Restaurateur Danny Meyer Discusses His Latest Dining Project at The Shed in Hudson Yards

Since the newly-developed neighborhood—although even that term is debatable—started opening doors to shops and public art structures last month, Hudson Yards has been met with mixed responses. From the glitzy shopping mall to a structure promising to be New York’s answer to the Eiffel Tower (in a metropolis that arguably already has plenty of comparable monuments and structures already), Hudson Yards over on the very west side of Midtown Manhattan has critics suggesting it evokes the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz, or a gated community for the uber rich.

However, yet another venue opens to the public this week: The Shed, a multi-purpose arts venue, already hosting multiple modern art exhibitions and local chamber orchestra productions. After walking around the shops at Hudson Yards a few times over the last two weeks, there have been a small but consistent stream of tourists, but it’s hard to discern how many locals are actually making the trek to the very west of 34th Street beyond those who work at WarnerMedia, SAP, L’Oreal, Coach, and a few other major corporate brands in the offices upstairs.

At first glance, the exterior of the structure, designed by New York-based architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, might look like something the First Order built in tribute to the Empire from Star Wars. But the nature of cultural center is far less austere, and it might actually have the most potential and promise to bring a more diverse swath of New Yorkers and residents of the tri-state area.

The true gateway will be the new restaurant on the ground level: Cedric’s at The Shed, a new project from restauranteur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG).

From Union Square to Hudson Yards

The establishment was named Cedric’s in honor of Cedric Price, a British architect rose to prominence in the 1960s. Elizabeth Diller, the lead architect behind The Shed at Hudson Yards, was said to have been fascinated by many of Price’s unpublished blueprints and sketches—one of which became the inspiration for The Shed. That undeveloped work was a building dubbed “The Fun Palace,” which itself was intended to be a modular-type building that could be reconfigured and moved as needed, similar to how many structures were constructed and deconstructed for the World’s Fair. Today, at 8 million pounds of steel, The Shed is a movable structure, situated on six-foot (in diameter) wheels that can move up to 115 feet within five minutes.

Beyond the blueprints, Price’s memory will serve as the inspiration for the name of the primary dining establishment at The Shed as well as a number of items on its food and drink menus. Price died in London in 2003, but the USHG team says they obtained approval from his widow, Eleanor, before securing the name.

Mayor De Blasio Attends Dedication Of The Shed, A New Arts Center Opening In Manhattan

An exterior view of the new cultural space The Shed in Hudson Yards on April 1, 2019 in New York City. With an aim to be the world’s most flexible and inclusive cultural institution, The Shed is located where the popular High Line and the new Hudson Yards development meet. A modern, $475 million building houses the non-profit which will commission and present works across a broad selection of the arts including theater, music and the visual arts. The Shed, whose artistic director and chief executive is Alex Poots, officially opened on April 5. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Coincidentally, USHG actually used to be named Hudson Yards Catering back in 2005. During an interview with Fortune this week, Meyer said that was partially because the team already had its eye on this particular area for years. But the group rebranded to Union Square because, as Meyer noted, “at that point no one had heard of Hudson Yards.”

Flash forward to 2019, it looks as though things have come full circle for the hospitality group. Comparing the new opening to similar establishments at other New York museums—specifically the Whitney and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)—Meyer acknowledged that museum restaurants are often subsidiaries to the cultural instutitions, but he stressed that restaurants in these kinds of public spaces (or even airports and ballparks) need to be destination worthy in and of themselves.

“If you go way back in history, most museums have looked at their food and beverage program as a necessary amenity for a captive audience,” Meyer said. “But we want to create a place where you’d want to eat—even if you didn’t want to go to the museum.”

But Don’t Call It a Café

However, given the aforementioned unusual birth and construction of Hudson Yards as a brand new neighborhood, the debut of The Shed is unlike even the relocation of The Whitney, about a mile south on the other end of the High Line. The area west of Penn Station is far less accessible by public transit (with the exception of one new subway station with just one line in service) prior to the opening of the shopping center and Vessel, the honeycomb-esque structure that looks like a castle on the map of Westeros during the opening credits of Game of Thrones. So the vision for Cedric’s and what role it will play is still a work in process.

Explaining some of the hurdles in opening a new restaurant—especially one in a public venue—Meyer said you often don’t know before opening what people are going to gravitate towards or the spectrum of guests that will form a long-term audience, whether that’s people on laptops sipping on cappuccinos or the after-work crowd looking for happy hour cocktails.

Despite the recent surge in popularity for all-day cafés, which often transition from coffee and tea to traditional bar service by the late afternoon, USHG’s management team told Fortune that they’re refraining from referring to Cedric’s as a café, but simply as a bar. Nevertheless, Cedric’s will likely be serving the same items from opening at 11AM to midnight, from breakfast to late night service.

With plush couches and armchairs set to be scattered around the dining room for up to 120 people (and a goal of hosting approximately 150 when including standing room around the bar), Meyer said Cedric’s should feel like a living room. “If you don’t live in Hudson Yards, you made some time and effort to get here. So we want Cedric’s to be that place where you exhale and go ‘This is comfortable,’” Meyer explained.

The Shed at Hudson Yards opens to the public this weekend. Cedric’s at The Shed is scheduled to open later in April. A specific date has not been confirmed yet.

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