Tribeca's New BBQ Restaurant with Old New York Charm
Good things take time. The team behind New York’s newest barbeque restaurant, Holy Ground, know this intimately. Two years, a decade, perhaps even a lifetime in the making, the upscale speakeasy-style bar and steakhouse located in a basement on Reade Street in Tribeca opened its doors a little over a month ago, and if you ask us, it is every bit worth the wait. “We took over the lease for this space in October 2016, so almost two years ago,” co-founder/chef/pitmaster Franco Vlasic says. “We got to work on it right away, completely gutted it. The existing layout was very different so we had to take everything out, opened up a wall over there, took space from the kitchen…” Along with partners Nathan Lithgow (Café Altro Paradiso, Sauvage) and restaurateur Matt Abramcyk (Tiny’s, Yves, Smith & Mills), Vlasic has cultivated an experience that is deeply rooted in the history of American barbecue whilst also offering something all of its own.
It is mid-August when we visit, a notoriously quiet time in the city owing to a large portion of residents up and leaving for the coastline, but at Holy Ground, you wouldn’t know it. The restaurant is suitably packed for this time of year with diners enthusiastically tucking into plates of grilled red prawns, pork belly, seasonal vegetables, Wagyu brisket by the half- or full pound, and slow-smoked ribs (the latter two have been fast favorites, Vlasic notes) whilst sipping pre-prohibition style cocktails formulated by Matthew Hunter, formerly of Eleven Madison Park. “The cocktails are a throwback to Old School New York speakeasy-type drinking,” Vlasic says. You would not know it was 2018, either. The sense of place defined by dim-lighting, wood-paneled walls, maroon leather banquettes, red damask wallpaper, vintage bric-a-brac, and a sultry, jazz-heavy soundtrack instantly transports you to an earlier part of the city’s history. “We wanted to create a barbecue style place that has the feel of an Old New York place in Tribeca that never existed but could have,” Vlasic explains. The team looked to classic New York City establishments like the 21 Club and Keens for inspiration.
Although Holy Ground may be Vlasic’s first endeavor into New York’s dining scene, the born and raised New Yorker has been an integral part of New York’s barbecue world for some time. What started as a backyard cook-up with mates about a decade ago eventually gave way to Fort Gansevoort BBQ, a bare-bones, hole-in-the-wall spot in the heart of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Next came Holy Ground pop-up, which operated out of a churchyard in Williamsburg on weekends. Needless to say, Holy Ground has been a long time coming and the passion and dedication injected into the restaurant along the way shows in everything from the food and drink to the fit out right down to the soundtrack, which as Vlasic notes, was also years in the making. “I’ve put together this playlist of thousands of songs. My family was tortured on holidays because I would be like, we’ve got to listen to this so I can weed through it all.”
Holy Ground is located at 112 Reade St in Tribeca and is open for dinner Monday through Sunday with plans to open for brunch in the coming months.
Words Edwina Hagon