FOX Lifestyle Hospitality Group opened The Rag Trader and Bo Peep Cocktail & Highball Store (70 W 36th St.), a vibrant restaurant and piano cocktail bar inspired by the mid-20th century heyday of the Garment District, when the area boasted the highest concentration of garment manufacturers in the world.
Paying homage to those who artfully stitched together the fabric of yesteryear, The Rag Trader conveys a story of earlier times by preserving the nostalgic architecture of what was once an old garment factory and tailor’s office. Mark Fox, the passionate restaurateur and founder of FOX Lifestyle Hospitality Group, imagined the energetic atmosphere of these former rooms when dreaming up The Rag Trader. “Underneath the layers of walls and flooring that had amassed over time, the building had a hidden story to reveal from when the neighborhood first flourished as a creative fashion haven,” said Fox. “I imagined the seamstresses and tailors working on this very floor 70 years ago and wanted the decor to pay tribute to just that.”
An unexpected experience unfolding at every turn, the grandiose multilevel space exhibits novel design elements with thoughtful, quirky details revealed along the way. “When we first saw the interiors of The Rag Trader and Bo Peep, we discovered a very unique space that had enormous potential and, most importantly, an exciting story to tell,” says Graham O’Donnell, co-founder of O’Donnell O’Neill Design Associates, a European award-winning creative interior architecture and design studio. “The space allowed us to create an endearing, atmospheric and desirable restaurant and bar that would hold its own in any modern, urban environment around the world.”
A cozy, outdoor seating area welcomes guests as they arrive at The Rag Trader. Once inside, guests pass the Sketch Corner, a hybrid dining space reminiscent of an old sewing machine room that serves as the precursor to the bold lighting, dramatic furniture selection and beautiful exposed brick walls within. An antique Beauty Bar encloses the area, filled with mannequins and issues of Vogue from decades past. To the right, above the bar, an eye-catching gantry is outfitted with colorful fabrics and mix-matched mannequins. As guests move further back through the restaurant they enter the Tailor’s Parlor and Hat Box, more intimate dining areas flaunting vintage hat boxes and sprightly design statements. Making way upstairs to the mezzanine, guests are offered a view over the below dining areas, similar to that of an office looking over the garment shop floor. This space gives a nod to Street Taco, Fox Lifestyle Hospitality Group’s casual taqueria in Gramercy, with a vintage Volkswagen van that doubles as one of the best seats in the house.
At The Rag Trader, guests uncover curated culinary features within each distinct area through a creatively designed menu by Executive Chef Justin Ottervanger. Showcasing a selection of raw bar options, snacks, authentic pizzas, and plates ranging small to large, the menu highlights the restaurant's strong relationship with local farms and purveyors. Signature dishes include Sea Scallop Crudo, Rogue Smokey Blue Salad, Fried East Coast Oysters, Crispy Skin Salmon, Cauliflower ‘Steak’ and the 14oz Bone-in New York Strip. Lunch and brunch highlights include Mushroom, Gruyere and Chorizo Frittata, Octopus with Salsa Verde, Hangover Burger, Smoked Chicken Salad and Drunkin’ Donuts. “The menu focuses on refined comfort food and is designed to allow multiple types of dining experiences. Whether looking for a bite or quick drink with friends, a romantic dinner, or late-night pizza after a crazy night out, we have something for everyone,” said Ottervanger.
The Rag Trader’s beverage program boasts a selection of classic and modernly crafted cocktails and craft beers, created by Beverage Director Evan Hawkins. “I felt an elegance in the space, and wanted to relay that through The Rag Trader’s beverage program, while also including fun riffs on classic drinks that people find comfort in day or night,” said Hawkins. A thoughtful wine program is also offered, one that enables guests to find familiar choices and encourages new discoveries, developed by Matt Tornabene, co-founder and President of Manhattan Wine Company, and his wife Kerrie Tornabene, former sommelier for Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group.
Bo Peep Cocktail & Highball Store, a subterranean lounge and piano cocktail bar at The Rag Trader, harkens back to an intimate tailor’s fitting room of the day. A throwback to the Bo-Peep Manufacturing Company that occupied the entire building in the mid-1900s, the lavish lounge exudes an ambiance of mystery and seductive conviviality. Plush banquette seating brings comfort to the space while maintaining an air of playfulness and attention to detail through piping, fringing and buttoning. Cocktails reign here - with a full-service bar made from a tailor’s old drafting table, the whimsically unique cocktail program accompanies a mix of elevated shared plates. Fun and sessionable, the menu draws inspiration from the ‘40s and ‘50s and is divided into enticing categories such as Tiki, Swizzled & Crushed; Sours, Flips & Fun; Stirred, Boozy & Serious; and Fizzes, Bubbles & Smashes. Highlights include the Stirred Pictford, Smugglers Run, Jalisco Switchblade and Tunisian Toddy. “For Bo Peep, I wanted to take it back to a time when drinking was sexy and adventurous. Piano keys dancing across the air, guests were dressed to impress and the perfect drink was in hand,” says Hawkins. A room to be discovered, a lively piano complements the dimly-lit space, filling the air with regularly rotating bespoke entertainment that ranges from nostalgic favorites to modern classics.
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