New York — From early in the process, I clearly understood the historical value and importance behind the name of the restaurant I’m preparing to open in Harlem.
Red Rooster is a legend and its very mention brings a glimmer of nostalgia in the eyes of those who visited the lounge in its heyday.
It was that exact look of nostalgia I felt was integral to the restaurant’s decor. Through small and large elements, we were able to create a chic yet warm meeting place for Harlem, both old and new.
Our pride and joy, the centerpiece of the restaurant, is our bar. It’s the first thing you see when you walk into the space.
Harlem is the hub of counter culture…and I mean that in the most literal sense.
When I first moved to Harlem, one of my favorite spots was the now-shuttered M & G Diner, on the corner of 125th and St. Nicholas. I would plop down at the counter to enjoy some breakfast and find out all the local news from my stool neighbors.
I wanted this feel of community at the new Red Rooster, where you can sit down and actually meet your neighbors, regardless of where you’re from. That particular space is all about connecting. I want folks to feel encouraged to pull up a stool at the bar and enjoy a meal.
The bar seamlessly moves from day to night, with it’s honey dipper-style carvings and curves, and becomes a sexy spot to meet up for drinks and share bites. Versatility has always been key.
The bar is not at all the solo diner’s “no-man’s land” you might often find at some restaurants.
I also wanted to introduce “little bits of memory” to the space, things that brought me back to a comfortable place and hope would create the same reaction for all who saw them.
I rummaged through thrift shops allover Harlem, picking up old books, house wares, records, games and everything else that triggered a memory of sorts.
Ironically enough, I found that all of the most beautiful vintage pieces were the personal property of the storeowners and “NOT FOR SALE!”
The shelves are stocked with all sorts of odds and ends acquired on these trips.
My goal was not to create a time capsule, but rather to introduce an essence that harked back to something that felt as warm as grandma’s house but meshed with new elements so gracefully, that it created a comfortable vibrancy.
For more on me, Red Rooster and recipes, please visit marcussamuelsson.com or follow me on Twitter, @marcuscooks.