UPPER WEST SIDE — At least they'll have PB&J.
With Tavern on the Green set to reopen on New Year's Eve, local leaders criticized the forthcoming restaurant for being too expensive — with only premade sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly hitting their desired price point.
"We had hoped that more of your restaurant would be available to the public," said Community Board 7 Parks Committee co-chairwoman Klari Neuwalt at a meeting Monday night.
Aside from a small takeout food seating area, many people won't be able to afford sitting at one of the restaurant's more than 600 seats — many of which are outdoors — given the eatery's cost, she said. Most entrees in the main restaurant will cost between $21 and $33.
"What we’ve been delivered is something much more of a destination restaurant," CB7 chairman Mark Diller, as opposed to a spot for the local community.
Even the cheaper takeout window didn't hit the mark with some board members.
Instead of offering fresh restaurant food, the lack of venting in the window means only premade sandwiches and salads will be available, with the exception of grilled-cheese sandwiches made on a panini press.
"There will be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches," said chef Katy Sparks, "but they will be artisan."
Sparks, who was brought on by new owners Jim Caiola and David Salama of the Philadelphia-based Emerald Green Group, emphasized that the main restaurant menu would include an affordable burger.
"If you want to have a burger and a beer and it’s $25, that’s great," said Sparks, who added that every tavern must have a burger and described her menu as "casual fine dining."
But Neuwalt countered that Tavern on the Green sounded more like a "high-end restaurant."
"What you’re looking at is people ordering from the regular menu at $50 a person," she said. "That doesn’t really meet the needs of people."
Other members agreed that the board has been pushing for a more inviting park-side restaurant from the beginning.
"I sure hope that there might be a lower end as well as a higher end [of the menu]," said board member Meisha Hunter.
CB7 wanted the restaurant, whose reconstruction is being paid for with taxpayer dollars, to be more inviting to diners and for the restaurateurs to embrace "the idea that a much broader range of people finishing their [park] activities would feel comfortable coming in for a much broader range of prices," Neuwalt explained.
But Caiola insisted that the new Tavern on the Green would do just that.
"There is something for everyone," he said.
He described the take-out window as a "high-end healthy version of a hot dog stand," and said it would appeal to many patrons.
But the board criticized the new owners for closing the takeout portion at 5 p.m., eliminating the possibility of a less expensive dinner in the park. However, some said they realized the restaurant had financial constraints.
"We understand you’re there to make money," Neuwalt conceded.
Sparks reiterated that the restaurant owners would be flexible to the needs and demands of the neighborhood and its customers, noting that the hours could change.
"This is our mom-and-pop-and-pop restaurant," she said. "We are sole operators of a sole restaurant."
While the Parks Committee has taken issue with the new Tavern owners' plans in the past, criticizing the layout for making the takeout window seem "second class [and] less desirable," the Business and Conusmer Issues Committe gave its unanimous approval last week of the restaurant's liquor license, with only a warning that it keep the noise down for neighbors.