Walking into The Place last evening, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, my mom and dad would take me there when I was a youngster for lunch and dinner, so I have a sentimental attachment. Early on I saw owner Kenny Moriarty as the fixture, the face and the lifeblood of The Place, which he truly was. When I was older, my friends and I would listen to the crazy tales that Kenny would tell us, about his younger days. The guy always had a twinkle in his eye, and a somewhat unique characteristic pitch in his voice, as he handed a beer across the bar. I can hear that voice right now.
A few years before Kenny closed The Place, he made a number of improvements to the restaurant, to smarten it up and wash away some of the wear and tear. At that point, nobody could have guessed that the bar/restaurant was at the end of its line. When it finally did close, it was a sad day to be sure, and an end of an era.
At least that’s what everybody thought. But it didn’t turn out that way in the end. The new The Place has elevated the entire experience, paying tribute to the history of the establishment, while re-energizing it for another generation to enjoy. From the iconic green plaid wallpaper to the refurbishing and repositioning of the comfy booths, many of the memorable elements of The Place remain. What is different is the layout. The wall barrier that stood in the middle of the restaurant has now been converted into an opening, with seating on each side. The bar does not interfere with the dining area, and vice versa. There is still a coziness about the room, yet there is also breathing room.
Some of my favorite design aspects of the new The Place range from the new stunning copper bar top, to the old wood elements that were retained and even seamlessly duplicated in many areas. I also like the cutouts in the back bar, which allow for the cash drawers to be somewhat camouflaged – this simple measure helps to eliminate the cluttering appearance and gives bartenders more space to work with. The lighting at The Place is perfect, with lots of indirect lighting sources, including the glowing green neon in the windows and the candlelit bar. The menu is easy to read, and features a mix of the old favorites and some new items. There’s evens a kid’s menu, which explains all of the youngsters eating dinner with their families when I was there.
I was sad to see the old (actually not so old, but seemingly old) stained glass ‘The Place’ window missing from behind the bar. It was replaced with a flatscreen TV. I hope the new owners carve out a space for that memento. That was the only thing that I felt was missing, or off. I loved the selection of old school, progressive jazz music. I can’t remember the last time I walked into an establishment and the music was so right. The retro chandeliers were another nice touch.
From the street, the place looks just like The Place that we have come to know and love over the years. The inside is now more upbeat and roomy – it was delightful to see so many people enjoying it. There were a lot of familiar faces, and a number of people who I assume were experiencing the joint for the first time.
It’s very unusual to find an establishment that is just as inviting for families, as it is for those looking for a true blue bar experience. The Place has it all, including brand spanking new bathrooms, a back room for catered parties and events, and a coveted parking lot.
All in all, I don’t think that the new owners could have done a better job than what they did. They kept the integrity of the restaurant intact by paying homage to its history. At the same time, they sensitively redesigned in ways that were always needed all along, but nobody wanted to admit for fear that someone would adulterate the original character. I’m happy to say that this can still be done in a day and age, when it’s so easy and sometimes expected to rip apart and start from scratch. It’s a risk to be sure, but when done right it’s a calculated risk. In this case, the risk paid off. Another old time favorite has not only been saved, but smartly upgraded through and through.