Chef Melissa O’Donnell has been creating great food and community in downtown Manhattan for over 20 years. She is best known for Salt in SoHo (2001-2011) and Salt Bar on the Lower East Side (2003-2013). In September 2013, Melissa began the transformation of the Salt Bar space into Thelma on Clinton. This Kickstarter project is supporting that renovation.
The new space is named after Melissa's grandmother, who was born to Lebanese immigrant parents and acquired her American name, Thelma, at the age of 18. She married an Irish man and went on to lead an interesting and inspiring American story. The spirit of Thelma's story will influence the concept of the new space.
The food and spirit of Thelma on Clinton will reflect the diversity of the Lower East Side. For centuries the Lower East Side has been a destination for immigrants arriving in the US, and a melting pot of culture and ethnicity. The Thelma menu will be diverse, representing the many cultures that have found a home in this neighborhood of New York City.
Reflecting Melissa's food philosophy, Thelma on Clinton will focus on good quality product, prepared simply in a warm and inviting environment. Melissa has built a reputation as a progressive chef focusing on organic, sustainable and biodynamic products. She has always emphasized making all product in-house -- including sausages, cheeses, smoked fish, pickles and ice cream.
Thelma will combine the dynamic culinary experience of a French bistro with the comfort of an American colonial farmhouse. From Clinton Street, the open kitchen and banquette seating will be visible through the large street-facing windows. Stepping inside will feel like coming home.
The transformation of Salt Bar into Thelma on Clinton requires an extensive renovation of the space at 29 Clinton Street. To list just a few of the major changes: the concrete floor will be replaced by 7” white oak flooring; the wood-topped bar will be replaced by a marble top; banquettes will be installed along the walls; the kitchen space will be redesigned to be more efficient and productive, and to include a full vent system; and a new heating/cooling system will be installed. All of this requires plumbing, electrical and construction work.
This Kickstarter project will contribute to funding a significant portion of these changes.
Risks and challenges
Thelma on Clinton is Melissa's 4th restaurant, and she has a solid understanding of the challenges that can occur during the construction and opening of a restaurant.
Melissa is working with a very experienced renovation team (contractors, plumbers, electricians, etc) and she has a high degree of confidence that they can tackle any issues that may arise. She has worked with all of them in the past and know that they are capable and reasonable. The plan is to open in early November, but of course unexpected issues could delay this date.
Once construction is finished, Thelma on Clinton will open to the public. As part of this, Melissa will have to hire and train staff. Over the years, Melissa has been on the opening team of 9 restaurants in Manhattan in varying capacities (waitress, bartender, manager, cook, chef, owner). She was the Chef/Owner of 3 of those. That experience leaves her well-prepared to deal with the snags that can hit an opening restaurant. This should allow her to minimize the prospects of serious opening problems, but of course no plan is risk-free.
The full staff of Salt Bar will be returning to work at Thelma on Clinton. They understand Melissa's concept and her process. Their experience will provide a strong foundation upon which to build Thelma on Clinton.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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