Speakeasy Hidden Behind Confessional Opening at Limelight

By Heather Holland on June 27, 2014 6:42am | Updated on June 27, 2014 5:19pm

 The eatery will specialize in craft beers and shareable dishes, the owner said.
The eatery will specialize in craft beers and shareable dishes, the owner said.
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DNAinfo/Heather Holland

FLATIRON — To get to this speakeasy, you'll have to go through a confessional.

An American gastropub with a hidden speakeasy is opening in the landmarked former Church of the Holy Communion rectory at 47 W. 20th St., which is now part of the Limelight Marketplace.

The ground-floor restaurant and garden will launch by this fall, and then later this year the speakeasy will open on the second floor, behind an old confessional booth from the church's past, owner Steve Martinek said.

"This is a national landmark — people should know the history," said Martinek, who works for EMM Group, which runs clubs and restaurants in the city, including SL on 14th Street and Catch NYC on Ninth Avenue. "I want it to be a magical place for the people sitting in it. The facade gets lit up at night. It’s going to be really special."

The restaurant was originally going to be called The Abby, but that name was trademarked and Martinek is now working on coming up with a different one, he said.

The rectory — built in 1844 during the Gothic revival period and landmarked in 1966  was once home to rector William Muhlenberg, who first came up with the idea to create St. Luke's Hospital, according to Landmarks Preservation Commission records.

It has since been occupied by several restaurants, including two ventures by celebrity chef Todd English: Crossbar and Chateau Cherbuliez.

The decor of the new eatery will nod to the historic roots of the space by featuring old renderings and photographs from the Gothic period, Martinek said.

The restaurant will serve 15 craft beers and the food will focus on shareable plates, Martinek said.

“In most restaurants, the food comes out all at once,” said Martinek, “But we’re going to have a streaming-style service, where customers can order many plates at once, and they come out one at a time, so people can share the plates together. It’s very social.”

The menu is still in the works, but the entrees may include a spinach-artichoke macaroni and cheese and a duck burger made with vacherin cheese, truffle butter and shallots.

The speakeasy opening on the second floor will feature small plates and six rotating cocktails made to order at tables, Martinek said.

“It’s not pretentious,” Martinek said of the vibe he is hoping to achieve. “It’s OK to mingle.” 

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