When it opens this spring, Gramercy Park will serve Californian cuisine in the evenings, New York City-style sandwiches in the afternoons, and all-American brunch on the weekends. Owner Mark White hopes to open the restaurant by mid-April at 216 Church Street, formerly Crepevine in the Castro.
White is fairly secretive about his background. He says he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America 20 years ago, and went on to own four restaurants in New York. But he sold off his stakes in those restaurants — which he did not name — and now has his eyes on San Francisco. He’s starting a new restaurant group, Madison Avenue Hospitality Group, and plans to open five restaurants within five years here. Gramercy Park is the first.
While White is the mastermind behind the overall vision and menu style, he’s still in the process of hiring an executive chef. “I feel there are more innovative and more creative chefs now than what I can offer,” White says. “I also want to give a platform for an up-and-coming chef to spring off from.”
That’s why the center of the dining room will be a chef’s table, which White says will function as a pop-up within the restaurant, offering a space for guest chefs to serve their own separate menu. The rest of the 1,840-square-foot space will be full of plants, fresh flowers, antique mirrors, marble, and a 12-foot glowing tree growing out of a large communal table — all intended to mimic the look of New York City’s parks. “We really want you to feel like you’re sitting in Gramercy Park,” White says.
The chef will surely put their stamp on Gramercy Park’s menu, but White envisions serving Californian cuisine with “fun, whimsical flavors,” a focus on traditional brunch, and clearly spelled-out options for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and paleo diners. The New York influence will come through richness (“We’re not afraid to put a little fat in our dishes,” White says) and lunch.
“We intend to have New York City deli sandwiches that are a mile high,” he says, adding that Gramercy Park will make its own pastrami alongside matzo ball soup.
At brunch, White hopes to serve everything from French toast to frittatas to gingerbread with eggnog whip. He feels too few San Francisco restaurants serve “a true brunch.” (“Just because you have an egg on your burger doesn’t make it brunch,” he says.) Mimosas will be available right away with the space’s beer and wine license, and White hopes to eventually add cocktails and a full bar.
Gramercy Park will also occupy a smaller, 480-square-foot space next door — dubbed Gramercy Park To-Go — to serve commuters in the morning with coffee and grab-and-go items. It’ll also provide a streamlined area for delivery services like Caviar and Postmates to pick up orders without clogging up the main dining room. Between the two spaces, White hopes Gramercy Park will be the sort of neighborhood spot folks visit multiple times a month.
“We don’t intend on being this super high-end restaurant, he says. “It’s very important to me for people to be able to be in a beautiful environment and not have to spend $100 or $200 per person.”