The Greatest New Restaurant Design in New York Metropolis

The Greatest New Restaurant Design in New York Metropolis

My first time strolling into HAGS, a queer positive eating vacation spot within the East Village, I believed I’d be flooded with reminiscences. I believed it might be apparent what it had been, the bones of its earlier life pushing via the pores and skin of its partitions. However among the many bar’s material, the comfortable cubicles, the lime inexperienced accents and the heart-shaped pink lights that adorn every desk, it felt like a singular house, one thing new and bizarre and decidedly queer. I used to be shocked to search out I wasn’t pondering of all of the dinners I’d had on this room, which had outlined eating within the early aughts in New York Metropolis not only for me, however for mainly the entire nation. The transformation was kind of an incredible feat.

HAGS sits at 163 First Avenue in Manhattan, which from 2004 to 2007 was the unique location of Momofuku Noodle Bar. It was famously spare and cramped. New York Journal then described its “practically unpassable, slim aisle of stools and its starkly practical, brightly lit setting.” Its uncomfortableness was a part of the romance, the concept that you had been one of many chosen few getting into this secret, practically unmarked room to eat an impeccable bowl of ramen. Later, because the model expanded, the tackle was the house of Momofuku Ko, and after that, the primary location of David Chang’s fast-food endeavor Fuku.

Interior of a restaurant space facing the door, with tables and chairs.

An oval window overlooks the street with several restaurant tables below.

In 2021 the restaurant went on the rental market, and initially, it didn’t look like the sort of place HAGS homeowners and couple Telly Justice and Camille Lindsley had been going for. Their necessities included issues like a lot of pure gentle and a heat, comfortable presence. “I don’t know should you keep in mind the outdated Momofuku house, nevertheless it didn’t have any home windows or pure gentle onto the road. It was utterly blocked off,” says Sarah Carpenter of Sarah Carpenter & Studio, the design crew that constructed out HAGS.

However then once more, it’s uncommon to discover a Manhattan restaurant house that doesn’t have issues. Carpenter, who had a hand in serving to discover 163 First Avenue, says that regardless of its shortcomings, it had potential. “They all the time knew that they wished the house to be small and intimate,” says Carpenter. “I feel as a result of it actually permits them to have simply work-life steadiness and employees therapy, that was actually important to their ethos.” The HAGS crew was up for the problem of not simply find out how to make the outdated Momofuku eating room totally different, however find out how to make it queer.

Justice by no means anticipated the pair could be working their queer tackle tasting menus in a spot with such historical past. “It was possibly a fiber of self-sabotaging,” she says, “as a result of we had been like ‘that is Momofuku Ko, we’re by no means going to get the lease.’” This assumption allowed Justice and Lindsley to be barely fantastical of their concepts. They wished pure gentle, plush surfaces, and no proper angles as a result of “proper angles are straight,” says Justice, midway joking. These concepts had been shaped with out consideration for the bodily realities of any potential location. However Carpenter ran with it. “[She] took our extremely inane and erratic temper board,” says Justice. “It was like photos of individuals’s lips and orchids and bizarre stuff, like a shucked oyster, and he or she actually fleshed this out.”

In fact, the largest challenges weren’t the horny ones: 163 First Avenue wanted nearly a whole demolition. The HVAC system was busted. The plumbing was outdated. “Deciding that it was crucial to design the house for ADA compliance, and it being such an extremely small house, there have been a variety of shock components of like, how can we get another inch?” says Justice. “How can we push this wall on this kitchen somewhat bit additional so {that a} wheelchair can fairly entry the lavatory?”

Small bowl containing button pins reading “he/him,” “she/her,” and “ze/zir” next to a lit heart-shaped lamp.

Photo of the interior of a restaurant focused on a bright green bar with stools.

However as soon as they bought all the things functioning, Carpenter was then tasked with taking this darkish, angular house and remodeling it into one thing radically totally different, full with a window to the road that by no means existed. Carpenter says she was aesthetically impressed at first by Justice and Lindsley’s relationship. Operating a restaurant as a pair may be famously disastrous, so Carpenter thought, “Okay, these two are companions in life. They actually love one another. We need to be certain that they nonetheless love one another when the restaurant opens.”

That influenced the format of the bar and the kitchen, making it open “to allow them to catch glances of one another all through the service.” It influenced the colours, like lime inexperienced and pink, which Carpenter says she selected to match Justice’s ever-evolving hair. And whereas constructing solely spherical corners was unimaginable in a room this small, as rounded corners normally take up extra space than proper angles, Carpenter discovered methods to embody the comfortable, inviting ethos Justice and Lindsley wished. The bar has a padded armrest. The upholstery is tufted. The lime inexperienced paint has a comfortable visible texture to it. Even the heart-shaped lamps on the desk are squishable.

For Justice, nevertheless, the perfect a part of the transform was the outside, which remodeled the black, thatched metallic gateway to Momofuku right into a psychedelic, Gaudí-esque opening. “It’s so inviting, this concave, punched-out, sloping portal into like this different world off the road,” she says. “You enter it and also you come into this little den, I feel it’s actually transportive.” And though it’s bizarre and singular, it matches in with the remainder of the neighborhood, a spot with a multiethnic, countercultural, punk rock historical past, which was necessary to Justice. “Our individuality issues, our personalities, our identities matter, however we’re part of this bigger neighborhood, and I really feel just like the frontage actually captures that for me.”

Blurred patrons pass in front of HAGS, a fine dining restaurant in the East Village.

Christian Rodriguez/Eater

Greater than something, Justice and Carpenter knew folks could be wanting on the facade, questioning what had changed the restaurant that launched an empire. “There was one thing that was actually pivotal in that house earlier than and might you match that?” says Carpenter. And never simply match it, however make it queer — one thing that’s practically unimaginable to outline. What makes a window queer, or a desk, or an angle? Queerness will not be present in objects, however in emotions, which suggests any design decisions needed to convey intimacy and heat, and be equally welcoming and bizarre. The consequence seems to be nothing like what was there earlier than. However the portal paves the way in which to a restaurant that will flip into one thing simply as iconic.

Christian Rodriguez is a New York Metropolis-based photographer interested by creating work that dives into his diasporic roots. He has been printed within the New York Occasions and New York journal, amongst others.

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