When 5280 interviews people about renovations or remodeling projects, the inevitable refrain is “it took a long time.” That wasn’t the case with the recent expansion of Park Hill’s Tables. In about 16 days this summer, owners Amy Vitale and Dustin Barrett—who is also the chef—managed to scrape, build, and add two storefronts to their once-tiny eatery. “It was the longest and shortest two weeks of my life,” Vitale admits.
The restaurant re-opened on July 8 and the rapid renovation is major, but also subtle: There is now an official entry space (before, incoming guests were practically on top of the first table) and there is a tad more space between seats (thank goodness). Massive and movable barn doors can close off a small section for private parties (think: bridal showers, family get-togethers, or even small office parties).
A chunk of space was also added to the too-small kitchen, which means there is room for more cooks and Barrett is back in the heat, where he wants to be. “Before, during service, the sous would be in the middle helping the grill and sauté cooks and I would be out [on the floor], so I never got to cook,” Barrett says. “All I got to do was garnish plates, make sure things were fine, say ‘order up,’ and help the servers run food. But now I’m actually back there in the kitchen and all of the food funnels through me. It’s the way it is supposed to be.” Barrett’s central perch also ensures that he can greet guests as they enter, adds to the restaurant’s already neighborly feel.
On a recent visit, we sipped on Sazerac cocktails and munched on a summer salad (spinach, tomato, peach, lemon-mint vinaigrette, and tarragon crème fraiche), a New York strip steak with goat cheese polenta and garlic-balsamic sauce, and scallops served with paprika-tarragon and corn risotto. All of which assured us that while the space had changed, the quality of the cooking had remained the same—perhaps, even improved—with Barrett’s increased oversight. “The food is the same,” Barrett agrees, “but the way we get it out of the kitchen has changed.”