The building that houses Midtown’s Park Central Hotel has seen nearly a century’s worth of history — it’s hosted prominent figures like Eleanor Roosevelt and Mae West, and it witnessed the mob murder of Albert Anastasia in the 1950s. The hotel was recently renovated to restore a sense of its past (the glamorous parts rather than the gangster ties), and in the process, the restaurant turned over: Park Kitchen (Park Central Hotel New York, 870 Seventh Avenue, 212-707-5500) debuted earlier this week.
Executive chef Nathaniel Eckhaus, who spent years in Danny Meyer’s empire and is a former sous chef at Eleven Madison Park, was charged with pulling together the kitchen, and he installed a menu that he describes as “upscale-casual new American that encourages sharing…I kind of approach the dining room as we approach life — we want what we want right now. I want there to be some sort of food in front of me always. That’s why I created this kind of menu.” The format works best, he says, when groups come into share, though it’s possible to notch his board into the typical appetizer-entree-dessert format, too, if you’re inclined.
Eckhaus also applied a sense of whimsy to the list, creating dishes like the PB&J toast, which pits braised pork belly against pepper jam, and chicken fried chicken served with pickled egg, house-made hot sauce, and honey. He also highlights the fish and chips, which is unique for the fish it employs. “We’re using walleye, which is not used a lot on menus,” he explains. “I’m a fly fisherman and fish the Upper Delaware, and there are great walleye there.”
The food pairs to a drinks program from Nick Mautone — who also did time under Danny Meyer and counts Gramercy Tavern and Gotham Bar & Grill among places he’s been a part of the leadership team — that pays homage to the history of the New York City. “We have five borough cocktails (one representing each borough) and a long lost cocktail from that borough,” Eckhaus says. “We also have five different manhattans on the menu plus a signature cocktail list.” Look for seasonal and beer cocktails, too.
The restaurant got an upgrade from Jeffrey Beers International’s architecture and design firm during the overhaul of the hotel, and the two-level space boasts gilded art deco touches, plush booths, a prominent bar, and chandeliers. The mezzanine-level dining room overlooks the hotel’s lobby.
Above all, says Eckhaus, the restaurant is trying to be conscious of the different kinds of people that will pass through its doors, and it’s making an effort to provide something for all of them: “We’re reviving this area of Manhattan — this was once the place to be. We’re trying to bring that back to the Park Central. We’re trying to have something for everyone from the international travelers to Midwesterners to New Yorkers.”
The Park Central is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it serves bar bites from noon until 10 p.m.