After 10 years at the corner of Juniper and 8th streets, the Lawrence shuttered in January. This month, owners Darren Carr and Eric Simpkins (Bon Ton and the Waiting Room), along with new partner Jason Cott, relaunched the space as RWBY, a modern American restaurant and bar with brasserie and trattoria influences. Pronounced “Ruby,” the 70-seat space has been redesigned to allow more light and an expanded patio.
Chef Murad Ghashim, who worked at Ecco, Zakia, and the White Bull, and has a Middle Eastern/Native American background, is preparing a menu of European-inspired fare. Simpkins created a simplified beverage menu with nods to throwback cocktails and “fun” wines. Currently serving dinner only, RWBY will expand next month to offer lunch and weekend brunch with morning coffee and pastries. For now, menu options include roasted carrot dip, stuffed acorn squash, Flemish beef cheek stew, and lamb ribs. Featured drinks range from an Amarcord Spritz with Canteloupe Capeletti, melon rind-infused Dolin, prosecco, and club soda to Cabirian Night Café with Bounty Dark rum, pineapple amaro, Manly Coffee Liqueur, and espresso.
“RWBY has become the new fancy neighborhood destination,” Simpkins says.
We spoke to him to learn more.
Why did you close the Lawrence?
The Lawrence had run its course after 10 years and making it through a pandemic. When it closed, it had the best food and drinks it ever had, but for whatever reason, we couldn’t get enough critical mass in the doors on a regular basis. It was a business decision. We learned a lot and wanted the opportunity to be able to apply those things to such a perfect corner in Midtown.
Where did name RWBY come from?
It was one of the partners—Jason—suggested it. We had lists of different names we were scoring and batting about. That was the one we all liked best. I’d like to say it was named after my dog, but she spells her name the classic way. We liked the Welsh “W” [which can take on a “U” sound]. It just looked neat. There’s an anime that uses the same name—it has nothing to do with that.
What’s the concept?
It’s a modern American restaurant and bar with European influences—Greek, French, Spanish. I was always a bit of a Francophile. The Lawrence was so broad that it could be anything depending on the chef—Mediterranean, South American, African, Asian. The new incarnation needed a more cohesive identity. We looked to brasseries and trattorias and great European traditions. Our chef has a good amount of experience with Italian and Mediterranean food, so that fit well into the mix.
How is it different from the Lawrence in terms of decor?
The bar shrunk by a few seats. We added an espresso machine for a daytime coffee program. The Lawrence was moodier, more bar-esque. This has a much lighter feel. The color scheme is much brighter—pinks, yellows, greens, and black accents. We added more big booths to make it more intimate. (It used to have lower booths against the wall). There’s a flower art installation around the bar created by a local artist, big reprints of charcoal flowers on one wall and a giant print of a lady in black, white, and gray on another.
What’s your drink philosophy at RWBY?
This menu is smaller on cocktails—instead of 15-20, it’s 5-10 including a couple [nonalcoholic] drinks. I tried to reign it in more. I’m using more fruit and more lightness. It’s bright and playful, less boozy with some amaro present. We’re playing with classic, fun, throwback ideas like cosmos and sour apple martinis.
The wine list is smaller, curated, and more fun. Coming out of COVID and having to shut down two other restaurants, we’re a little burnt out and wanted to do something simpler.
What else is in the works?
Waiting Room is simplifying a bit. We’re making it more casual and bar-like instead of fancy. We removed the reservations and the cover (except for jazz Tuesdays). Rather than a jewel boxy cocktail bar with expensive drinks, it’s more like Bon Ton—a neighborhood spot and late-night venue. It now offers more Bon Ton food.
Scope the menu below.