Five Acres opens in Rockefeller Center today, December 8, the last in the quartet of marquis restaurants to debut this fall that includes Le Rock, Naro, and Jupiter. This one, from chef Greg Baxtrom — of Brooklyn’s Olmsted that opened in 2016, followed by Maison Yaki, and most recently, Patti Ann’s Family Restaurant and Bakery – displays an all-American menu that fronts vegetables and occasionally detours into squab or guinea hen territory among mains.
With Five Acres, Baxtrom is “shooting for Gramercy Tavern,” citing the Danny Meyer classic that opened in 1994 — an unsurprising reference for a serial Prospect Heights restaurateur attempting to go big in Manhattan. He hopes it will be “where you can go for a special occasion or you can stop by for a good burger,” he says.
The 65-seat airy dining room is tucked away on the rink level, where inside, a hanging garden frames the perimeter. It’s a nod to the name of the restaurant, inspired by his family’s five-acre farm outside of Chicago, along with the backyard garden of his flagship restaurant. “It looks like a Rainforest Cafe,” he says, “but classy.” And without the animatronics.
Cushy leather banquettes align the seating area in a room anchored by ribbed-glass pillars and accented with bronze metalwork. INC Architecture & Design (Momofuku Noodle Bar uptown, Portale) framed the space and Baxtrom’s father built elements such as the private dining room, as he did most recently with Patti Ann’s.
At Five Acres, culinary director Sherry Cardoso joins Baxtrom in the kitchen, where they’ll cook up plenty of straightforward crowd-pleasers. Yet the location alone also allows him to take risks on a few dishes and anticipate some takers. It’s a different assumption from a few years ago when Rockefeller Center was the last Manhattan neighborhood to take culinary risks.
There’s no shortage of smoke-show drama — no doubt a way to separate itself from the property’s other options for tourists. You’ll see it in the unleashing of dry ice in cloche-reveal dishes like smoked oysters Vanderbilt ($28), and the s’mores dessert, a DIY version of a dish he’s put on the menu at Olmsted, a nod to Baxtrom’s Boy Scout days. Personal scissors to cut bread point to the elementary school vibe of Patti Ann’s back in Brooklyn, where the dining-room decor weaves in classroom elements, as his mother is a teacher. There’s also shrimp cocktail ($26) with French Blue prawns wrapped in feuille de brick and served with cranberry cocktail sauce. For appetizers, the menu moves into cheddar pumpkin soup ($18), or a shaved fennel Caesar ($22), followed by mains like the kohlrabi “fettuccine” Alfredo with clams ($32). Mushroom pierogies make an appearance in the Maine lobster trio ($58), and yes, there will be grilled guinea hen ($46).
“Creatively there are things I don’t do at Olmsted,” he says, citing his turning away from squab and guinea hen there, “it’s too expensive for a small portion” for a neighborhood restaurant.
Trey Bliss, formerly at Sundays in Brooklyn and Bar Tulix, assembled the wine list with natural fermented options and indigenous grapes included. Olmsted’s longtime drinks person Andrew Zerrip has put together a list of seasonal cocktails ($13 to $21) named for Frederick Law Olmsted-designed city landmarks.
As far as his decision to open in Rockefeller Center, Baxtrom says, “people have asked me if I feel bad that I’ve left Brooklyn behind,” noting that he’s been a Brooklynite for 15 years, where currently all his restaurants reside just a block or two away from each other. The company he joins — the King crew, Atomix folks, and the Frenchette team— reinforced the feeling that it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
With fine dining experience from Chicago’s Alinea to Manhattan’s Per Se, and others, he says that he’s “worked around the world”; nevertheless, Rockefeller Center is a “scary but natural” next step.
Five Acres is now open from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; reservations are available via Resy. In the coming weeks, Five Acres will open for breakfast and lunch.