The Orchard Townhouse: Our New Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant
Phil Winser, co-owner of Silkstone, the hospitality company behind celebrated restaurants such as The Fat Radish, on New York City’s Lower East Side, tells us about his latest project, The Orchard Townhouse, a cozy restaurant in Chelsea that’s soon to open a garden and six fully furnished long-stay rental apartments upstairs—room service optional.
As the Fat Radish celebrates its ten-year anniversary, what inspired the idea of opening Orchard Townhouse?
It’s been a real journey, and, first of all, it’s very exciting to be doing another restaurant in the city. New York’s such a special place because neighborhoods mean so much—they’re what make up the city. I’ve always wanted to do a project in Chelsea because it has such a strong character. It’s got such a diverse group of New Yorkers, old architecture, as well as the crazy and amazing new starchitecture happening near the High Line [buildings by the likes of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Zaha Hadid, and Bjarke Ingels]. It’s a juxtaposition between the Meatpacking District and all of the stuff that’s been happening there, and Hudson Yards.
We first looked at a site in this area a decade ago, and I always knew at some point that I wanted to do a project here. I’ve always been fascinated by architecture and how hospitality, specifically, can contribute to a neighborhood. Then, this beautiful townhouse that sat on the corner came on the market, and we thought we could do something fun with it and make it for the neighborhood. It’s also a bit of an homage to our first restaurant, on Orchard Street.
Did the building itself lead to the idea to also renovate and rent out the apartments above?
In all of the projects we’ve done in the city, we’ve always had people living above, and the restaurant really becomes part of the family. One of our hosts ended up being the maid of honor at a guest’s wedding. We get all the local regulars: the dog walker, the mail collector—and everyone keeps their spare keys with us. We have this great connection with the people in the neighborhood and what’s going on with their lives. It’s something that makes New York so special. For Orchard Townhouse, we’re bringing more of that sort of hospitality into the entire building.
The idea is to renovate the building while having this great restaurant downstairs. They’ll be stylish rental units that will carry on the aesthetic of the restaurant, and you’ll be able to get room service and all of the perks of having a restaurant downstairs, if you live there.
It’s a bit like a modern day bed and breakfast, city-style.
But with longer-term stays—how I like to live in the city. We’re just launching our design company within our operation, and for me, as a designer, it has been a really enjoyable process. Restaurants are kind of like a theater—you’re almost creating a set. It’s not all fully finished yet, and will probably be another six months [until it is]. But that’s why we decided to open the restaurant early, and have just been keeping it quiet for now, as we go through our teething problems. It’s an opportunity to get to know everyone in the neighborhood.