Legendary chef David Burke, whose culinary creations range from iconic restaurants such as Manhattan’s davidburke & donatella to fanciful foods such as cheesecake lollipops, is poised to reboot all the food and beverage service at The Garden City Hotel. He will transform the hotel’s signature restaurant, Polo Steakhouse, into Red Salt Room by David Burke, and Polo Lounge into King Bar by David Burke.
According to spokeswoman Sara Anne Fingerman, the hotel’s general manager, Grady Colin, contacted Burke because he wanted to bring some of Burke’s signature whimsy to Garden City. “We want to make the dining here approachable,” she said, “not just the place where you go for your anniversary.” The hotel is banking that Burke’s “clothesline bacon” — strips of bacon suspended from a string with clothespins and presented with a pair of scissors for serving — will turn occasional customers into regulars.
Burke will come aboard as a partner and the hotel’s executive chef, Ari Nieminen, will execute his vision with the existing team. It’s a reunion for the two chefs, who knew one another at The River Cafe in Brooklyn, where, in 1988, Burke burst onto the scene at the age of 26, earning three stars from The New York Times.
From The River Cafe, Burke went on to open Park Avenue Cafe, davidburke & donatella (with Donatella Arpaia), Fishtail by David Burke (all in Manhattan) as well as restaurants in Chicago, Las Vegas and Foxwoods Casino, in Connecticut. He was also featured on Food Network’s “Iron Chef” and Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters.”
In 2015, Burke severed his relationship with his namesake restaurant group (now called Craveable Hospitality Group). Since then he has worked with ESquared Hospitality to open Tavern62 by David Burke on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and BLT Prime by David Burke in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The partnership with The Garden City Hotel does not involve ESquared Hospitality.
Red Salt Room, which will serve regional American cuisine, name checks one of Burke’s favorite ingredients: pink Himalayan salt. He has developed a technique of using it to age steaks, and has used bricks of it to line the walls of a dining area at Tavern62. King Bar will serve tavern-friendly small plates. The Garden City Hotel will continue to offer Saturday afternoon tea and its famous Sunday brunch, albeit with Burkean touches such as clothesline bacon, cheesecake lollipops and pastrami salmon.
The restaurant at The Garden City Hotel, which operated for decades as Polo Grill, was relaunched as Polo Steakhouse in 2014, part of a $40 million renovation spearheaded by the hotel’s new owners, Fortuna Realty Group. Newsday awarded it two stars. In 2016, Nieminen took over the kitchen and earned a 2 1⁄2-star review.
Fingerman said that both new venues are scheduled to open by May. Both Polo Steakhouse and Polo Lounge remain open. The steakhouse will be closed about a week before Red Salt Room opens. The lounge will be transformed overnight.
Polo Steakhouse is in The Garden City Hotel, 45 Seventh St., Garden City, 516-877-9385, gardencityhotel.com/dining.