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NEW YORK — Restaurateur Adam Newton, 33, is, above all things, a hands-on kind of owner. When Cafeteria, the minimalist Chelsea diner in which he’s a partner, opened in 1998, he spent the first 72 hours there, and, he adds, most of the next nine months. So, to keep tabs on his new venture, Carriage House (136 West 18th), a “creative American” restaurant located in one of the six landmarked carriage houses that once housed Henry Brooks’ (as in Brooks Brothers) horses, he moved in.
“I guess you can say I’m the carriage master,” he says over the din of whining drills and pounding hammers coming from below. The crew is hard at work, preparing for its March 14 opening date. Sitting at a table in his raw, but spacious loft located one floor above the eatery, Newton points out some of the space’s original features like the miniature fireplace that warmed the real carriage master’s toes over 150 years ago. On a nearby shelf sits a glass bottle from the 1860’s, one of the artifacts he unearthed, along with several horseshoes, when the restaurant’s kitchen was added on.
Though the name Carriage House evokes a quaint, old-fashioned kind of place, Newton’s version, designed by Studio Gaia, will be anything but. “My one worry was that people would hear the name and think of One if By Land, Two if By Sea,” he says. Rather his sleek vision for the boite is Neutra-inspired — Palm Beach during its heyday. Newton honed his eye for contemporary design while working for Ian Schrager, first managing ‘44’ in the Royalton and then the Blue Door at the Delano.
As for the cuisine, it will be more upscale than the regulars at Cafeteria are accustomed to. “I would hate to make the comparison to Blue Ribbon,” says Newton, who does just that, adding that comfort food, Cafeteria’s staple, has run its course. Entree highlights include sauteed cod with banana basmati rice, Long Island duck with baked butternut squash and grilled filet of beef with haricot verts. The bar, which consists of a large yellow communal table surrounded by stools, will also feature a cheese case.
Newton envisions Carriage House as a neighborhood place, one that seamlessly fits into the community’s fabric and becomes an instant standby — just like Cafeteria. “I know regulars who eat there two and three times a week,” he says. “It’s survived because it’s reasonably priced and it’s good food.”
With that, he peers out of the loft’s window that overlooks the dining room and cocks an ear. “It’s gotten too quiet down there,” he says. “Better go check on them.”