Images by Noah Fecks
If you've seen a performance at The Public Theater in the last year and been ushered across the torn up lobby floor, tiptoed over rocky wooden boards lining hallways lit by emergency lights and coated in layers of construction dust, then you'll be as pleased as we were to walk into the newly plastered lobby, the scent of fresh paint still hanging in the air. The gallery-white walls are decorated only with the iconic blocky black type Paula Scher designed for The Public in 1994. The entrance and indeed most of the theatre's revitalization was designed by Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership), but if you find yourself in need of a reprieve from the blindingly bright white lobby and lounge areas, head upstairs to The Library, a welcomingly dark restaurant and bar with signature Rockwell Group touches—sexy, industrial, refined—that's truly a sight for sore eyes.
If the ceiling seems a bit low it's because this second story space was carved out of the 25-foot open ceiling in the lobby to "create a cozy, almost hidden space within the void." The Public's cast iron columns and steel beams were painted black and worked into the dining area, where guests sit on distressed leather chairs and button tufted banquets under a nine foot circular cast iron chandelier that, along with the other blackened steel and brushed bronze lighting, was custom made by Conant Metal and Lighting in Vermont. Antique metal work, white-washed cerused oak walls lined with vintage books and black and white photos from The Public's storied past create the mood that principal Shawn Sullivan and the Rockwell Group envisioned "as a secret corner one might discover at the New York Public Library."
If only there were quiet nooks at the NYPL that served Fennel-Glazed St. Louis Ribs, Catskill Mountain Trout and Short Rib Goulash by The Dutch's Andrew Carmellini and Luke Ostrom (see full menu). During the day and in between shows the restaurant will act as a meeting room for the cast and crew of The Public's many performances, a lucky group who can munch on Pizza Popcorn (better than it sounds) and sip carefully crafted cocktails while they go over lines and scene notes. Nothing summons the muse like the bar's Bye Bye Albatross—Russian Standard Vodka, Dolin Vermouth, Peycahud's and Absinthe. But you don't have to be a performer or even a ticket holder to soak up the atmosphere, which means we're going to enjoy The Library now before this Astor Place gem is serving a packed house.