When guests sidle up to the bar at New York City’s Porchlight, the first stand-alone bar from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, they will find a Southern influence and a craft-cocktail focus. They’ll also find service beyond the typical neighborhood bar at the spot in the red-hot Chelsea area. “Porchlight is different [from other bars] in that we want the guest experience to be less about us and more about the guest,” says Mark Maynard-Parisi, senior managing partner at USHG.
The company flirted with the bar business through Jazz Standard, the club downstairs from its Blue Smoke barbecue joint, but this is the first time the drinks come first. “Given the success of Blue Smoke, we thought that we could do even more outside of the context of a restaurant,” Maynard-Parisi says. “We sensed a converging of trends,” he says, deciding USHG was ready for a cocktail-led concept.
Maynard-Parisi, who began his tenure with USHG as a reservationist at Union Square Cafe and worked his way up the ranks, spent a lot of time in the South since opening Blue Smoke, leading him to the Southern theme. “If we are successful, our guests will feel both threads that are integral to Porchlight—New York sophistication and Southern hospitality,” he says.
That theme is evident in the cocktails, with Southern classics such as the Sazerac, as well as the menu of small bites that includes boiled-peanut hummus and Bourbon bar nuts.
Pricing drinks around $14 each, reasonable by New York City standards, Porchlight has found ways to make service more efficient. It’s Whiskey & Cola cocktail, for example, is premixed, carbonated and bottled for fast service. Additionally, punch on tap ($12) changes daily. And if guests don’t see anything they like on the list, they can order the What’ll It Be, a bespoke cocktail tailored to their taste.