The Garment District may lack a historical landmark, but it now has the Rag Trader.
Owner Mark Fox’s new restaurant and its affiliated subterranean bar, Bo Peep, take their cues from the history of the former garment factory space Fox leased at 70 W. 36th St. in Oct. 2016.
Fox, 46, an Irish-born restaurateur who also runs the White Oak Tavern in the West Village and Street Taco in Gramercy, started researching the property’s past after chiseling away threadbare layers of concrete to unveil a factory floor, and scraping sheetrock from the walls to expose brick, he says. “In New York City, you don’t find spaces this wide and with these ceiling heights too often. I discovered that it had been a garment factory for 75 years.”
That revelation inspired Fox’s tribute to the artisans and workers whose industry sustained the garment manufacturing businesses there and throughout the Garment district during its mid-20th century heyday.
”I said to myself, ‘The garment center is going away. All clothing is made in Asia now. Brick by brick, this whole area is being dismantled, the buildings are coming down, there’s high-rises going in, and with the Hudson Yards development going on the extreme West Side, this area is going to disappear,” Fox recalls his line of thinking. “It’s not a landmark district … so it’s going to eroded from the footprint here. We should take some ownership of it and give it some heritage, because this was a home to three generations of people who worked here.”
At the Rag Trader, Fox preserved the architectural elements he could, built in elements that would evoke the old factory and collected vintage décor items and commissioned new furniture to bring a “softness and understated opulence” to the space that opened to the public last month.
We’ll leave it to you to explore the Rag Trader’s menu of pizzas, bar bites like fried chicken sliders and mac ‘n’ cheese ($14) and large plates like yellowfin tuna steak with baby bok choy ($31), but here’s a tour of the historical touches you’ll be dining and drinking among: