Sometimes you just need a makeover, and for restaurants it’s no different. A makeover is often just what a property needs to come back from the brink, or to be revived with new energy. From a change of the chef to a multi-million dollar overhaul of the decor, there are so many possibilities for making a space feel new again.
These 24 restaurant transformations range from subtle refreshes (like a pivoting menu) to dramatic facelifts, and even entirely new concepts — and luckily, unlike contestants in Gordon Ramsay’s new show 24 Hours to Hell and Back, premiering on June 13 at 9 p.m. ET, they had more than 24 hours to complete their makeovers. Ramsay is hitting the road in a mobile kitchen to bring back struggling restaurants from the brink of failure, to transform these restaurants with renovations, new menus and newfound hope.
Here are some recent exciting restaurant makeovers that will catch your attention: There’s everything from a historic New York spot that updated their entire space to a Vegas restaurant that shifted gears towards some decadent new menu items.
1. Tavern on the Green, New York City
This historic restaurant in Central Park has been charming guests since 1934, but in 2009, its operators filed for bankruptcy. In 2014, it reopened with a completely renovated space and a change of chef: the famous Jeremiah Tower, who made his name for California cuisine. Tower didn’t last long at the Tavern on the Green, but the physical changes — like an open kitchen, brick ovens, glass room, and more open courtyard — have given new life to the romantic spot.
2. 404 Kitchen, Nashville
When 404 Kitchen opened in 2014 (and earned a James Beard Best New Restaurant semifinalist title that year), it opened in a shipping container merged onto a former garage. Now, the acclaimed Nashville restaurant recently expanded in a big way. The former 40-seat restaurant moved across the street to the old Watermark space in November 2017 to accommodate over 200 guests. The move paved the way to expand the menu, move the bar to its own downstairs space, and add a roof deck.
3. Noyane, Chicago
Chef Richard Sandoval has restaurants all over the world and the designation of Bon Appetit’s Restaurateur of the Year in 2006. But the Mexican-born chef now is dipping his toe into Japanese food (and comic books) in Chicago with Noyane (which means sushi chef). The seasonal rooftop restaurant is shifting this year to a gastro-pub vibe and a new chef, giving new life to one of Sandoval’s spots. You can still expect quality sashimi and Japanese pub fare for its second year open.
4. Fig and Olive, Los Angeles, DC, Houston, Chicago, and New York
This French Riviera-inspired chain of celebrity favorite hotspots has revamped with a new executive chef, Tim Hughes. With a healthier bent in mind, the chef added items like a vegan cocktail, gluten-free crostini, and more vegetable-focused entrees.
5. Root & Bone, Miami
Top Chef alums Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth opened Sarsaparilla Club in 2016 hoping to bring a multicultural American menu to Miami. But they couldn’t resist the pull of the Southern food they are known for best, so they revamped to create the second outpost of their popular New York City restaurant Root & Bone. The new menu includes staples like fried chicken and biscuits and drunken deviled eggs.
6. Manuela, Los Angeles
Manuela debuted in 2016 as the next hot thing. Located in the Arts District and partnering with art gallery Hauser & Wirth, the space tried to bring art into food. But the original chef’s North Texas vibe didn’t last long. New executive chef Kris Tominaga has joined to bring a bit more of California into the menu with items like local rock cod ceviche and Siberian kale salad.
7. SolToro, Uncasville, CT
In a casino, you have to go big or go home. This past February, the restaurant in the Mohegan Sun completely renovated their Mexican spot SolToro, with an expanded bar and lounge area (complete with a board games and the Instagrammable “No Bull” motif), updated dining room, and a new menu featuring crowd-pleasers like three versions of queso. Not to mention the 285 tequilas on the bar at this revived cantina.
8. Eleven Madison Park, New York
How do you stay on top when you are ranked as the best restaurant in the entire world? You close up shop and do a complete renovation. That’s what chef Daniel Humm and co-owner Will Guidara decided to do with their iconic spot last year. Along with a new menu focused on New York ingredients and traditions, the entire space also got a complete overhaul with new flooring, seating, lighting, plateware, and artwork. The Art Deco decor remains, but the new front of house has new rich textures and more intimate seating for a personal dining experience. The renovation also included back of house and kitchen, remodeled for more efficiency and new features, like a dry-aging area for ducks (no joke).
9. Butcher & Bee, Charleston, SC
An Israeli-tinged sandwich shop in a Southern city doesn’t seem like a surefire hit, but Butcher & Bee’s delectable bread and inspired combinations made it one of Charleston’s best spots. And with its popularity came a need for more space, so in 2016 they moved to a bigger building with more seating, a larger outdoor area, expanded parking, and a full bar. The restaurant is continuing to reinvent and revamp, now with a new spot in Nashville and a James Beard semifinalist nomination.
10. Spago, Los Angeles
When a restaurant defines the dining scene of a city for so many years, it is easy to let it keep running as is. But when it was decided that Wolfgang Puck’s celebrity-packed LA restaurant needed an update in 2012, they hired designer Waldo Fernandez to give it brighter and more modern interiors, along with new art and a new menu. The chef isn’t done with makeovers, either: He’s continuing to revamp the cuisine that made him famous in his upcoming Wolfgang Puck Test Kitchen.
11. Selfmade in the Hotel Adeline, Scottsdale
A former Days Inn hotel isn’t where you might imagine a trendy new restaurant, but after a $13 million renovation anything is possible. The Mediterranean-American menu is inflected with Arizona style inside the Hotel Adeline, Scottsdale’s newest boutique hotel. Opened earlier this year, the 4.5-acre property also has a fast-casual spot called Good & Proper.
