The big, dark cavern and sometime parking area next door to Lexington Avenue Brewery is about to burst open with a glorious bounty of Asian-inspired eats and craft beer.
That's a dramatization. But fireworks aside, LAB co-owner Mike Healy plans to open Stirhaus — a “farm-to-wok” restaurant, as Healy brands it — in addition to a brewery expansion and a banquet hall in the long-vacant space next door to LAB. The project will bring 15,000 square feet of food, beer and good times to LAB's block, although there’s not time table for the additions, Healy says.
Keep in mind, at 7,500 square feet, LAB is big. The expansion, then, is bigger than big.
At the front of the building, which currently is just a plywood door, Stirhaus will provide fast, street-side fare. “In and out in five to eight minutes is the idea,” Healy says. “Quick, fresh, healthy, local.” Healy plans to make it so quick, in fact, that diners won't need to actually come inside. He hopes to install a pass-through window to the street, so customers can take the wok-seared meals to-go or eat them at one of the sidewalk tables he wants to add.
Indoor diners will enjoy the benefits of a glass wall looking onto the street and an indoor tree. (That is, the architectural plans call for an indoor tree. Growing a tree, Healy admits, is another matter.) The space also includes an open cooking area and about 90 seats.
Diners select their meats and veggies from a line (kind of like a California-style burrito joint), and the cooks give them a toss in a wok with some light sauces. “We're talking al dente, crispy veggies,” Healy says, not “a big, brown glob of food.” The idea of over-sauced, over-cooked stir-fry makes him cringe, he explains.
A glass wall will separate Stirhaus from the brewery annex, so diners can see the brewers working the tall, stainless steel tanks beyond. On the second floor, above the brewery, there's room for a canning line and packaging facility.
The brewery expansion isn't a public space, but it will be open for tours. And the banquet hall and event space on the first floor, around the corner from Stirhaus, will provide an excellent vantage point for watching the brewery action. The room, which seats about 100 people, will include a wall-sized window to the beer goings-on. “It will feel like you're in the same room with the brewery tanks,” Healy says.
Healy first told Xpress about LAB's expansion a year ago. At that time, he planned a tasting room for the space, but he decided to create Stirhaus instead to avoid redundancy (LAB already has a substantial bar). The project hasn't been quick to get started, he admits, but he says construction will begin soon.