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Tuesday
Mar252014

New Restaurant Under Construction in Melt Space

Melt, the restaurant on Bergen Street just east of Fifth Avenue, appears to be the latest local business to pull a "Closed for Renovations" fast one on the neighborhood. The neighborhood spot closed under those pretenses back in September and never reopened, and while the signs are still posted to the front windows, workers in the space that I spoke to last weekend assured me that Melt was gone for good, and a new restaurant is coming into the space.

They were tight-lipped about what exactly is in the works, and wouldn't reveal a name or even style of food. I'll keep digging, but in the meantime it appears as if we can pour one out for Melt.

Friday
Mar212014

Loki Lounge Officially on the Market

It's been a couple months since word got around that the owners of Loki Lounge, the bar that's held down the corner of 5th Avenue and 2nd Street since 1999, were planning on seriously downsizing due to a rent increase. When I spoke with a bartender a couple weeks ago he told me that the plan was to sell off the portion of the space that's currently the bar area but hold onto the back "lounge" area and convert that remaining portion into a new bar, with an entrance on 2nd Street. That all appears to be finally underway, as Park Slope Stoop noticed that the space is currently up for rent on Craigslist.

A rep from the bar confirmed to me that the initial plan to split in half is still in place, and that Benchmark, the adjacent steakhouse with the same owners, will be remaining open as well. The space is on the market for $11,500/ month (the equivalent of 2,300 $5 well drinks), and can be turned over as-is with no key money.

Wednesday
Mar192014

Artist & Craftsman Supply Shop Coming to Second Street

A new art supply shop will be opening soon in a large building on Second Street near 4th Avenue. It's an outpost of the 29 year-old Artist & Craftsman Supply, which has 20 locations in 13 states.

The store (which judging by the space will be more of an emporium) will sell everything an artist could want, ranging from brushes, paints, and canvas to knitting sets, arts & crafts supplies, and carving tools.

This shop certainly looks like it'll fill a niche in the neighborhood; it'll come in handy for everyone from kids who have art projects to painters, printmakers, sculptors, knitters, and crafts enthusiasts. It's hard to tell if they'll be fixing the facade up at all, but the fact that the sign is already up probably means it'll be opening sooner rather than later.

Many thanks to a tipster for sending in the photo.

Monday
Mar172014

McMahon's Public House Opens in O'Connor's Space on Fifth

One year and nine months since closing for a renovation, a completely rebuilt O'Connor's bar soft-opened yesterday (the official opening is today), with an entirely new look and a new name: McMahon's Public House.

Owners Mike and Jimmy McMahon, who purchased the classic dive bar (on 5th between Bergen and Dean) a few years ago from the descendants of original owner Dominic O'Connor, decided to rename the bar in honor of their late father, and if you thought that the new bar would bear any resemblance to its beloved predecessor, think again: it's more than tripled in size, is gleaming, has an extensive draft beer selection, and is anything but a dive.

The old bar hadn't had any major upgrades since first opening back in 1931, meaning that while it was a veritable time machine there were no draft lines and a crumbling infrastructure (a back wall collapsed in the earliest days of the renovation). "If it was still the way it was, the roof would have collapsed this winter because of all the snow," Mike told me. "We salvaged as much as we could, but honestly there wasn't much we could do. We tried to save the bar itself but it was worm-eaten."

A handful of decorative touches remain from O'Connor's, including a giant moose's head with a bra still hanging off of it, an old wall clock, and (miraculously) the old phone booth, which has been refurbished and installed in the downstairs room with a working pay phone. A small section of the rear brick wall was also left intact.

Once you make your peace with the fact that the O'Connor's we knew and loved is long-gone, you'll notice that the new bar is one of the biggest in the neighborhood, and is comfortable and nicely appointed. The front room lets in a ton of natural light and has ample seating, and a back dining room seats about 40. There's plenty of dark wood, high ceilings, and charcoal gray walls.

The back room

There's also a second floor, which will open up for private events and when the first floor is at capacity. It boasts a second full bar, ample seating, and a patio. It has a slightly more industrial feel, all black and metallic gray.

There are 12 beers on tap at the moment but Maher plans to install more, with a goal of having about 30 taps in total. Beers average $5-7, and there will also be a daily happy hour. They're planning on opening at 9 am every morning like in the old days, and the kitchen (with a full menu, including homemade corned beef and cabbage) will be up and running in about three weeks.

So raise a glass to O'Connor's; it'll only remain the way it was in our memories. But I think it's been replaced by a shiny new bar that's hard to find major fault with, one that certainly appears to be a very solid watering hole.

So here's one last look at the old bar room:

And the same view, today:

Friday
Mar142014

The Soup Bowl's Chef/Owner to Open Restaurant on 9th Street

Richard Gussoff, the chef behind the popular Soup Bowl on 7th Avenue near 9th Street, will be opening a full-service restaurant called Uncle Arthur's Cafe on 9th Street near the northwest corner of 4th Avenue, in the space that was last occupied by Italian deli Catene. Above is the sign that went up inside the Soup Bowl last week; construction is wrapping up and the restaurant should be open in about two weeks.

Gussoff, a Park Slope native who lives in the neighborhood, spent 19 years as chef/owner at three restaurants in Hell's Kitchen (seafood spot Sag Harbor, trattoria Pietrasanta, and Rachel's American Bistro) before opening up The Soup Bowl four winters ago and a second location in Prospect Heights the following year. He told me that this restaurant will draw inspiration from all his prior menus, including The Soup Bowl. "The menu will be eclectic American cuisine," he said. I'll be serving pastas from my trattoria, other dishes from the menu at the bistro, and three to four soups on the menu at all times." There will also be plenty of new items. The menu "will be a good size, but not like a diner menu," he added. "I like a lot of options. The more the merrier." Sample menu items include pecan-crusted chicken, blackened salmon, fish tacos, and linguine with chicken, and an extensive side vegetable selection that includes Brussels sprouts, roasted butternut squash, corn pudding, and quinoa.

Like The Soup Bowl (which will be closing on Friday and returning again next year), some of the ingredients will be sourced from greenmarkets daily, and will largely dictate what's served as specials.

The restaurant will seat about 40, including 8 or 9 at a custom-built bar. Only beer and wine will be available because of the proximity to a church, but there will be a nice selection of wine and predominantly local beers. To cater to the commuter crowd, they'll be operating as an upscale coffee bar during the earlier hours, serving coffee from Staten Island-based Unique Coffee Roasters.

The vibe will be casual, and offerings will be inexpensive: entrees will start at $12 and top out in the low 20s. "My feeling is, you should make the room comfortable, treat your customers well, and make it affordable," he added. 

Bottom photo via Lost City