12. Rose.Rabbit.Lie, Las Vegas
There’s always someone reinventing themselves in Vegas, and that’s true of this modern supper club in The Cosmopolitan. Opened in 2014 and listed as one of Opentable’s Top 100 Hot Spots in America, new executive chef Steven Gotham completely revamped the menu in the summer of 2017 to bring over-the-top, Vegas-style dishes like a $1,200 whole Alaskan crab that also features lobster, black truffles, and caviar.
13. Piggyback Bar, Jersey City, NJ
New Jersey is always looking for a bit of New York glamour, and Top Chef alum Leah Cohen brought it when she renovated the old Henry’s on Hudson to become her Piggyback Bar. Bringing her Lower East Side aesthetic from her other restaurant, Pig & Khao, she placed an emphasis on the New York subway, including a train mural by U R NY, subway line colors throughout the restaurant, and a full concrete bar with metallic chairs.
14. Tabletop Tap House, San Francisco
The brand-new Tabletop Tap House reimagined the former Jillian’s space to be a hybrid of dining and gaming. What was a sports bar and bowling alley now has the city’s largest video wall, 80 board games, billiard tables, and foosball. The giant space can hold 650 people and serves American tavern-style food with an expansive beer selection.
15. Bombay Bread Bar, New York
Chef Floyd Cardoz is renowned for his original restaurant Tabla and his win on Top Chef Masters. So when he opened Paowalla as his first Indian-inspired restaurant after years of other projects, the prospects were exciting. But the space felt too formal and cold, so this year, he closed and reinvented the retaurant as the Bombay Bread Bar. Designed by Kris Moran, a frequent collaborator of Wes Anderson, the new space is vibrant and filled with colorful murals to complement the casual but soulful Indian cooking.
16. Blue Harbour, Tampa, FL
When in Tampa you’re going to want seafood. That was the inspiration when the Westin completely renovated their casual bistro, 725 South, into an ocean-inspired destination. Executive chef Tony Van Hang uses seasonal, local produce and sustainable seafood, aiming to get the best out of what the coastal city has to offer.
17. Bistronomic, Chicago
When Bistronomic opened in 2011, it was Chicago Magazine’s Best New Restaurant and has stayed in the Chicago Tribune’s Top 50 ever since. But after more than half a decade it was time for a change. Last summer the French bistro brought on chef Amanda Downing — a native Chicagoan — to revamp the menu amid a remodel of the restaurant.
18. Craft & Commerce, San Diego
When this restaurant and bar with an emphasis on local ingredients and craft cocktails opened in 2010, it landed on many lists, including Food & Wine’s Best New Bars in the US, Esquire’s Best Bars in America, and a nod for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Bar Program. But after five years the spot was ready to expand, so it embarked on a multi-million dollar renovation. Its new surprising touches include a hidden 1,000-square-foot tiki bar and displays of century-old taxidermy, thanks to a collaboration with the San Diego Natural History Museum.
19. Agaveros Cantina, Miami
You can never have too much Latin American food in Miami, which is why the Gates Hotel in South Beach switched gears from Stephen Starr’s martini bar-inspired restaurant The Continental. Though The Continental opened in 2015 after a $6 million revamp, it never caught on. So this year, chef Nicolas Bour turned it into Agaveros Cantina. The Mexican-inspired spot has more than 75 tequilas and mezcals from Mexico, with a seafood bent to the menu.
20. Corner Table, Minneapolis
Corner Table has been a part of Minneapolis’ dining scene since 2004, but it gained new renown in 2012 when restaurateur Nick Rancone and chef Thomas Boemer took it over and gave it a Low Country-inspired menu. Recognition came pouring in and Boemer was named a James Beard Award semifinalist. In 2017 they added Karyn Tomlinson as chef de cuisine to give the menu more of a Minneapolis feel, like with a duck confit shepherd’s pie and local trout.
21. Sullivan Street Bakery, New York
Jim Lahey is one of the country’s most renowned bakers, so a small space with only a few counter stools just didn’t work. His Sullivan Street Bakery outpost in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood recently underwent a major renovation to create an all-day cafe vibe, more seating, and a new menu with seasonal favorites, like an updated bacon, egg, and cheese. Thanks to the remodeled operations in the back and the new front of house space, the bakery feels fresh once again.
22. Avery, San Francisco
Fine dining doesn’t have to be boring. After a series of successful popups, chef Rodney Wages took over the space of Michelin-starred Mosu — a restaurant criticized for its stark and minimalist vibe — and created a restaurant whose name is an homage to colorful abstract painter Milton Avery. The tasting-menu-only spot features pieces by local muralist Victor Reyes and plays on Japanese cooking techniques paired with a sake and wine list.nu.
23. Bell’s, Los Alamos, CA
How do you shift a beloved restaurant into something new? You keep the name close enough, but with a definite twist. Bell Street Farm shifted this past March into Bell’s. Started by a husband-and-wife team who had worked together at the famed Per Se, Daisy and Greg Ryan are bringing a fine dining touch to a French bistro. They added a new banquette and bar made of zinc. And since Daisy is from the area, her father’s local pottery store helped outfit the restaurant with new pottery.
24. The French Laundry, Yountville, CA
Few restaurants in the US are as iconic as Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry outside of San Francisco. After 20 years in business it was time to change, so they embarked on a three-year, $10 million renovation and expansion project in 2015. Three years later, the new kitchen now has windows overlooking the garden and guests arrive to a courtyard lined with maple trees. The wine cellar now holds a whopping 16,000 bottles.
One chef that knows a thing or two about makeovers? Gordon Ramsay, star of the new show 24 Hours to Hell and Back. On the show, Ramsay hits the road to give makeovers to restaurants struggling to stay open and a chance to come back from the brink of failure.
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