“Repurposing” seems to be the fashionable word these days. Barns and old schoolhouses are repurposed into trendy living spaces, brocade fabric samples are repurposed into classy handbags.
Tim Trier is no stranger to repurposing. Several years ago he converted an old firehouse on South College Street in Schenectady to what is now Clinton’s Ditch.
This year he converted the Firestone Tire Sales warehouse in downtown Schenectady to Firestone 151 Bar and Restaurant.
Since my former student Trish is a pub person, I brought her along as my dinner — or should I say supper — companion on a recent visit to Firestone 151 Bar & Restaurant. We entered through the unobtrusive door on the Franklin Street side of the building where we had parked.
The only clue that it was the main entrance was the hostess desk sans hostess a few feet from the door. No problem, though. Server Amy with the enviable corkscrew curls invited us to sit anywhere. At 5:15, all dozen or so fourtops and taller and longer tables were unoccupied.
Only the long bar by the front windows — the original huge automatic doors of the former Firestone Tire sales location — was populated.
Firestone 151 Bar & Restaurant
WHERE: 151 Lafayette St., Schenectady, 280-7841, www.firestone151.com
WHEN: 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; noon-11 p.m. Sunday.
HOW MUCH: $28, without alcoholic beverages, tax and tip
MORE INFO: Accessible, street parking, all major credit cards accepted, noise level and music permits conversation — barely
A word about the bar. In warm weather the great doors glide up and the bar opens onto a patio, replete with barstools. Clever. Swilling beer on a slightly raised area parallel to Lafayette Street might not be my cup of lager, but it’s not hard to imagine its appealing to the younger set (Union and Schenectady County Community College students can easily walk to Firestone 151).
The cavernous interior with high brick walls and glossy cement floors causes the pounding music to bounce around like pingpong balls, though conversation was still possible. Six large high-hung televisions were blissfully muted.
The north and west facing glass begged for a few large trees to enjoy the light and soften the interior, but Firestone is only a few months old, and it’s still evolving.
I always get a kick out of kitchens open to the dining room. It’s risky business, though. Commercial cooking is a hot endeavor on so many levels. The chef has to be able to keep the heat from the ovens and stoves, the flying objects and the naughty words at bay.
But what of the food, you ask?
Firestone 151 has a streamlined menu: brief (one long, narrow two-sided page) with six categories where everything but the pizza ($12) is $9 plus extra for additions and toppings. Items are preceded with little checkoff boxes similar to the cards you use for ordering breakfast the night before and you hang on your hotel door handle.
Amy told us the original plan was to submit the completed order to the server, but the replacement cost of the paper menus was prohibitive.
Now they are laminated and ordering works just fine.
Wings lead the menu, with or without bones and boasting seven different sauces (or none). Trish and I split an order of 10 hot wings, which arrived with the prescribed carrots and sturdy bleu cheese dipping sauce.
Trish judged the wings perfect.
We passed on salads — $9 except for the $11 chef salad — with a choice of nine different dressings and five chicken toppings (grilled, blackened, buffalo for $3 additional).
I chose a burger, medium rare with lettuce, tomato and onion (no extra charge). I could have added one of six kinds of cheese, bacon, sautéed mushrooms or onions or roasted red peppers, each for an additional $1.
Though the roll was not super fresh, the burger was cooked the requested medium rare, juicy but not greasy. Shoestring French fries accompanied my burger. I didn’t think to inquire if I could have had a replacement for the fries and later learned that I could have had a small salad, which I would have preferred.
Trish was fine with her fries and judged her chicken sandwich with Swiss ($1 extra) moist and more than adequate. She had her choice of lettuce, tomato and onion with an assortment of dressings at no extra charge, or toppings for a burger for a dollar each.
Deli sandwiches are available with four kinds of meat (including tuna), four different kinds of bread, four varieties of cheese and six different toppings — nearly 100 different combinations.
Food arrived quickly on metal trays with metal cups holding fries or carrots and celery. While the menu indicated nothing about dessert, we were instructed to “ask your server for beverage options.”
Next time, I’ll try Firestone’s pizza. At $12 for a red or white six-cut, 14-inch round thin crust, there are 15 toppings available, each for $1 extra.