Places that Matter

Woolworth Tower Kitchen

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Woolworth Tower Kitchen, photo by Anna Mule
Woolworth Tower Kitchen, photo by Anna Mule
Woolworth Building, photo by Anna Mule
Woolworth Tower Kitchen, interior, photo by Anna Mule
American-style restaurant in the Woolworth Building
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Place Matters Profile

The Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway was designed by Cass Gilbert, and constructed as the headquarters of F. W. Woolworth’s “Five and Ten” empire in 1913. The Gothic, terra cotta-clad sixty-story building rises seven hundred ninety-two feet above the sidewalk. Its thirty-story tower surmounts a thirty-story base, which occupies lot frontage along Broadway between Barclay Street and Park Place. The skyscraper represents the apotheosis of experiments in tall office building design that began in the 1880s, and it served as standard against which were developed post-World War I innovations in skyscraper structure and style. As of 2011, the Woolworth Building is privately owned, and despite the fact that its exterior and much of its interior are designated New York City and National Historic landmark, the public can only experience the building’s grandeur from the sidewalk. Signs at all entrances, as well as security forces and cameras, are posted to keep both amateur and professional appreciators out.

However, the public is more than welcome at the Woolworth Tower Kitchen, located in the skyscraper’s ground floor storefront. The Kitchen, an upscale American-style restaurant, opened in 2004. The Iraqi owner, Sharif Adlouni, moved from his eatery at 17 Murray St. in order to capitalize on newly generated traffic from the 9/11 memorial site. However, the memorial construction has taken much longer than he anticipated, and the restaurant is soon transitioning to new ownership.

Adlouni has been in the restaurant business for 35 years. He came to New York City from Iraq to attend New York University, but also worked at his brother’s restaurant in the Village. He enjoyed it so much that he dropped out of school, never looking back.

“The restaurant business is good. It’s fun. You get to meet people, get to know people. You take care of people the right way. It’s a hospitality business.”

The Woolworth Tower Kitchen occupies the space that used to The Coffee Mug, which closed in 1998. When Adlouni and his partner were invited to take over the space, they gutted the entire space, threw everything out, and started from scratch.

“It was old, so it was due for a change,” Adlouni explains. The open space was easy to work with, and they designed a bar, tables, and a back lounge area for private parties. The majority of the restaurant’s business comes at lunchtime, as they serve hungry workers from nearby city agencies and offices. They also host private functions, retirement parties, and other events. Although they tried to be open on the weekends at first, there was not enough business.

In the six years the Woolworth Tower Kitchen has been open, Adlouni has seen a lot of change in the neighborhood.

“It used to be commercial, all offices, city agencies,” he said. “But that changed. After 9/11, it has all become residential. Mixed residential and offices. People moved down here. You would think it’s good for business, but it’s not. People are paying high rents. They go out for pizza.” 9/11 also marked the turning point in public access to the building’s historic lobby.

He says that when the Woolworth Tower Kitchen opened, there was nothing else around. The restaurant filled a specific need in the community, and now other restaurants have also opened their doors, strengthening and bettering the neighborhood. The Kitchen is known for its good food, drinks and location, with a chef from the Culinary Institute of America serving new and healthy American cuisine.