For the past twenty-five years a prime piece of real estate has been sitting vacant on the Great South Bay in Bay Shore, New York. Enter The LakeHouse restaurant, a ten-year-old staple on Long Island that earned three stars from Newsday for their excellent dining, service and location. Previously occupying a smaller, cottage style space on Lawrence Lake, The LakeHouse will now bring that same three star service and atmosphere to an 8,000 square foot building with room for two hundred people.
The main concern of partner Eileen Connors was to make sure the space maintained the cozy, intimate feel of the previous restaurant despite moving into a more spacious building. To accomplish that they brought in an architect to split the space in to two rooms, one for fine dining and the other for a tap room with a separate menu. This gives diners an opportunity for a white tablecloth experience or a more casual, bar atmosphere to meet for dinner and drinks.
The dining room is also broken up into two to maintain the intimate feeling that the partners wanted to transfer over from the old LakeHouse. It is divided by two freestanding banquettes designed by Lenny DeFelice and the team at Bar Boy, a fifty-year-old kitchen design and installation, restaurant equipment and supply business based in Farmingdale, New York.
“The design that Bar Boy went with worked perfectly for our space because the dividers look permanent but can be moved out of the way to combine the spaces for large functions. Bar Boy was also extremely helpful in guiding us to make the
correct furniture decisions.”
Paint and interior lighting can help define the atmosphere of any restaurant, something Connors understood well when considering her options. “We are on the water so nothing could compete with the view. We wanted to complement the views of the water, not take away from them.” In an attempt to get a “rustic but elegant” feel, Connors went with a marine blue from Benjamin Moore ironically called “Connor’s Lakefront.” This combined with a beige in the other room and abstract art on the walls keeps the space soft and inviting while drawing attention to the waterfront view. In a first for The Lake House, they had their glassware branded with their logo while purchasing simple white plates and bringing their silverware over from the old restaurant.
In the kitchen, Connors entrusted Bar Boy to outfit the space. “The kitchen pieces each had to function completely separately since The LakeHouse has three operations, the dining room, the tap room and the catering business. “You don’t get anyone else who is really as involved with every facet of doing a restaurant as Bar Boy,” said Connors, who relied on them to fill out her main kitchen as well as an auxiliary pastry kitchen behind it.
“We have a separate pastry station for the first time ever so the chef can work on his own in his own area. Bar Boy understood the challenge of us being able to expand and bring the same menu that we had in our original restaurant. They helped us accomplish that with the addition of key items like the right combo oven. The Bar Boy team was also instrumental in helping us position and then build out a bar that created a separate area for us to create the right ambiance for our bar patrons.”
Returning to the theme of keeping people comfortable and continuing to do what works, there was no menu redesign to go with the new space. Connors’ husband Matt is partner and Executive chef and together with Manager Jason Gut the three of them wanted to keep the same menu. “After gaining people’s trust for ten years you can’t betray that trust by making your restaurant completely unrecognizable,” said Connors. Lunch is more casual as is the tap room, which Connors says, helps take the load off of the kitchen. Items like lobster rolls can be prepared ahead of time however dishes like their Venison with Spaetzle and Parsnip Puree take more time and energy.
It has been an amazing transition for The LakeHouse, from a sixty five-seat restaurant to a much larger space without sacrificing any of what customers have been seeking out the restaurant for over the past decade. The LakeHouse is open year round so as the summer winds down the Connors will be looking toward the fall for continued success. Having booked a number of holiday parties the LakeHouse restaurant is well on its way to accomplishing that goal.
All images photographed by students from the New York Film Academy Photography Program.