NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tavern on the Green is back in business — and back to basics.
The iconic Central Park restaurant reopened after five years Thursday, starting with a ribbon cutting attended by park and city officials.
In a major restoration, owner Jim Caiola sought to emphasize the landmark eatery’s original 1874 Victorian Gothic sheepfold exterior, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.
Caiola also replaced Tavern’s mirrors, crystal chandeliers, animal topiaries and lighted trees. He opted for vaulted ceilings with exposed wood beams, bringing back the feel of when the restaurant first opened in 1934. What once was the crystal room now has floor-to-ceiling glass, and the kitchen is open for diners to see.
“We tried to bring a lot of the 1930 original restaurant back, more congruent with the park and connected to the park,” Caiola told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
“In the ’70s, it was a dangerous park, so the walls of Tavern on the Green were to keep a safe space, whereas now we’ve become one with the park,” he added.
Executive Chef Katie Sparks has crafted a modern urban farmhouse menu — chicken cordon bleu has been replaced by quail and duck egg.
“Locally sourced food,” she said. “It really has to be all about the ingredient because we’re feeding a lot of people.
“It’s quite modern. I live in Brooklyn. I’m very inspired by Brooklyn chefs.”
The new Tavern features a more casual dining experience — and something former owner Warner Leroy could have never envisioned: takeout.
“The great thing about this version of Tavern also is you can be at the Sheep Meadow across the way, come here, grab a bite, get a drink, sit on the terrace,” Caiola said.
There was a time when people went to Tavern on the Green just for the atmosphere — a fact that Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer alluded to during the ribbon cutting.
“As great as the old tavern was, we came here for events for free food, but we didn’t eat it too much,” she said.
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