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Mon-Fri, 7am-11am and 6pm-midnight; Sat, 7am-3pm and 6pm-midnight; Sun, 7am-10am, 11:45-3pm and 6pm-11pm
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In the crazed world of New York bars and restaurants, there is always room for another concept. Still, it came out of left field when two of Williamsburg's most successful restaurateurs—Joe Carroll (Spuyten Dyvil, St Anslem, Fette Sau) and Francesco Panella (Antica Pesa)—announced that their new restaurant, Oleanders, is based on the fern-bar concept popularized in the '70s. Now, in the McCarren Hotel's former the Elm space, they've taken the tiki craze into the era of Harvey Wallbangers and Lemon Drop martinis. It's a world modern-day cocktail culture arose, arguably, in reaction against.
Fern bars are fairly foreign to a younger generation of New Yorkers reared on faux dives and retro cocktail dens—likely leaving many scratching their heads about what exactly Oleanders will be like. New York restaurant critic (and child of the '70s) Adam Platt characterizes the fern bar, aesthetically, as a place defined by brass, pillows, white colors, and, of course, plants. "It's Laura Ashley rendered in culinary terms," Platt says. "They're basically bars with plants, and they serve sweet food and flowery, flavorful drinks."
Typically, the food menu at fern bars featured a grab bag of classic, turn-of-the-century dishes like lobster thermidor and more contemporary American comfort foods (a lot of cottage cheese, too). "You'd see stuff like meatloaf and coq au vin on the same menu," Carroll says. At Oleanders, the menu from chef Kevin Chojnowski (Willow Road, Public, Olives NY) features dishes like coq au vin (thickened with pig's blood), pasta primavera, and loaded potato skins. And James Beard Award winner Dale DeGroff has developed the bar program, putting together a menu of "modernized and updated" vintage drinks like the Think Bay Breeze, Mud Slide, and even a Sex on the Beach for good measure. "The great example is a piña colada—people always bitch about it, but it's so good," Carroll says. "Who doesn't like that?"
Above all, Carroll and Panella believe
that Oleanders—which officially opens on Friday—makes sense for the
space. As Platt notes and Carroll conceded, the spacious, bright dinning
room was already decked out in enough plants to fill a Rainforest Café.
In their eyes, the neighborhood needed something more easy-going and
approachable after the Elm, which never really resonated with locals.
There will be indoor seating for 85 with a large bar area, pool-side
dining, and even a game room where guests can play billiards while
sipping on cocktails.
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