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Thread: Tavern on the Green :-)

  1. #1

    Talking Tavern on the Green :-)

    Hi there !

    I just thought it could be interesting for those who don't know what to do on thursday night ... I have been here in NYC for a few weeks now and I love to go to Tavern on the green on thursday night. It is very nice and they also have a dance floor with great music ...

    Any comment ? What do you think about Tavern ?

  2. #2
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    It's OK for lunch -- the terrace is nice if it's not too hot out.

    But TOTG is way overpriced for dinner.

  3. #3


    Tavern on the Green re-opening in jeopardy

    • Last Updated: 6:56 PM, February 28, 2013
    • Posted: 6:07 PM, February 28, 2013

    Tavern on the Green is running out of green before it even re-opens , The Post has learned.
    The cash crunch threatens the expected fall re-launch of the Central Park restaurant, sources said.
    Philadelphia-based restaurateurs Jim Caiola and David Salama need more dough to cover operating costs at the landmark eatery when it re-opens later this year after their financial backer tightened the purse strings.
    “Their backer is not coming up with as much [cash] as they expected, so they are looking for extra funds,” confirmed Steven Hall, a rep for Caiola’s and Salama’s Emerald Green Group.
    A hospitality industry insider with access to big bucks confirmed he was approached by Emerald Green to help find an alternative cash supply.

    Emerald Green’s backer is Capital Spring, several sources said, which provides debt, equity and “creative capital” for restaurants and franchises, according to its Web site.
    Emerald Green aims to open Tavern’s doors to the public in November or December. The city is spending $10 million to restore the buildings to their original 19th century state with new landscaping and an outdoor terrace, while Emerald Green is paying for up to $10 million of interior work.
    Under a 20-year license agreement with the Parks Department, Emerald Green will pay the city the greater of $1 million or 6 percent of revenue the first year, rising to $1 million or 15 percent annually in later years.
    The city still plans to turn the keys over to Emerald Green in July, and sources emphasized the cash shortfall has not interfered with the company’s ongoing construction and cooperation with city agencies.
    But the problem could hit home when the Philly boys have to start paying for food, labor and utilities, which can be tens of millions of dollars annually.

    Although smaller than the old Tavern, the new eatery will still have 600 seats indoors and out.
    The new Tavern is expected to have about 120 employees compared with 400 in the past. Although Emerald Green has a peace pact with Local 6 of the New York Hotel Trades Council, which previously represented Tavern employees, a new contract still must be nailed down.
    Representatives for Capital Spring at 950 Third Ave. didn’t return calls.
    Reached at her Brooklyn home, Katy Sparks, the 3-star chef who will run Tavern on the Green’s kitchen, said she “knew nothing” about any financing issue, adding that she had been at the Tavern site just last week.
    Through their rep, Caiola and Salama declined to comment.
    Asked to comment on the financing glitch, Parks Dept. spokesman Arthur Pincus said only, “The city’s work on Tavern on the Green is continuing as is the concessionaire’s.”

    The looming cash crunch is only the latest embarrassment for the Bloomberg administration at the site.
    Tavern, once the nation’s highest-grossing restaurant, has been dark for three years since the city refused to renew Jennifer LeRoy’s license. An attempt by Boathouse Café owner Dean Poll to re-open it crashed and burned over union issues.
    Last summer, the city surprised the restaurant world by choosing little-known Emerald Green, which runs a small Philadelphia creperie, to bring Tavern on the Green back to life.
    In addition to questions raised about Emerald Green’s limited track record, Post City Hall Bureau Chief David Seifman revealed that Salama is the brother-in-law of former Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, a close pal of Mayor Bloomberg and a top executive at Bloomberg LP.
    The city denied favoritism played any role in choosing Emerald Green. Comptroller John Liu, after saying his office would “investigate” the selection, signed off the license agreement last fall.

  4. #4


    Quote Originally Posted by mariab View Post

    The city should raze this tacky and protracted mess and invest in a handful of acorns and a couple of bags of grass seed.

  5. #5


    I haven't seen it closely since the renovation began. Does it still look bad?

    It was to be downsized from 25,000 sq ft to about half that. Supposedly, all the post-war additions were removed, including the Crystal Room.

  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by IrishInNYC View Post

    The city should raze this tacky and protracted mess and invest in a handful of acorns and a couple of bags of grass seed.
    LOL. Great line.

    I don't frequent the Tavern often; in fact it is very rare that I do, but I think I would miss it if it were gone. It is tacky, but it is an institution of sorts.

