Harlem jazz bar and restaurant Minton’s has closed for the summer to regroup — and with the change, executive chef J.J. Johnson left the restaurant this month to branch out on his own.
With his departure, comes the announcement that The Cecil, which closed in December, is reopening as The Cecil Steakhouse on track to open in September. Like the ghost of The Cecil before it, the restaurant will operate in tandem with Minton’s Playhouse.
The website explains that “Harlem jazz supper club Minton’s will be taking the summer off for renovations, regrouping, and rebirth,” with a restructuring of management between existing owners Richard Parsons/Harlem Jazz Enterprises LLC, and Harlem restaurateur Raphael Benavides’ Arts in Common.
Harlem resident Benavides, who now manages performance space and gallery The Poet’s Den Gallery and Theater, has had a hand in restaurants since the early 2000s, having opened Ricardo Steak House and selling his stake in it in 2010. Most recently, he has consulted for Corner Social since 2015 and was approached by Parsons about The Cecil space.
It’s the second round of the restaurant’s closing, with The Cecil’s having shuttered in late December and owners Richard Parsons and chef Alexander Smalls moving the kitchen operations next door to Minton’s for a January opening. Back in 2013, The Cecil and Minton’s opened around the same time.
Meanwhile, Johnson announced in late June that he is starting a new restaurant group, Ingrained Hospitality Concepts based on rice and grains. It’s a team effort with longtime friend and collaborator Will Sears, the director of ops for John Fraser who has opened a number of restaurants in New York, LA, and the Midwest. He’s been scouting all five boroughs for a location for the group’s first restaurant.
“Everything ended on amazing terms,” Johnson says of his time with Minton’s. “I’m ready to grow.”
For the past year, he says, he’s been studying with Glen Roberts of Anson Mills and plans to preview dishes in an August residency at Chefs Club Counter. In addition, he’s working on a cookbook and a show with Powerhouse Productions. Johnson was also part of a RapCaviar Spotify video with rapper Desiigner.
Minton’s has history as a club that back in the day hosted Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie. But the menu at the revamped venue didn’t gain traction like The Cecil under Johnson, which won restaurant of the year awards and has spent a long time on the Eater 38. Stay tuned for updates on The Cecil Steakhouse and Minton’s Playhouse.