Perspective: Envisioning A Re-Opened Restaurant

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Say you owned a restaurant that was open for many years, well-liked and successful, that one day you closed because although you had an immensely hard-working and dedicated staff, you just weren’t good enough to find the right person to run it long-term, and could no longer juggle the demands of finding and keeping great staff and management at the same time as your then-current 75 hour-a-week job. You loved it and didn’t want to sell it, but you also didn’t want it to lose its appeal. So, on the liquor license renewal date, you moth-balled it.

Fast forward (well not so fast) 11 years. You have more time, the same passion and a renewed vision for your restaurant. How do you make it happen, and make it the same but better? How do you make it new, but retain the character of the old and at the same time add value to your community?

This was the starting point for me eighteen months ago; seizing the opportunity of making The Stoop into the Stoop Kitchen.

The first time around it was a lark. This time it had to be better. To me, that meant not only having the idea of a unique restaurant, but first creating the infrastructure of concept and philosophy that provided a consistency of vision. This time around, it required first building a team of like-minded experienced professional people, who shared the same vision and passion.

And so we have. More than a year ago, I engaged with Abigail Henson, who had introduced into Armory Square her beloved restaurant LoFo. LoFo was much more than a restaurant; it was a concept, a way of life, a different expression for the passion for good food, conscientiously envisioned. Abigail and I met so many times, sitting, talking about food, its sourcing, its environment and its relationship to the community, which all started as Abigail was considering the next steps in her quest to express her passions. While our vocabulary was different, our passion was the same.

From those talks, it was inevitable that we would end up working together on something, and of course, that something for me was the “new Stoop.” We decided to collaborate, with Abigail’s participation completing her transformation from Chef to Owner/Operator at LoFo, into a sort of tribal chief at The Stoop Kitchen, in a mission-driven quest to oversee the ideas of our development, and how we could and would relate to our community.

The result is a combination of the old and the new. The new is a much greater emphasis on the food, the retention of the Tequila and other exotic drinks, feel and fun of the Stoop Bar on the second floor as you always have known it, and a new bar on the first floor focusing on more modern mixology of chef-bartending inspired drinks.

We needed to find a chef not constrained by the entrenched more limited ideas of what a Syracuse restaurant can be and needs to be. We are so fortunate in finding Sarah Hassler, most recently from a long stint at Veraisons restaurant at The Inn At Glenora Wine Cellars. Veraisons is described as an “airy, country-chic spot for locally sourced New American fare.” Sarah brings a wealth of experience, passion and knowledge of seasonally appropriate and designed, locally sourced menus to us, that will translate directly to your enhanced dining experience at the table.

The Stoop Kitchen, different from The Stoop, will be on two floors not one This of course poses some unique front of house issues of layout, geography of the space not unlike what you would find in New York City. And we found just the right person to run the front of house. Jennissa Hart, an acclaimed artist (painter) with more than 20 years in the restaurant business, who brings the creativity and sensitivity necessary for the most comfortable guest experience.

And then, what to do about a bar? Instead of being a great bar with a kitchen, we wanted to be a great kitchen with a great bar. Also, we had the history of the original Stoop Tequila and Margarita Bar, which was so popular to its loyal following. The answer, to start, was to have two bars. The new bar on the first floor, which we call “Bar 1”, consistent with the essence of the kitchen, will be what we call a “Chef Bar,” with the same attention to detail of ingredients and innovation as the new Stoop kitchen. On the second floor, will remain the “Stoop Bar,” retaining its essential character as a Tequila and margarita bar, with some additional twists. To do this, we went back to my old friend Tobin Ellis, who was the lead  bartender in the then early stages of The Stoop in his formative years as a mixologist and head of the International Flair Bartender’s Association; now Tobin through his company Bar Magic, is a world leader in bar and restaurant design and implementation, who has provided insights to make sure that we do not lose any part of the fun, concept, innovation and creativity of the original Stoop Bar, while creating a sustainable vision for Bar 1.

To accomplish this, we needed to find just the right person for our new Lead Bartender. We are so happy to have Chris Sgroi, a boutique farmer in his own right, as well as a creative mixologist and bar chef, on board as our lead bartender. Chris’ imagination and passion in the chef-like creation of new drinks that will compliment the seasonal nature of the Kitchen, is a dream come true.

So this is a part of the Stoop Kitchen team (one more exciting piece of news to be unveiled soon-you know there has to be some mystery) assembled to impart the passion, and the experience of the old Stoop into the re-imagined Stoop Kitchen. First came the idea, then the team, and soon the implementation. This is how The Stoop Kitchen has been re-imagined and assembled, long before opening.

We hope that you will find it worth the wait.