  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by eddhead View Post
    but it is an institution of sorts.
    I hear you, but so too was the New York City Lunatic Asylum. Every dog has it's day.

  8. #8


    The New York City Lunatic Asylum is gone??

  9. #9


    A long but very interesting article on the Tavern.

    Remaking Tavern on the Green, One Fork at a Time

    The old restaurant is being remade by a couple of Philly guys who are making a big bet. It starts with getting the details right.

    October 16, 2013

    The new proprietors of Tavern on the Green, Jim Caiola and David Salama, and their executive chef, Katy Sparks, on some of the plates and bowls they were considering for the restaurant.Hannah Whitaker for The New York Times

    There is a building in the Flatiron district of Manhattan
    in which 23 floors are filled entirely with tableware: butter knives and bread plates; ladles and soup bowls; warming trays and ceramic cookie jars shaped like dancing ladies (available in 12 colors). There are showrooms with nothing but drinking goblets: pinot-noir glasses and pinot-grigio glasses, margarita glasses and martini glasses — all of them available in a range of weights, shapes, sizes and styles. (Pulled stem or no stem at all? Sheer rim or rolled?) On a Monday in late September, I visited this vertical bazaar, Forty-One Madison, to shop for forks — or rather to watch Jim Caiola and David Salama, the couple behind the latest incarnation of Tavern on the Green, shop for forks. They needed 1,800 of them.

    Until they won the right to operate the famed Central Park restaurant, Caiola and Salama were unknowns on the New York food scene — and they weren’t even especially well known in their hometown, Philadelphia, where since 1998 they have run a modest French restaurant, Creperie Beau Monde. Five weeks before I met them, they left Caiola’s father in charge of the crepes and moved with their two young children and miniature labradoodle into an apartment just off Central Park West to oversee the restaurant’s remodeling. It was a big project: so far, they had ordered 30,000 square feet of wood paneling, 8,000 square feet of tile and 6,000 square feet of parquet de Versailles flooring. They had hired an Italian furniture-maker to produce 250 wooden tables covered with waxed leather in olive green, dark brown and ivory white — a different shade for each of Tavern on the Green’s three dining rooms. Leather-covered tables, Caiola told me, would dampen sound just like the white tablecloths of the old Tavern on the Green and help create a more informal vibe.

    “We want to be casual and to be elegant,” said Caiola, a gregarious 50-year-old former filmmaker who handles the front of the house. “Oops,” he added. “Somebody made fun of me the other day for saying elegant.’ ”
    “We’re from Philly,” Salama said dryly. A self-taught chef and fine-arts painter, Salama, 49, oversees restaurant operations. “Apparently, people in New York don’t say ‘elegant’ unless they mean old-fashioned.’ ”
    David Salama, left, and Jim Caiola in what will be the courtyard of the new Tavern on the Green. Hannah Whitaker for The New York Times

    Elegant or not, there was still much to do before Tavern on the Green’s grand reopening, scheduled for late December. Floors, banquettes and kitchen equipment all still had to be installed. Caiola and Salama also had to decide on light fixtures, dinner plates and whether to use separate glasses for serving red and white wine. The color of grout between the tiles was still undecided — and, crucially, so was the style of fork.

    “Flatware is the hardest thing to choose, because people have such strong visceral reactions to it,” said Katy Sparks, Tavern on the Green’s executive chef, as I accompanied her, Caiola and Salama into the first showroom of the day. “I want something that speaks to being part of a tavern, but updated,” she said. “You know, traditional but with a twist.” Sparks was especially keen on finding forks that were not overly polished, which she decided would look good on the leather tables.
    Over the course of three hours, they looked at probably 300 forks and actually tested some 50 possibilities. Testing meant first looking at a fork, feeling its weight in the palm of a hand and then, if it seemed especially promising, pantomiming a bite. I watched them reject one fork because they didn’t like the scalloped design on its end and two others for being “too squared off” and “too Deco,” respectively. Another was dismissed because, as Sparks put it, “that reads bistro” rather than tavern.

    All the forks — for which their tableware supplier estimates they will pay around $2 each — had a shaft and four tines, and most were made of the same high grade of stainless steel, containing 18 percent chrome and 10 percent nickel. (Actual silver silverware — or even the plated stuff — was ruled out as too expensive. Cheaper, lower-grade steel was deemed not durable enough.) And yet, even in what would have seemed a fairly narrow universe of possibilities, it felt as if there were an endless array of choices.

