Last month we reported on the possibility of a new B.R. Guest BBQ restaurant on Park Avenue South, and B.R. Guest officially pooh-poohed the idea. But we trust our BBQ world sources, and we have a lot of them, so today, we've got the details. The place will in fact be in the old Barça 18 space, as we predicted, and will be called Wildwood BBQ. David Rockwell will do the interior, which will include a 75-foot-long bar and 200 seats. Our take? Though there's no doubt that B.R. Guest group knows how to run a restaurant, barbecue is not just another "concept," and corporate restaurants, with their tight financial controls, rarely produce great meat. And it's an odd place to put it, given that three of the best barbecue restaurants in New York are in the Madison Square Park–Flatiron area, in RUB, Hill Country, and Blue Smoke.
It's never too early to start Manhattan tykes on high-end real-estate mania. The Parks Department has just announced that Frank Gehry will be designing a no doubt titanium-clad playground for Battery Park — which puts the L.A.-based starchitect in head-to-head competition with New York's own David Rockwell, the man behind countless restaurant and hotel interiors, some of Broadway's wittiest set designs, and a planned "imagination playground" on Burling Slip, a bit uptown on the East River. How do the two compare? See for yourself.
You'd be forgiven for thinking the new, David Rockwell-designed playground coming to South Street Seaport is the greatest, newest, most fabulous, innovative thing ever — in the last two days, it merited two major articles in the Times, plus a column posted to the Times website last night. And it does sound interesting: With $2 million from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, Rockwell — the nice guy and design wizard who concocted Nobu, Rosa Mexicano, and the sets for Hairspray — plans to fill the Burling Slip playground with things kids can lift and fill rather than just swing, slide, and see-saw. But the idea, while innovative, isn't actually new. In 1997, the nonprofit Design Trust for Public Space commissioned and installed similar interactive-play equipment at community gardens in Astoria, East New York, and Fordham/Bedford. The stuff didn’t age well, says Design Trust program director Stephanie Elson. “Designers weren’t coming with city maintenance and guidelines,” she explains. “One of the lessons was that a formal partnership with the Parks Department is really important.” And that's what Rockwell's plan has got. It's also got researcher Roger Hart, who advised the Design Trust, too. So why all the coverage now? Says one design specialist: “It’s amazing what $2 million can do in this city.” —Alec Appelbaum