Gary Jacobs’ Approach
We knew from the outset that our client would be raising the culinary bar for sports-themed venues. The kitchen would have to support a block-long venue while respecting the culinary standards of Ark Restaurants’ corporate executive chef, David Waltuck. We had a reasonable amount of square footage to work with, though none to spare. With hearth and rotisserie cooking being central elements of both the menu and the guest’s visual experience, we set the Alto-Shaam rotisserie and Wood Stone Firedeck oven first.
They’re great performers worthy of center stage. Working closely with David, James Feustel and I were able to sort flow and function, matching broad menu categories to specific functions and individual stations. We started with the service line then moved to hot and cold prep areas, dishwashing, and, finally cold and dry storage. Fortunately, we had considerable height which allowed us to create bi-level storage by reinforcing the walk-in box and staging dry storage above.
That made a critical difference, as lower level storage was very limited. In order to hold budget we kept the number of custom fabricated items to a minimum. For the most part we limited it to the chef’s counter and the dish pit. The dish pit was tight when we first drew it; we called for a compact unloader, which allowed us to employ a 44” conveyor dishwasher. Unfortunately, field conditions cost us a critical foot, which pushed the machine to the point where it’s conveyor motor was in direct conflict with the Aeroworks unit’s.
Everything on the line, including the exhaust system, had to be spec’ed for volume and durability. Captive-Aire hoods provided us with a tremendous, cost-effective option which allowed us to address the substantial challenge of a heavy grill / fry / saute program. In addition to the Alto-Shaam rotisserie and Wood Stone ovens, we specified fryers with computerized controls and on-board filtration to maintain optimal conditions throughout the shift.
We also put in a pasta cooker which allows us to remove starch and change water throughout the shift. Allowing David to hold his standard meant including several pieces of specialized equipment, including a batch freezer to allow in-house frozen dessert production, a combi oven for carefully controlled roasting, baking and steaming, a multi-purpose smoker, and a steam kettle. These are not items typically associated with sports bar operations–they’re much more often found in higher-end restaurants. Our client was not looking to compromise.
Jerry Hoffman’s Approach
Gary Jacobs brought us on in December of 2011. We walked in, and it was just a raw space. No walls, no nothing. It’s been one of the fastest-tracked jobs I’ve ever seen. The speed with which we’ve had to do everything has posed some challenges. For instance, we had to take all the measurements for the space before any of the walls were up. One of the first things we had to do was soundproof the ceilings.
Unlike a lot of places we work in, the restaurant space is in the ground floor of an apartment building, so we needed to be sure that none of the noise from the restaurant leaked through into the apartments upstairs. The first thing we installed was the walk-in space. We designed it to leave room above for dry goods storage, which was an important space-saving measure. We also saved space with a remote refrigeration system for the beer, which meant we didn’t have to waste valuable food preparation space on the beer boxes or lines.
We worked with Americold NY for several reasons. Americold NY always enjoys working on Jacobs, Doland & Beer projects, side-by-side with us, because of their unique designs & professional approach. The most challenging part of this fairly routine install was the hanging of a very large and very heavy compressor rack system in a very tight spot but all went well and all systems are go. It was their first opportunity to install for Ark Restaurants, one of the most prestigious restaurant groups in New York, so it was a great opportunity for them as well.
The custom fab, what little we needed, was done by Goldenshtein. The one issue we had was with the dish line–we needed it to bend at a 90 degree angle to fit the space.
Scott Lee’s ApproachWe first saw the space about seven months ago. It was a completely blank space, except for the fact that it had three tiers–it had a lower elevation along the 38th street frontage. So we had to knit those three tiers together to form one cohesive space–and that was the point at which we started focusing on an innovative ceiling design. We had an amazing opportunity, at the beginning of this process, to go spend time with Clyde and search through his closets. That was the inspiration for the aluminum panels on the ceiling of the restaurant–it was based off actual snapshots of his signature suits. We wanted to make it feel like you were dining in one of his outfits. Those were done by a company called Zahner, which is located in Kansas City. From the very beginning, Morphosis and Ark shared a vision of the place–that it would be a beautiful restaurant and a great experience, that would also be the place where fans could go watch a game on TV. We wanted it to be a comfortable environment.
The basketball court was inspired by one of our initial meetings with Clyde. We were joking around, at first, “wouldn’t it be cool if you could shoot some hoops before drinks,” and it kind of went from there. We wanted to keep it separate from the dining area, so we put it up front, in the lounge space. We also wanted to create a visual experience that would be colorful without overwhelming the diner, so we put most of the color in the ceiling and in the video monitors. Everything else is very subdued. We wanted to have an open kitchen from the start. So we turned it into a counter, with individual TVs at each seat. We’re going to be installing individual controls at each seat, so that you can sit down, plug in a pair of headphones, and watch whatever game you want, with sound, while also watching the chefs do their thing.
We put murals of Clyde on the posts right near the two entrances, to the restaurant space and the lounge space. The idea was, that even though Clyde is going to be at the restaurant in person on a regular basis, we wanted something of him there to welcome patrons, even when he can’t be there himself. It’s been an incredibly fun project for us.
It’s really pushed me to focus on the playfulness of my designs, and that’s something I think will serve me well in future projects.
Terry Higgins’ Approach
Our job is to work with the architects and the suppliers to turn the architect’s vision into a space that diners will love to eat at. I’ve worked on over a hundred restaurants, and each one is a little bit different, but this was one of the most unique projects I’ve ever worked on. The materials–especially the aluminum ceiling panels–are not the sort that you would normally find in a restaurant, so dealing with that was something of a challenge.
Clyde Frazier’s Approach
When I was initially approached about opening a restaurant, I was unsure–I was worried that it would be a major lifestyle change for me. But then when I thought some more about it, if there was one venue I should be in – where I’m doing what I like to do, meeting, greeting, talking to people, dressing up, going somewhere, having somewhere to go – this is it, the restaurant.
But I never thought along those lines until it was presented to me. I’m lucky to be working with Michael Weinstein and Ark Restaurants. I was reluctant to put my name out there with anybody if the place wasn’t going to represent me the way I wanted to be represented, but those guys have tremendous background and expertise.
Michael [Weinstein], my partner, has restaurants here (in NYC) and in Vegas, and he saw this whole Clyde image. That’s what the restaurant is about – my style, my fashion. The ceiling is a reflection of my suits. The front is a scram of my playing career. We’re really having fun with the menus. The drink menu includes a “Stumblin’ and Bumblin.” And when you see the place, people are going to be amazed. It’s really state-of-the-art. There are 40 different TV sets throughout the place. There is an open kitchen. The whole thing is about the “Clyde” image and the persona. We even have an open basketball court in there where you can shoot free throws, with Knick colors in the paint, the whole thing.
When I go out I like ambience. I like to be able to see something. Service is important, so good servers, and good food. So this is what we’re trying to bring. Hopefully my name is going to get the people in the doors, but it has to be the food that keeps them coming back. So we’re not billing it as a sports bar, but you can watch sports there. And we think the food will make the difference.
I’m going to be there as often as I can, when the Knicks schedule allows me to be there. We’re going to be open for lunch, so I’m going to try to build that up by being there for lunch. I’m really looking forward to it because this is an extension of what I do with the Knicks. I like to go to the Delta Club before the game, talk to the fans, meet and greet. I go to the sushi bar there and eat before the game. You know, I really like that. This part of the thing is why I wanted to get into the restaurant business. Like I said this is a perfect venue for me to be in right now.