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Harlem’s Farm-To-Table Gem

October 20th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Harlem’s Farm-To-Table Gem

IMG_1199

The Grange Bar & Eatery entrance.

Roy Henley, owner of The Grange Bar & Eatery, and I engaged in an enlightening conversation at his restaurant. He gave me a brief spiel on the history of Hamilton Heights and how interconnected the theme of the restaurant is with area. He filled me in on everything a customer would want to know about the development of the restaurant, but also everything a resident would want to know about the transforming neighborhood it resides in.

If Harlem residents are looking for organic, farm-to-table eats, look no further than this farmhouse bistro on 141st and Amsterdam. After living in Harlem for many years, Roy and his wife Rita Royer-Henley, believed Hamilton Heights was in need of a space where residents can eat, drink and socialize. On June 6, 2013, all guests were welcomed to celebrate the grand opening of the restaurant.

BeFunky_image1

Owners Roy Henley and Rita Royer-Henley – via Roy H

Our Conversation

Tell me about yourself. Your background, school, where you were raised?

“So I’m originally from Ireland. And I moved to New York in 2001. I was initially just passing through, traveling for a couple of years, and then I started working in the bar industry in New York downtown, Midtown.”

As a bartender?

“Yes, as a bartender. I just kind of fell in love with the city. I moved home again for six months in 2003, but came back in 2004. I continued working in the bar industry as a bartender, I moved up to a manager, and then I moved up to a general manager. Then I opened up a couple of restaurants and bars downtown with a couple of Irish owners, so mostly Irish bars in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.”

Were those pubs?

“Yes, more Irish pubs than anything. So I had a background in beer bars, and then I went into wine bars and cocktail bars. So I had a good background in all of that, and obviously the food came hand in hand with those places. I lived in Harlem in 2006….”

…Which part?

“In this neighborhood, Hamilton Heights. I lived on 150th for a while, I lived on Riverside for a while, now I live on 145th and Bradhurst with my wife. We had seen a void and a need for something in the neighborhood, from a need of our own. We were always going down to Frederick Douglas on 116th, to get something to eat or to socialize, or the Upper Westside, or even further afield. With my background, being in the business, and my wife’s – she worked in liquor and sales, she was a brand ambassador for a rum company – we both wanted to do something, and we kind of stumbled upon this place in March 2012.”

What was this, do you remember?

“The bar area you’re sitting in now was a florist, “Diva’s Flowers.” And the dining area space was a bank. It was vacant for about five or six years, so there was nothing in here. When we initially looked at this space you can see that there was an ATM lobby here, and tellers, cashiers, and stuff behind the bulletproof screening. Further back was pretty bent and in bad repair. There was a lot of water damage towards the back.”

IMG_1195

The columns were once part of the bank that used to reside in this space.

And that’s where the kitchen is?

“Yes, and the private dining room.”

What is the name of the private dining room?

“’The Study.’” We were negotiating for a couple of months. We did heavy negotiations in August 2012, but we signed the lease in September 2012. So once we took over the lease, we completely demoed the whole space because there was nothing in here we could possibly use for a restaurant.”

How long did it take you to build everything?

“It took us eight months. The only thing existing before us are the structural columns. We built the bar area around the columns, which really works, and looks great.”

So what inspired you to do a farm theme?

“Well I’m originally from a farm. I grew up on a farm, so I have a farming background.”

So would you say you were a farmer?

“I would say my family were farmers, I wasn’t much of a farmer. I worked in banking when I grew up.”

Where in Ireland are you from?

“County Waterford. And my wife is actually Dominican.”

Is she from New York?

“She was born in New York, but grew up in DR. Her father was a doctor here in New York… So once we started developing the space, the whole idea revolved around The Grange. When we linked the Grange as an Irish farmhouse with Hamilton Grange down the hill, it tied in perfectly. And with the farm-to-table idea, it went hand in hand with everything.”

Would you say this restaurant preserves the culture of Harlem, or do you think it’s changing the culture?

“I think it preserves the culture. With Hamilton Grange down the hill, it definitely preserves the culture of Hamilton Grange. This area of Hamilton Heights was a farmland. It was where Hamilton Alexander had his farm, so it ties in perfectly with that. And the food we serve also goes perfectly with the theme. A lot of our produce is organic, so is our chicken and beef. When we do private room dining, it’s one hundred percent organic. Our chef goes to the farmer’s market that morning and buys everything for the party that night, then preps and plates the whole menu.”

What kind of crowd would you say the restaurant draws in?

“Anywhere from young professionals, to middle aged older Harlem residents. We have everything here. We have a very mixed crowd, which is great. We wanted to create an atmosphere for everybody. We set the music up in three different zones, so when you walk into the bar area, it’s more of a younger louder area. As you go back into the dining area, you can have a louder conversation because the music is lower.”

IMG_1209

The bar area is located closer to the entrance.

As for my final question; what are your future plans for the restaurant? Do you want it to expand? Where do you see it going?

“I don’t think we’re going it expand per se, but my goal is to have it here for a long time and for it to become a staple part of the neighborhood- and hopefully the neighborhood will build and grow around it. That’s my ultimate goal. We also want more places to open around us, because in my book a healthy neighborhood is a place where bars and restaurants open all over the place and not just one place. We were one of the first in this immediate area, but we want more places to open because that means more people are moving in. I don’t know if I like the word gentrification, but sometimes it happens in a way that it’s achievable, and it’s growing and it’s healthy.”

Tags: Farms · Qs & As · Restaurant

Harlem’s Farm-To-Table Gem

October 20th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Harlem’s Farm-To-Table Gem

IMG_1199

The Grange Bar & Eatery entrance.