    At one point the saleswoman suggested the Chef & Sommelier Orzon line, describing it as “very traditional and not too, too heavy.” The fork had a double-rim etched along the outside and a ribbon pattern near the bottom of the shaft. Sparks deemed the pattern too traditional and turned her attention to a sample from the Arcoroc Matiz line, a more pedestrian fork with clean lines and an unfussy shaft, and handed it to Caiola. He took it but looked disappointed. “This one’s too light,” he said.

    Across the room, Salama said, “This is my favorite so far,” about a fork that, owing to a subtle ridge and a heavier weight, seemed serious and tavernlike.
    Caiola examined it closely, noting that the manufacturer’s logo had been stamped between the shaft and the tines. “We’re trying to really make a statement with our silverware,” he said, “so if there are a lot of labels, I think it’s kind of weird.” He asked Sparks what she thought.
    “I don’t have a problem with it,” she said. “But it doesn’t thrill me.” Samples were ordered so they could be tested with actual food, and the search continued.
    Caiola, Salama and Sparks evaluate cups and forks for the restaurant.Hannah Whitaker for The New York Times

    The new Tavern on the Green will be less than half the size of its previous incarnation. What will remain, once the scaffolding comes off, is a squat Gothic-revival structure built in 1871 to house sheep that used to graze in Central Park. The building was turned into a modest restaurant by Robert Moses in 1934 and then, through a series of additions in the 1970s, transformed into a palace of kitsch by Warner LeRoy, the son of Mervyn LeRoy, a director and producer, and the grandson of the Hollywood studio boss Harry Warner.

    Thanks to a booming business as a venue for private events, Tavern on the Green was one of the highest-grossing independent restaurants in the United States as recently as 2007, but it declined rapidly in the aftermath of the financial crisis. In 2009, the city’s Parks Department, reportedly reacting to the restaurant’s poor finances and the deteriorating physical condition of the place, declined to renew the LeRoy family’s operating license, and Tavern on the Green filed for bankruptcy protection. Everything was auctioned off — the Tiffany stained glass, the animal topiaries, the Oneida Pearl forks.
    The city awarded a new 20-year license to Dean Poll, a well-regarded restaurateur from Long Island who runs the neighboring Central Park Boathouse. But just nine months later, Poll walked away from the deal after failing to come to an agreement with the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, the union that represented Tavern on the Green’s nearly 400 employees, who subsequently lost their jobs. (Salama and Caiola’s agreement with the council, which they believed would help them win the right to operate the restaurant, will allow them to open as a nonunionized restaurant and gives the council the right to unionize their employees after two years.)

    ‘Tavern on the Green was always circusy and gaudy, like you were putting on costume jewelry,’ said Colman Andrews, a co-founder of Saveur magazine. ‘Of course, that couldn’t be further from the trend today.’
    The Parks Department then began removing LeRoy’s additions and allowed food trucks to open for business on its terrace. In late 2011, the city put out a second call for bids, this time for a “high-quality casual restaurant, outdoor cafe and bar” that would have a takeout window and lots of open seating. “We wanted a facility that would serve the people who visit Central Park each day,” says Betsy Smith, an assistant commissioner with the Parks Department.
    The idea of turning Tavern on the Green into an affordable casual restaurant was horrifying to many veteran restaurateurs — Nobu’s Drew Nieporent, who worked there in 1978 as a restaurant director, says the sight of a taco truck on the premises “freaked me out” — but to Caiola, the proposed changes were an opportunity. He fell in love with Tavern on the Green as a young acting student in New York in the early 1980s. “It was this amazing place with all these languages and all of this celebrating happening around you,” he says. “I just remember thinking, If I ever go into the restaurant business, this is where it would be.”

    In 2009 Caiola signed up for the Parks Department’s e-mail list and drove to New York to attend the official walk-through for prospective bidders. He flirted with the idea of making a bid but was scared off by the building’s poor condition. A couple of years later, on the afternoon of Dec. 29, 2011, an e-mail landed in his in-box noting that new proposals for the right to operate a smaller, neighborhood-focused Tavern on the Green for 20 years were being accepted. “It was like it was speaking to me,” says Caiola, who recalls blurting out, “David, we’re moving to New York!”

