re reaching out to the park. And the glass wall will have double doors that open up onto a patio. It’ll be the first time in 50 years that the restaurant will be open to the park.”
While it hasn’t been largely publicized, the new Tavern on the Green will actually be able to live up to the color in its name with a host of eco-friendly features. “We’re planting all native plants around the restaurant,” Caiola told us. “The floor is reclaimed wood so that’s another LEED point. In fact, the whole job is [designed to be] LEED Silver.” Viridian Energy & Environmental, a Vidaris Inc. Company was the LEED consultant on the project.
But the architecture won’t be the only eco-conscious aspect of the Tavern’s rebirth. Chef Katy Sparks, who earned her culinary stripes at establishments like the Quilted Giraffe and Mesa Grill, has brought her ethos of simple, high-quality and sustainable cooking to the restaurant’s kitchen.
Click here to see the full menu.
“Partnering with local vendors has been part of the plan from the very beginning,” Sparks told us. For bread, we’re using Hot Bread Kitchen in Harlem, which is actually an incubator for women and teaches them how to cook as well as computer skills. We’re also using Bread Alone and Ruis bread, which is a wonderful artisan-whole rye bread made in Brooklyn. For fish, sustainability is always something on my mind so I make sure we research the fishes that are thriving and not over-fished. So we’re using hake instead of cod, a similar white-fleshed fish but it’s not endangered. And in terms of our meat product, we have a unique and wonderful partnership with Lobel’s, which is an old, five-generation New York butcher, and the sourcing that they do is impeccable so it’s antibiotic- and hormone- free animals and they’re providing all our fresh meat.”
Chef Katy Sparks
“We want to lend our size and muscle to the [local food] movement and make it more affordable for everybody,” Sparks continued. “If we keep scaling it up, it will just get cheaper and cheaper so we just want to be part of that – we’re not inventing it or anything but we’re adding our tremendous buying power to that.”
Tavern on the Green will open on April 24th for dinner and a weekend brunch service will be available on Mother’s Day weekend from May 10th to the 11th. The official grand opening will take place on Tuesday, May 13th. For reservation, visit their website or call 212-877-TOTG (8684).
Photos ©Yuka Yoneda