Why the Cecil — One of New York’s Most Celebrated Restaurants — Will Close | Grub Street

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The Cecil - Harlem

In 1974, a fire burned down the Hotel Cecil in Harlem — home to legendary jazz club Minton’s Playhouse. Thirty-nine years later, in 2013, businessman Richard Parsons and restaurateur Alexander Smalls opened two businesses in its place: Minton’s, a bar with live music and snacks, and the Cecil, a full-blown, 200-plus-seat restaurant. With young chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson at the helm, cooking “Afro-Asian-American” food, the Cecil earned rare, and near-constant praise: Esquire’s Restaurant of the Year award; several glowing write-ups in the New York Times, plus attention from the The New Yorker and CBS. It comes as (yet another) surprise, then, that the Cecil will close at the end of December — just a few months after Johnson overhauled the menu. The team has decided to consolidate and turn Minton’s into a proper restaurant, led by Johnson.

“You go and dine at the Cecil and then hang out at Minton’s, and that’s always been the model,” Johnson explains. “And over the last month, the conversation has been: ‘What if we took the great cooking style of the Cecil, and paired it with the amazing jazz inside the Minton’s room, so everybody could get the ultimate Harlem experience?’”

Johnson envisions the “new” Minton’s, which will debut on January 6, as a hybrid of the two restaurants, and he’ll bring along some of his most-loved dishes at the Cecil: oxtail dumplings, the collard-greens salad, and a gumbo that represents how he celebrates the diverse foods of the African diaspora, with smoked chicken, Chinese-chicken sausage, gulf shrimp, and crab meat.

Read more: Why the Cecil — One of New York’s Most Celebrated Restaurants — Will Close | Grub Street

Related:

The Cecil Wants You to Eat With Your Hands | NY Times

The Cecil Opens in Harlem | NY Times

Harlem is Hot, and Chef JJ Johnson Fans Delicious Flames | Village Voice

Boardwalk Empire Comes To Harlem – The Recap

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