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Olmsted’s Backyard Expansion Is Almost Ready for Spring Drinking

Greg Baxtrom is also adding a private dining room

Olmsted backyard
Olmsted’s backyard
Photo by Daniel Krieger

Hit Prospect Heights spot Olmsted is growing even more. The critically acclaimed neighborhood restaurant, located in 659 Vanderbilt Ave., has already started construction for a new small private dining room and a prep kitchen across the street. The popular and greenery-packed backyard — which initially grew last year to include a garden — will soon also add room for 12 more people to drink.

Like with the existing backyard, only snacks and drinks will be served. Still, even without the full menu of new American fare from chef-owner Greg Baxtrom, the backyard has become one of the defining traits of the restaurant, particularly since it’s the only place for people to wait for their tables. After it originally expanded, people could buy herbs. With extended hours, Olmsted may also eventually start serving lunch.

But despite the accolades that Olmsted has collected since opening in 2016, apparently things haven’t been entirely smooth for locals living near the restaurant. When Baxtrom submitted an application to extend their liquor license to the new space and potentially for lunch hours as well, residents posted flyers saying that Olmsted has been “less than neighborly.”

At a Brooklyn Community Board 8 meeting on Monday night, some showed up to protest Olmsted’s full request — saying that although they love the restaurant, a noisy exhaust system and busy backyard is disruptive. Emily Spiegelman, a neighbor who represented 20 people living at a local co-op, described the noise from the exhaust as a “commercial airliner hovering outside [her] window.” They had filed previous complaints, including one to the Department of Environmental Protection that in December, concluded Olmsted was a few decibels above the noise limit. The restaurant has worked with an engineer to reduce the noise and improve the exhaust system early this year, but it hadn’t been enough to appease the neighbors. “We just want to sleep,” Spiegelman said at the meeting.

Ultimately, Baxtrom and Olmsted general manager Max Katzenberg agreed to close the backyard at 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays in light of community backlash. The neighbors at the meeting — who almost uniformly started their complaints with compliments for Olmsted’s success — seemed satisfied with the restaurant’s cooperation, and committee members voted to approve the request. The vote is advisory to the State Liquor Authority, which gets final say. Katzenberg also offered his cell phone and encouraged people to reach out. “We are thrilled to have the board’s approval, thrilled to be in the neighborhood and will continue to do good work in the community,” he said after the meeting.

Olmsted has previously applied for a liquor license for 626 Vanderbilt Ave. for a 75-seat restaurant, but they did not talk about that project on Monday.


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