Earlier this year, Dan Kluger, formerly the chef of the pioneering farm-to-table spot ABC Kitchen, opened the doors to his long-awaited project, Loring Place, in New York’s Greenwich Village. But the road to the first night was anything but straight and narrow. Here, Kluger tells us what it was like to fall in love with — and subsequently lose — his dream space and how he bounced back to create a restaurant that was even better than his original vision.
I left ABC Kitchen in 2015 to go out on my own with a restaurant. I looked at fity or sixty spaces. I even looked at the place we are in now, but before I could even make a decision, the space went off the market.
I soon found a spot in the NoMad that I fell in love with. It was being renovated, so everything was going to be new. It was a big space in a great location, and the landlord was going to help us build it out properly. But while I was on vacation, I got a call and found out that due to leasing issues, the space wasn’t available anymore.
It was really depressing to lose the space, especially because we thought it was a done deal. I had to go back to hitting the pavement. I had to adjust my timeline and accept that things were just going to take a little longer.
I went back to my broker and soon found out that the space I had looked at earlier — the one that went off the market so quickly — was available once again. Within the day, we had spoken to the landlord and started to put the wheels into motion. I realized that the space was on the same block as my friend’s wine bar, which had been there for ten years, so it was familiar territory. It was a historic street, the building had a lot of character — it was easy to like.
But I had to make compromises. Like the ceiling height — it was low, which forced us to get creative with mechanicals and air conditioning. And the building was old, so when we started demolition we found out the floor joints were rotting. We had to rip the beams out and start over. That was a huge delay that cost us a ton of money — but it ended up being helpful in the long run because we now have a really sturdy floor.
From a financial perspective, it’s certainly going to take longer to pay everything off, but I am happy that we are here. I am happy that for my first restaurant I was able to gut an existing space and make it my own. I have learned good lessons from how we did construction to the little things like the toilet paper holders or the doorknobs.
I realized that going through what I did with the space is just all part of the process when you are finding your own voice in the restaurant world.
What I would tell other restaurateurs is that you have to know what you want to do. Think about the elements that are important to you, whether it is kitchen space, office space, or storage space. And then don’t forget about the little things, like the employee entrance and the ductwork and where the refrigeration compressor is going to go. You have to have a really good idea of the story you want to tell, as that’s what helps you to make educated decisions.
There are a lot of things I wish I could have changed about how the process went — all the costs that went into making the place what it is now. But looking back, it does feel like it was all meant to be.
Photo credits: Lesley Unruh for One King’s Lane (top); Aliza Eliazarov (bottom).