Central Texas meets Brooklyn: The Story of Hill Country Barbecue Market’s interior
Hill Country Barbecue Market occupies a grand, two-story space at 345 Adams in Downtown Brooklyn. The arched windows and exposed brick and ironwork put this Central Texas–style barbecue into a historic Brooklyn context. So what’s the story behind this impressive space? We talked to architect Garrett Singer about the inspirations behind the Hill Country interior, and how he married East Coast urban chic with Central Texas authenticity.
“It has always been a commanding presence on the corner of Willoughby,” writes Montrose Morris in Brownstoner. “A handsome Renaissance building, with many of the most interesting details being near the roofline: large arched windows, a balcony, recessed arched niches; elegant running arched running bandwork, and Mediterranean style roof. Closer to the ground are impressive lighting fixtures, Classical trim and ironwork.”
The building was built on the corner of Willoughby and Pearl Streets, as you can see in the 1924 photograph above. Over the years, Brooklyn Edison Company was acquired by Consolidated Edison, and the building became just another office building. In 1989, the building was bought by the City of New York, going on to house such agencies as the Department of Finance, Department of Probation, Board of Elections, and Administration for Children’s Services. The “big blank wall” on the Adams side remained a bit of an eyesore.
In 2008, Muss Development, the developers responsible for the adjacent New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, bought the first two floors of 345 Adams. Their plan was to restore the beauty of the building and create new retail space for shopping and dining. Matching the architectural details of the rest of the building, Muss created an entire “restaurant row” along Adams Street, attracting the likes of Panera Bread, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, and Orange Leaf.
But the jewel of the crown was the corner property. Muss replaced the big blank wall with arched windows matching those in the Willoughby and Pearl Street walls. They removed a drop ceiling to restore the space to its original height and reveal original details. Now all they needed was the right tenant for the 11,000-square-foot space.
They didn’t have to wait long. In 2013, it was announced that Marc Glosserman would be bringing Hill Country Barbecue Market and Hill Country Chicken to 345 Adams. They decided to split up the space, with Hill Country Chicken taking the Adams Street side and Hill Country Barbecue Market on the Pearl Street side.
To create the dramatic interior for the barbecue market, Hill Country tapped Garret Singer, the architect who had previously designed their Manhattan space. When we talked to him about his influences, he had a lot to say.
“I wanted to create a real experience of coming into an authentic, Texas-style barbecue place,” says Singer.
Singer has been working with reclaimed materials for over a decade — everything from skateboards to lunch pails — but much of his inspiration for the Hill Country interiors was taken from the same source as the restaurant’s cuisine: the Lockhart, Texas restaurants Smitty’s and Kreuz Market.
“Smitty’s! I have so many photos of everything in that place, every brick,” he says. “This incredible patina, this honestness, it happened over the years. They’ve never cleaned these halls. It’s gorgeous. Almost the color of oxblood and smoke. The history of the smoke and the rendered fat coating the wall forever. Those hues are what I put in both Hill Countrys.”
Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas | via Kreuz Market
The Texas barbecue aesthetic extends to their choice of furniture.
“These people aren’t designing for hipsters, they’re using what’s available,” says Singer. “Around the area is a huge, bustling antique business. It gives their restaurants an aura of hospitality and charm. Most of these places, when they need a hutch or something, they go to an antique place.”
Not all of Singer’s ideas came from Texas. Other inspirations included a restaurateur, a fashion designer, and a filmmaker.
“I look at Keith McNally, in the 1990s he was doing stuff in his restaurants no different than what Disney produced, stepping into a new theme,” he says. “Or Ralph Lauren, who’s been fantastic about showing people what their house in Montana or the Hamptons would look like. What would it look like if Ralph Lauren designed a restaurant — mismatched furniture, comfort, charm. And then there’s Stanley Kubrick, who has has the best lighting ever. It takes you into a dream world.”
The lighting is a big part of Hill Country’s look. Neon plays a big part, as do Linestra bulbs.
“They were originally invented for the theater world to create the warmth of sunset,” he says. “Then Keith McNally used them. The warm light makes everyone look really good. We chose those bulbs to give the place a caramel coat of light over everything.”
They installed an L-shaped balcony, to create additional space for dining, performance, and private events while preserving the high ceilings in the main dining space. Wood flooring and a refurbished, free-standing bar in the middle of the room added to the turn-of-the-century feel, as Old West as it was Old Brooklyn.
When you’re with a big group of friends having a big plate of barbecue and listening to live music, it may seem a little strange to think you’re sitting in what was once the lobby of an Brooklyn electric company. You feel like you have one foot in the city, and one in a small town in Central Texas.
The generous space is ideal for private events, and can fit up to 600 people across its two floors. Hill Country is already becoming a favored party spot for new businesses in the neighborhood, as well as a sought after wedding venue. Now that you’re an expert on the history of the building, maybe it’s time to check it out for yourself.