B.R. Guest’s New BBQ: Will Wildwood Succeed?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.
Starchitect Showdown! Will Rockwell or Gehry Build the Better Playground?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.
Fancy New Seaport Playground Not Actually So New
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
the morning line
The Cost of Utopia
• The city’s doing so well financially that some City Council members — Democrats, even — are raising the specter of a tax cut. With the Independent Budget Office projecting a $688 million surplus in 2008, why not? [NYP]
• A souped-up playground is coming to South Street Seaport. One suggested game: groups of children “loading containers with sand, hoisting them up with pulleys and then lowering them down to wagons.” David Rockwell designs the kiddie labor camp, pro bono. [NYT]
• Time to check in with our pal Koral Karsan, Yoko Ono’s driver turned attempted blackmailer, now that the full text of his demand is public. Stalking points: Karsan frames his $2 million demand as compensation for “pain and suffering,” threatens to expose John as a “wife-beating asshole,” and boasts friendship with “NY media.” And yet, Koral, you never call anymore. [NYDN]
• Say what you want about the new Village Voice, but at least it’s not afraid of readers’ letters. From the new issue’s crop: “You … take a dying paper and kill it over and over again.” “The Village Voice is dead.” “Reader’s Digest is edgier than you are.” [VV]
• And a city Department of Sanitation cap is apparently a huge seller and a nascent fashion staple; Scorsese, Liv Tyler, et al have been spotted in them. So reports the Scotsman, our trusted source for apparel news. [Scotsman]
My Kid Could Design That Restaurant Logo!
For every high-profile restaurant architect like David Rockwell or AvroKO, there’s an underappreciated artisan like Louise Fili. One of several people whose work is being honored by the Society of Illustrators at an exhibition opening tonight at the Museum of Illustration, Fili creates restaurant logos. Her elegant, Art Nouveau– and Art Deco–inspired designs give the Mermaid Inn, Artisanal, Pigalle, and Sfoglia, whose logo is exceptionally lovely and ornate, their trademark markings. A collection of her work can be viewed here; the museum exhibit runs through the 27th.
“Letter as Image, Image as Letter,” Museum of Illustration, 128 E. 63rd St., nr. Lexington Ave.; 212-838-2560.