Seen from one angle, it is a sobering reminder of the existential threat facing restaurants, its size and scale capturing the magnitude of the crisis in a way few other structures could. From another, it’s an edifice of surprising eloquence, a touching monument to tenacity and grit. Either way, it’s an impressive achievement, this 72- by 34-foot greenhouse that’s risen from a parking lot at Restoration Kitchen & Cocktails in Lindenhurst, dwarfing the restaurant that gave rise to it.
"We’re going to fight until they won’t let us fight anymore," Restoration co-owner Billy Miller said quietly the other day, watching as workers put the finishing touches on his 14-table outdoor dining pavilion, which opened Thursday. And by workers, Miller meant himself, his father, his uncle the plumber, a multitude of Restoration employees only too glad to moonlight as builders on their days off, and at least one member of the Lindenhurst Fire Dept. Oh, and Paul Dose, his wife Nicole’s father, who works at Planting Fields Arboretum in Upper Brookville.
"He said, ‘have you ever thought about a greenhouse?,’" Miller recalled, "and of course I said no, because nobody ever thinks about greenhouses when you’re running restaurants." He’d already looked into tents and igloos, "but a tent this size would cost about $5,000 to rent for the whole winter. I thought that was absurd. That’s more than Restoration’s rent."
With Dose’s idea, they could turn the greenhouse effect to their advantage, the pair theorized, using it to warm diners throughout winter, even as they would add an aggressive ventilation system to pump fresh air in and out of the facility.
"We wanted to give people a place to come that was warm, obviously, but also safe," said co-owner Nicole, pushing a stroller carrying the couple’s 6-month-old napping daughter in circles around the Restoration dining room. There was just one problem. "We’d never built something like this before. We had no idea what to anticipate, or what it even consisted of."
"All they send you is a bunch of poles and brackets," added Billy with a laugh. "That, and so many pages of directions, they came with a binder." He held it up for inspection. "It was like an erector set."
Needless to say, there were numerous hiccups along the way, most recently last Monday, when Miller discovered his team had punched a hole in the greenhouse's 25-foot-high ceiling during construction. Cue the Lindenhurst FD. "The chief came by with a truck," Billy said, still a bit awe-struck. "He went up there himself and patched the hole. It was great. Just neighbors helping neighbors."
It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to hear from Miller, a former social worker whose new greenhouse has a wall installation that reads BE THE GOOD in large letters. Restoration, which opened in 2018, is one of the Island’s rare nonprofit eateries, supporting a rotating list of charities. (Splashes of Hope and MOMMAS House are the current beneficiaries.)
Watching restaurant personnel — most of whom had been as green about greenhouse building as Miller — gracefully scale ladders and scaffolding while putting finishing touches on the structure, festooning it with Christmas decorations and the like, it was impossible not to smile at what they've. Miller smiled too.
"It’s a big structure, but we are ready. Everyone is excited. I mean, my servers, my bartenders — they miss people."
Restoration Kitchen & Cocktails is at 49 E. Hoffman Ave. in Lindenhurst, 631-592-1905, restorationli.com. Opening hours for both indoor and greenhouse dining are Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Reservations suggested. Closed Monday.