A Hamptons Hoedown
Alejandro Saralegui -- Interior Design, 7/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Barbecue joints north of the Mason-Dixon Line often suffer from authenticity issues. Not so Townline BBQ in Sagaponack, New York. Owner Mark Smith and executive chef Joe Realmuto worked hard to create a roadside "dive" for their upscale Hamptons location.
As explained by CCS Architecture's Cass Calder Smith, no relation to Mark, "When they decided to do a barbecue restaurant, they flew to Texas and returned by car, checking out tons of restaurants along the way. Then they presented me with photographs of the places, some landmarks and others barely counting as structures." Smith's brief was clear: Create an authentic yet up-to-date interpretation of what the partners had seen on their road trip, making the look stylish yet unassuming.
The Sagaponack building, which had housed different restaurants over the decades, was charmingly rambling but flimsy. Then it was vacant for two years. During that time, ill-advised renovations took place. They did, however, make the structure watertight and airtight, a good start.
Smith clad the exterior in cedar and pine reclaimed from a Colorado barn. "I'd used barn siding before," he says. "But here it needed to be more contemporary, not hokey, so I installed the exterior boards vertically." With their varying widths and different shades, from reddish to light brown and gray, the boards have an almost artistic quality. As the siding ages, it will change its appearance, becoming grayer. "I like that, too," he adds.
The vertical orientation gives Townline BBQ a strong identity, particularly helpful since having a big sign wasn't even a possibility, per the local zoning codes. Supplementing the whiffs of delicious barbecue smoke that will always announce the restaurant's presence, signage is tastefully subtle. A metalsmith crafted large BBQ letters in steel, and Smith installed them on the brick chimney, where they're clearly visible from Montauk Highway, the busy main road connecting all the Hamptons villages. During the nighttime, a single spotlight shines down on the letters.
Entry isn't from the front but from the rear, via a ramp next to a deck lined with cedar picnic tables. In a clever move, Smith had the deck's railing perform double duty, designing it to provide storage space for the logs used in the restaurant's smoker. "Since the wood's visible, it helps tell the story of what's going on inside," he says. "It's the sort of thing seen often in old Swiss buildings."
Inside the entrance, a small sunlit dining area with a million-dollar view of an open field is one of the 2,000-square-foot interior's three public areas, each offering a different experience. The second, all the way in front, is the bar, with a brick fireplace as the focal point. In between is the main dining area, seating 50.
Its friendly, down-to-earth vibe is emphasized by the central communal table, actually two tables made by a butcher-block manufacturer. Running along the walls, Pullman-style booths offer plywood benches and linoleum-topped tables. At one end of the space, customers line up at a counter to order food, cafeteria-style.
A steel board with magnetized lettering announces menu items: Texas-style ribs and brisket, Southern fried mac and cheese. People place their order, pay their bill, and receive a buzzer that announces when meals are ready for pickup. There are no waiters or waitresses at Townline BBQ. It's about casual, finger-lickin' fun.
FROM FRONT STONCO LIGHTING: SPOTLIGHT (EXTERIOR), CEILING FIXTURES (HALL, BAR). RESOLUTE: PENDANT FIXTURES (DINING). JOHN BOOS & CO.: CUSTOM COMMUNAL TABLES. B&R WELDING: CUSTOM SIGNAGE (EXTERIOR). TOLIX STEEL DESIGN THROUGH SUNDANCE CATALOG: STOOLS (BAR). UNISTRUT: STORAGE RAILS (EXTERIOR). CEDAR PICNIC TABLES: TABLES. THROUGHOUT THROUGH INTERMOUNTAIN WOOD PRODUCTS: SIDING. BLR 3: MECHANICAL ENGINEER. SAL. ALLIANCE ELECTRIC: ELECTRICAL ENGINEER. RONAN O'DWYER: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.