A new restaurant is opening in the former home of The Elm that’s sure to please all the Biffs and Muffys in Brooklyn. It’s called Oleanders and it’s set to open June 10. Bring on the Harvey Wallbangers!
Flo Fab also reports that the replacement for the Elm at the McCarren Hotel now has a name: Oleanders. It is, as we already knew, being helmed by two Williamsburg restaurant pros, Joe Carroll (St. Anselm, Fette Sau, and others) and Francesco Panella (Antica Pesa), who have decided to model it after the fern bars popular among preppy singles of the 70s and 80s. Chef Kevin Chojnowski, an alum of Willow Road and Public, is in charge of the kitchen, serving a menu of retro dishes like beef wellington and pasta primavera. Retro cocktails to go with that, meanwhile, are being developed by mixology pro Dale DeGroff. The whole space will be decorated in faux Tiffany lamps and bentwood chairs, a far cry from what it looked like under Paul Liebrandt. According to a representative, Oleanders should open June 10.
In case you’ve never heard of a Fern Bar, here’ some background:
To learn more about this era, I spoke to Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove, the historian who led both discussions. I asked him if the fern bar was due for a revival. His answer, after the jump. “The exact date [of the fern bar’s inception] is the opening of Henry Africa’s in San Francisco in 1970.”
“Norman Hobday, the guy who opened Henry Africa’s, said, ‘I want to open a saloon, but we’re going to make it feel like your grandmother’s living room.’ It’s welcoming: overstuffed furniture, ferns, palms, Tiffany lamps.” Drinks such as Harvey Wallbangers, lemon drops, and mudslides offered familiar flavors like vanilla in a slushy, sweet format.
This period of cocktail history has largely been overlooked until now. Why all the recent attention? “We’ve been using the Manhattan, martini, and Tom Collins as a template. We’re starting to exhaust that for inspiration,” Cate explained. Still, he doesn’t think mudslides are poised for comeback.
“The American palate is more sophisticated; if anybody were to open a revived fern bar, it would have a couple months of novelty and fade away. But it’s something worth looking into. It has value and respect.”
That hasn’t stopped the era’s mainstay drink, the Harvey Wallbanger, which has sprung up in variations both classic and contemporary throughout San Francisco. And let’s not forget the biggest impact it’s had. “Four simple words,” Martin said: “T.G.I. Friday’s.”