    Salama and Caiola recruited Sparks, who was a longtime friend of Caiola’s and a chef who ran the New York hot spot Quilty’s in the 1990s and more recently was working as culinary consultant. She wrote a sample menu that called for seasonal ingredients and Brooklyn prices — for instance, “Marinated skirt steak with red-onion marmalade, dandelion greens and golden-potato croutons, fresh farm egg, $24” — and Salama contributed impressionistic renderings of the interior. They wrote one check for $25,000 to cover the required application fee and declared that they were prepared to contribute $818,250 of their own money and that they were negotiating with banks and individual investors to raise another $7 million to help pay for the remodeling and the refurnishing of the place. They proposed to pay the city a minimum of $38.7 million over their 20-year term.
    Caiola, Salama and Sparks on stemware.Hannah Whitaker for The New York Times

    The announcement last August that Caiola and Salama had been selected to take over Tavern on the Green created a miniscandal. If Dean Poll had seemed nouveau riche to some New York foodies — in 2010, The New York Observer derided the Boathouse’s “Pottery Barn décor” and “suburban blandness” — the idea of two crepe-sellers from South Philly was downright preposterous, especially when reports surfaced that Caiola’s brother-in-law is Kevin Sheekey, a former New York City deputy mayor. “What a Load of Crepe!” a headline in The New York Post said.

    In the end, the Parks Department, which contends it was unaware of the relationship between Caiola and Sheekey and that the decision was made strictly on merit, didn’t have all that many choices. Though rumors had circulated over the years that Mario Batali, Danny Meyer, Drew Nieporent or even Donald Trump might make a play for Tavern, none officially did. “The amount of money you needed to rebuild it was so great that you’d end up having to build a palace — and then how do you turn a palace into a great restaurant?” says Meyer, whose Union Square Hospitality Group owns Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe and Shake Shack, among other restaurants. “A real restaurant needs to have at least some intimacy, some soul. I would’ve wanted to shrink it down to nothing. That’s why I never would have done Tavern on the Green.” Nieporent declined to make a bid, but for the opposite reason: “I wish the city had a slightly grander vision,” he says.

    Such caution was understandable. The risks of restaurant ownership — which include having to submit to the whims of local regulators, fluctuations in food prices and, most terrifying and mysterious of all, changes in consumer taste — can humble even the most disciplined food-service operations. To cite one famous example: In 2003, Darden Restaurants reported that more than $3 million had disappeared from its bottom line because of an “Endless Crab” promotion at its Red Lobster chain. The president of the chain was ousted, and Darden’s chairman had to explain to investors on a conference call, “It wasn’t the second helping, it was the third that hurt.”

    Moreover, Tavern on the Green seems fraught as an investment, especially for independent owners with limited means, like Caiola and Salama. Their holding company will owe the city a licensing fee of at least $1 million next year, or 6 percent of the total sales, whichever is greater. That figure already dwarfs the 3.5 percent the LeRoy family paid each year during its tenure, and Caiola and Salama’s rent will only go up from there. By 2033, Tavern on the Green will owe the city at least $3.3 million, or 15.5 percent of sales.
    In order to comfortably afford those payments — and to avoid having to raise more money to pay the city — Caiola’s initial projection for next year called for Tavern on the Green to take in more than $17 million, serving 600 sit-down meals a day on weekdays and 1,200 on weekends with an average restaurant check of $50 per person, not including tax and tip. That’s quite a step up from Creperie Beau Monde, which, according to Caiola, makes a comfortable profit on about $2 million a year.

    Slide Show | 18 Slides
    Hunting the Perfect Logo

    The many rejected designs for Tavern on the Green’s new signage.

    Of course, like many restaurant owners, Caiola and Salama aren’t really in this for the money. They’re both artists by training, and they see Tavern on the Green as a kind of creative expression as much as a business opportunity. “David and I have been involved in every chair design, every tabletop design, every banquette, every fabric — everything,” Caiola says. “All these choices are incredibly important. Each one of them creates the whole.” During our trip to buy forks, I also watched Caiola, Salama and Sparks debate which shade of white dinner plate would look best on the ivory white leather tabletops they have planned for the dining room with the open kitchen and whether they could find a wineglass with a shape that would be neither too round nor too narrow to accommodate red and white wines — a necessary compromise because Tavern on the Green has very little storage space.

    At the same time as they have been struggling with these and other decisions, their costs have ballooned and the project has fallen behind schedule. The building was in worse condition than they expected (“It was disgusting when we got here,” Caiola says), and construction costs — both theirs and those borne by the city — have skyrocketed in the wake of Sandy. Fees from service providers have risen since their original bid, too. Caiola and Salama have so far borrowed $16.7 million from Summit Partners Credit Advisors, an affiliate of a Boston-based equity firm, which they have to pay back within five years. (To date, they have invested roughly $1.5 million of their own money.) “We’re not thinking in terms of how can we use every chair to make the most money — we’re thinking what works for the space energetically and in terms of the neighborhood,” Caiola says. “What’s important to me is that our restaurant is accessible, that the bar has a buzz to it.” Of course, if that doesn’t translate into packed dining rooms, all this artistry won’t matter much.

