EatDrinkJax with John Allen Harrett of The Fringe CafeSeptember 8, 2013 1 comment Print Article
Talking about The Fringe Eatery with John Allen Harrett, the brainchild behind Murray Hill's steampunk fusion cafe.
21. Where do you see The Fringe going over the next year or two?
I want to create a safe, comfortable restaurant coffee shop for the neighborhood. We're a bit off the beaten path and regular routine for a lot of people, so for me to pull people in to be a part of what's going on here I have to have entertainment and do something outside of the norm. I see that growing to the point that for any night of the week if you come to The Fringe there will be something going on.
I have tried not to limit the possibilities. It's not beyond the scope of possibility that the kitchen grows to take over more of The Fringe and the Murray Hill Theatre is used as a sit down supper club with multiple stages and different seating areas and couch groupings.
We also have a really cool alley down the back. I'd love to do a raised patio with 2 stories of dining and an outdoor kitchen. There's some cool possibilities for growth in the future.
22. Do you serve food on the patio now?
I do but on a limited basis. It's not fully ready though. I call it the graffiti garden and there are people who love it. It's got a collection of some crazy looking steel work. There's some big engine parts and pipes and things sitting around, so you feel this industrial vibe going on. It's not for everybody. Some people find it too cluttered. I went to Israel with the Department of Tourism in the summer and we visited some of the finer restaurants in the country. It was cool and reassuring to see that many of these restaurants had very unique settings. Some of it would be described as hodgepodge bric-a-brac. Americans often like clean lines and smooth surfaces. But there are some people who like that touch of rawness. I don't just throw stuff out there - it has an arrangement to it that some people find artistic.
23. Can you tell us a little about the art in The Fringe?
People love the fact that there's so much to look at when they come in. I have a large collection of local art. There are 2 artists that live within a 5 block radius of the cafe and are showing now. One does steel work using a plasma torch to do really intricate cutouts of all sorts of designs. They're all very reasonably priced and are just cool metal sculpture work. Another artist is a lady who does sculptured mobiles out of old teapots, silver spoons, beads and things. There are a couple of those hanging around. MactruQue is a local artist who worked on the mural on the side of Burrito Gallery downtown. He's a really fantastic artist who does mostly oil on canvas. His paintings and art are what we have on the walls. He's sold the most of any artist we have.
24. Do you design the space to highlight the art?
Yes. I take pen lights and aim them at artworks. There's a lot to look at but there's also a spotlight on the art that's for sale. It's really cool.
I've created an atmosphere that's constantly evolving and changing. As long as I'm there it will probably never be the same art displays. If you don't like this particular installation, wait a week and it will probably be different. Even with the tables I'm constantly moving things around. The food, the coffee, the menu, and our service - I want all those things to be consistent. I've scaled the restaurant for the size of our current business. So today there's seating for about 20. But as we grow I can easily move things around to accommodate more seating. I made the kitchen walls on wheels to allow me to evolve the space. The people who've already found us love that there's always something new and they're seeing it grow right before their eyes.
25. Anything else?
When you come in we're going to spoil you. We're going to serve higher end food, but without the pretense. And if you like what we do, please Like us on Facebook!