Roy Henley, owner of The Grange Bar & Eatery, and I engaged in an enlightening conversation at his restaurant. He gave me a brief spiel on the history of Hamilton Heights and how interconnected the theme of the restaurant is with area. He filled me in on everything a customer would want to know about the development of the restaurant, but also everything a resident would want to know about the transforming neighborhood it resides in.

If Harlem residents are looking for organic, farm-to-table eats, look no further than this farmhouse bistro on 141st and Amsterdam. After living in Harlem for many years, Roy and his wife Rita Royer-Henley, believed Hamilton Heights was in need of a space where residents can eat, drink and socialize. On June 6, 2013, all guests were welcomed to celebrate the grand opening of the restaurant.

BeFunky_image1

Owners Roy Henley and Rita Royer-Henley – via Roy H

Our Conversation

Tell me about yourself. Your background, school, where you were raised?

“So I’m originally from Ireland. And I moved to New York in 2001. I was initially just passing through, traveling for a couple of years, and then I started working in the bar industry in New York downtown, Midtown.”

As a bartender?

“Yes, as a bartender. I just kind of fell in love with the city. I moved home again for six months in 2003, but came back in 2004. I continued working in the bar industry as a bartender, I moved up to a manager, and then I moved up to a general manager. Then I opened up a couple of restaurants and bars downtown with a couple of Irish owners, so mostly Irish bars in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.”

Were those pubs?

“Yes, more Irish pubs than anything. So I had a background in beer bars, and then I went into wine bars and cocktail bars. So I had a good background in all of that, and obviously the food came hand in hand with those places. I lived in Harlem in 2006….”

…Which part?

“In this neighborhood, Hamilton Heights. I lived on 150th for a while, I lived on Riverside for a while, now I live on 145th and Bradhurst with my wife. We had seen a void and a need for something in the neighborhood, from a need of our own. We were always going down to Frederick Douglas on 116th, to get something to eat or to socialize, or the Upper Westside, or even further afield. With my background, being in the business, and my wife’s – she worked in liquor and sales, she was a brand ambassador for a rum company – we both wanted to do something, and we kind of stumbled upon this place in March 2012.”

What was this, do you remember?

“The bar area you’re sitting in now was a florist, “Diva’s Flowers.” And the dining area space was a bank. It was vacant for about five or six years, so there was nothing in here. When we initially looked at this space you can see that there was an ATM lobby here, and tellers, cashiers, and stuff behind the bulletproof screening. Further back was pretty bent and in bad repair. There was a lot of water damage towards the back.”

IMG_1195

The columns were once part of the bank that used to reside in this space.

And that’s where the kitchen is?

“Yes, and the private dining room.”

What is the name of the private dining room?

“’The Study.’” We were negotiating for a couple of months. We did heavy negotiations in August 2012, but we signed the lease in September 2012. So once we took over the lease, we completely demoed the whole space because there was nothing in here we could possibly use for a restaurant.”

How long did it take you to build everything?

“It took us eight months. The only thing existing before us are the structural columns. We built the bar area around the columns, which really works, and looks great.”

So what inspired you to do a farm theme?

“Well I’m originally from a farm. I grew up on a farm, so I have a farming background.”

So would you say you were a farmer?

“I would say my family were farmers, I wasn’t much of a farmer. I worked in banking when I grew up.”

Where in Ireland are you from?

“County Waterford. And my wife is actually Dominican.”

Is she from New York?

“She was born in New York, but grew up in DR. Her father was a doctor here in New York… So once we started developing the space, the whole idea revolved around The Grange. When we linked the Grange as an Irish farmhouse with Hamilton Grange down the hill, it tied in perfectly. And with the farm-to-table idea, it went hand in hand with everything.”

Would you say this restaurant preserves the culture of Harlem, or do you think it’s changing the culture?

“I think it preserves the culture. With Hamilton Grange down the hill, it definitely preserves the culture of Hamilton Grange. This area of Hamilton Heights was a farmland. It was where Hamilton Alexander had his farm, so it ties in perfectly with that. And the food we serve also goes perfectly with the theme. A lot of our produce is organic, so is our chicken and beef. When we do private room dining, it’s one hundred percent organic. Our chef goes to the farmer’s market that morning and buys everything for the party that night, then preps and plates the whole menu.”

What kind of crowd would you say the restaurant draws in?

“Anywhere from young professionals, to middle aged older Harlem residents. We have everything here. We have a very mixed crowd, which is great. We wanted to create an atmosphere for everybody. We set the music up in three different zones, so when you walk into the bar area, it’s more of a younger louder area. As you go back into the dining area, you can have a louder conversation because the music is lower.”

IMG_1209

The bar area is located closer to the entrance.

As for my final question; what are your future plans for the restaurant? Do you want it to expand? Where do you see it going?

“I don’t think we’re going it expand per se, but my goal is to have it here for a long time and for it to become a staple part of the neighborhood- and hopefully the neighborhood will build and grow around it. That’s my ultimate goal. We also want more places to open around us, because in my book a healthy neighborhood is a place where bars and restaurants open all over the place and not just one place. We were one of the first in this immediate area, but we want more places to open because that means more people are moving in. I don’t know if I like the word gentrification, but sometimes it happens in a way that it’s achievable, and it’s growing and it’s healthy.”

Tags: Farms · Qs & As · Restaurant

Renaissance On A Plate

October 20th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Renaissance On A Plate

https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/renaissanceonaplate/

 

 

 

Tags: Food · Journalism · Neighborhoods

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