Photo by Andrew Cebulka
Photo by Greg Rannells
Restaurateurs are finding that repurposed buildings provide a tasteful setting for a flavorful atmosphere.
Who knew that a stylishly refurbished setting could serve as a recipe for sucess?
Across the country, former boiler rooms, gas stations, and train terminals have been given new life as oyster bars, mezzanine grills, and other award-winning eateries. For proprietors seeking urban revival opportunities, “in with the new” doesn’t have to mean “out with the old,”especially when it comes to original design and architectural details. From California to North Carolina, these 12 restaurants serve contemporary cuisine in historic settings—and prove there’s no tastier mash-up to be served.
New Orleans, Louisiana
When this Mid-City Lutheran church first opened in 1914, locals flocked to the site for worship. Nowadays, the closest guests will come to religious experience at this New Orleans spot is the first bite into executive chef Eric Sibley’s baked mac and cheese. The building now houses Vessel, a Southern-inspired restaurant. Although the building has previously been repurposed—even before Vessel—many of the original architectural and design features remain, including the steeple, stained glass, and exterior facade; the pièce de résistance is the property’s vaulted, exposed-wood ceiling, modeled after a ship hull.
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New York City
Long before brothers Alex and Miles Pincus opened New York City’s favorite summertime dining spots, they learned to sail and repair fishing boats while growing up in New Orleans. Their passion for finding and restoring historic ships is what drove them to open Pilot, a floating oyster bar, as well as Grand Banks and Island Oyster (the brothers’ other NYC concepts). Aboard a rare schooner docked in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pilot’s boat was originally commissioned as a racing vessel and later became the longest serving pilot ship in U.S. history. Today, the vessel is both repurposed and preserved; the Pincus Brothers offer cultural exhibitions and talks in addition to nautically inspired cocktails and fresh shellfish. Just note that this floating eatery is seasonal: Pilot opens in mid-May and closes in October.
San Diego, California
As part of The Headquarters at Seaport District, Puesto is located within a complex that served as the San Diego Police Headquarters from 1939 to 1987. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, the complex includes a range of shops, restaurants, and attractions—including eight fully restored jail cells, complete with historic photos and police memorabilia. Additional nods to The Headquarters’ history can be found at signature taco institution Puesto, which maintains much of the original architecture—including concrete detailing, jail cell–style windows, and stairs from the former police office.
After winning the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef and being awarded a Michelin star as chef de cuisine of Café Boulud in New York City, chef Gavin Kaysen returned to his hometown of Minneapolis to embark on his own journey in culinary entrepreneurship at restaurant Spoon and Stable. The name is both personal and historical: Spoon is a nod to Gavin’s affinity for “borrowing” spoons from restaurants when dining, and stable pays homage to the building’s origins as a carriage house. The downtown restaurant, which Kaysen opened in 2014, was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Restaurants in 2015.
When proprietor Eli Boyer first discovered what was then a garage-turned-storage space outside of Detroit, he saw perhaps what nobody else could: potential. After approaching the landlord about converting the structure into a restaurant, Boyer brought in five/eighths Architecture to transform the space. The result? The nautically inspired Voyager, a seafood restaurant that opened in 2017 and has since helped write a new chapter in this building’s history. Alongside oysters and crudos, guests will find original details in the vaulted ceiling and retractable glass garage door, which stays open during the summer, as well as vintage fishing and sailing memorabilia.
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San Francisco, California
At San Francisco’s Presidio National Park, visitors may come for the hiking trails and views of the Golden Gate Bridge—but they’ll stay for the craft cocktails and contemporary American dishes at Presidio Social Club. Originally built in 1903 as military barracks, the Presidio has since become one of the city’s most iconic—and most historic—districts, known to entertain locals and tourists with museums, parkland, and public events. But perhaps the most successful attempt at harmonizing the new with old in the Presidio is the Presidio Social Club, a seasonal eatery by chef/owner Ray Tang. Designed by architect Olle Lundberg, the restaurant honors its military origins in refined style, preserved details, and original structure.
>>Next: Not Your Average Gas Station Food: 7 Amazing Restaurants in Former Fuel Stops
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