We've been awaiting Tavern on the Green's much-hyped resurrection for a while now, and it looks like we're still going to have to hold out until December, at the very least. But in anticipation of the return of Bloomberg's beloved refuge from bloody '90s criminals, the NY Times ran a long profile on the restaurant's new "casual" incarnation in its magazine this week, and appears quite a bit of work is being done to restore it to its former quasi-glory. Also, the proprietors seem to spend a lot of time looking at forks.
There was a lot of hullabaloo in August 2012, when the city selected the Philadelphia-based Emerald Group to take over the money problem-plagued Central Park space, and a connection to Bloomberg—one of the proprietor's brothers-in-law was a former aide to the mayor—even sparked an investigation. Turns out Jim Caiola and David Salama, who run the Emerald Group, were the only men for the job, for the most part. "The amount of money you needed to rebuild it was so great that you’d end up having to build a palace — and then how do you turn a palace into a great restaurant?" Danny Meyer, who runs eateries like Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack and was once considered a frontrunner to take over Tavern on the Green, told the Times. Other bigwigs like Mario Batali and Donald Trump never bothered to make a bid for the space.
And there will be big changes: as previously noted, the new Tavern on the Green will feature a much more "casual" atmosphere than the old schmancy money pit (though a look at the tentative fare, cooked up by celebrity chef Katy Sparks, doesn't seem to be much cheaper). A big glass box will apparently encase the dining area, though the Times reporter noted little progress on the dining area and kitchen been done thus far. Caiola and Salama say they've been invested in each tiny detail of the space, including the color of grout between the floor's tiles and whether separate glasses will be used for white and red wine. Indeed, the Times author accompanied the two and Sparks on a shopping trip for flatware. Two weeks later, they still hadn't chosen forks. "All these choices are incredibly important," Caiola said. "Each one of them creates the whole."
Fancy forks or IKEA flatware, the real question, of course, is whether or not the new Tavern on the Green will manage to survive. The old one was a noted tourist trap, and rightfully dwindling popularity led it to declare bankruptcy in 2009, closing shortly thereafter. Caiola and Salama's incarnation has already had some money troubles and the "elegant" space they seem to be trying to create isn't particularly en vogue. "Tavern on the Green was always circusy and gaudy, like you were putting on costume jewelry," Colman Andrews, the editorial director of The Daily Meal, told the Times. "Of course, that couldn’t be further from the trend today: a small, uncomfortable, plainly undone-up space that seats 22 people." Well, mostly.