    “Is that door backward?”
    Caiola cocked his head a few degrees, scrunched up his face and spent a few seconds scrutinizing the arched entrance, where a single white door hung with the hinges on the right-hand side. Apparently, the plans called for it to swing out from the left. “They just put that in. I need to talk to them about that.”
    An early conceptual sketch of the future Tavern on the Green.David Salama

    As Caiola ushered me through the entrance to Tavern on the Green one day last month, he said: “The whole point is to return the building to its original grandeur. The kitchen will be open, and all the grills will be right here. It’s a really fire-driven menu, like in an Argentinian restaurant.” In the space that once was the Crystal Room, the heart of the former restaurant, the city was constructing a giant glass box, which would define the dining area with the white leather tabletops. These would match the custom-made white wall panels and the white plates (“classic, but with personality,” Caiola says). The vision: To create a stark foreground for views of Central Park and a fusion of the memorable old Tavern on the Green and a welcoming neighborhood restaurant. “This will be a really special place to eat,” Caiola said with a smile. “You’ll be able to eat under the stars, looking on the whole park. It’ll be beautiful.”

    I tried to see it, but it wasn’t easy. The glass box was just a concrete slab and a gaping hole in the building; the open kitchen had no kitchen equipment. Instead I saw buckets of cement, an eight-foot-high pile of metal ducts and strips of pink insulation. The only signs I saw that the space would ever be a restaurant were a couple of feet of wood paneling in the far back corner with the words “South Dining Room” printed on them. The panels had been brought in to help Caiola and Salama decide what shade of LED light bulb would run behind the banquettes and shine onto the ceiling. After consulting a lighting designer, they opted for the brighter 2,700 Kelvin bulb — the dimmer 2,200 Kelvin bulb was, in Caiola’s words, “too yellow” and “depressing” when pointed on the sample paneling.

    In the end, though, such details may be beside the point. The New York restaurant market has changed since Tavern on the Green’s heyday, and Caiola and Salama’s vision of a glamorous restaurant that somehow also caters to locals seems almost self-contradictory. “I think it’s going to be a tough sell,” says Colman Andrews, a co-founder of Saveur magazine and now the editorial director of The Daily Meal, an online publication. “Tavern on the Green was always circusy and gaudy, like you were putting on costume jewelry. Of course, that couldn’t be further from the trend today: a small, uncomfortable, plainly undone-up space that seats 22 people.”

    When I told Caiola that I had always thought of Tavern on the Green as somewhat unhip — and that I had, in fact, never been to it, despite having spent much of my life in New York — he seemed taken aback: “What were those restaurants you went to when you were 25? What was the Russian Tea Room or Maxwell’s Plum? What was the cool place?”
    I suggested that young New Yorkers now go to smaller, neighborhood places in Brooklyn — restaurants that have more in common with his tiny Philadelphia creperie than Tavern on the Green. Caiola laughed uncomfortably and then, sighing slightly, asked, “Where would you have taken your grandmother for her 90th birthday?”
    If that’s all the new Tavern on the Green becomes, it’s not very likely to be a success — either as a commercial enterprise or a creative work. “Tavern on the Green will probably always be a tourist attraction,” Andrews says, adding that he thinks the idea of an intimate, neighborhood restaurant that happens to seat about 600 people, as Tavern on the Green will, is all but impossible.

    Caiola and Salama have ideas to address this concern. Their plan for the open kitchen is designed to create a sense of intimacy found in smaller establishments, and they’re turning one of the old dining rooms into a bar with open seating that is designed to appeal to locals. They’ve also commissioned a high-end lighting-design firm to create an installation composed of 500 bulbs or perhaps mini-chandeliers that will hang in the courtyard, creating the impression of a sparkling, starry sky amid the boughs of Central Park’s trees. The idea is to evoke the white Christmas lights of the old Tavern on the Green and also to conjure a new sense of magic. “We want to make it special,” Caiola says, “and to make sure we nod to the history of the restaurant.”
    Two weeks after our shopping trip, I called Caiola to ask him if a fork had been chosen. “We’re really close,” he said excitedly, noting that he, Salama and Sparks had made a date for the following week to line up the forks next to their possible plates, bowls and glasses in order to know for sure. “All of these choices are incredibly important,” he said, and then paused. “Maybe not in the scheme of life, though.”
    <img src=""/>
    Max Chafkin is a contributing writer at Fast Company. He last wrote for the magazine about charity: water.

  10. #10


    The interior courtyard isn't complete. Looks good. They got rid of Liberace.

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