Flying Star is set to open Downtown at Eighth Street and Silver on Monday, Feb. 28. This latest addition to the Flying Star and Satellite family of bakery/restaurants and coffee shops is located in a striking modern structure built in 1950 for Southern Union Gas, a precursor of PNM. The airy and open building with lots of stone, steel and walls of windows, was designed by the late John Gaw Meem, a famous New Mexico-based architect who was best known for his Southwestern style buildings, like UNM's Alumni Memorial Chapel. Flying Star owners Jean and Mark Bernstein worked with landlord Jay Rembe to get national historic status for the building.
Getting the doors open took a lot longer than the Bernsteins expected, and they're not new at this game. Jean Bernstein told me that dealing with the building's historic status was a joy, but also caused a number of problems that took extra time to resolve. They had wanted to add an awning to the front of the building to provide shade for outdoor tables, but it was deemed not to fit, and their idea rejected. On the other hand, during renovation they found out that the building had an upstairs patio, that had been covered up since 1952. They exposed it again and had local artisan fabricators Miles Dane produce an identical metal railing for the patio.
Luckily, they were able to use original photographs and drawings of the building for reference. The building's ground floor (it also has an upstairs and large basement) was designed as a showroom for gas appliances. That big open space is now the restaurant's dining room, fitted with a variety of seating options, including benches, bancos, chairs and a high counter from which patrons can watch the action in the kitchen. The jewel tone colors and funky design will be familiar to Flying Star patrons, but here the fixtures and fittings are slightly fancier, a little more grown-up.
The restaurant seats about 160 people, the same size as their other locations. There will be seating for about 50 outside, including in the front, where, in the absence of an awning, they plan to use umbrellas for shade.
Upstairs, where offices once housed gas company executives, there is a lounge area, with comfy couches and magazine displays. There's also a hospitality room upstairs, big enough to hold 50 to 60 people for meetings and events. “We had the extra space,” Jean Bernstein said, “so we thought, what the heck!” Groups who want to use the room will have to pay a room rental fee, but Bernstein said the rates are very competitive, lower than nearby hotels. The room can be rented by itself, or with catered food and drinks from the restaurant.
Speaking of drinks, the restaurant will have a beer and wine license, but as usual with these things, the license has been delayed and you'll probably have to wait a few months for a glass of Pinot with your pot pie.