Thursday, March 22, 2012

Crown Center's forgotten restaurant

Why we forgot about the Terrace Restaurant.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 1:56 PM

The Terrace restaurant at the Crown Center Sheraton looks like its on life support.
  • The Terrace restaurant at the Crown Center Sheraton looks like it's on life support.

In the glory days of the midtown hotel formerly known as the Hyatt Regency Crown Center (it became a Sheraton property earlier this year), the venue operated three successful restaurants — actually four if you counted the sports bar, currently called Spectators. Two of the hotel's restaurants were upscale, even glamorous dining rooms: Skies and the Peppercorn Duck Club. The less expensive restaurant in the Hyatt was The Terrace, which once served breakfast, lunch and dinner and a wildly popular Sunday brunch.

"People would stand in line — it would snake down through the first-floor lobby — to get into that brunch," recalls a friend of mine, a former server at The Terrace. "It was a gigantic brunch. There were ice sculptures, a musician from the Conservatory playing the harp, and the longest chocolate dessert bar in the city. This was in the 1980s when the Hyatt was the newest, grooviest hotel in the city."

The hotel's popularity plunged, as it were, after the walkway collapse disaster of July 17, 1981 where 114 people were killed and 216 others injured during an afternoon tea dance when a suspended skywalk system collapsed. The Terrace restaurant once looked out over those ill-fated walkways (it still looks out over the atrium lobby and the "Suspended Geometry" hanging art installation). Chef and novelist Lou Jane Temple says that The Terrace — unlike Skies and the Peppercorn Duck Club — never really recovered from the traumatic event.

"I mean, I can remember when you could take the escalator up to the mezzanine level and there would actually be people eating in there," Temple says. "How long ago was that?"

The Terrace hasn't offered Sunday brunch — or even dinner service — in years. (The Spectator Sports Bar & Grill uses the same menu as The Terrace, but offers it from 2 to 11 p.m.) More recently, The Terrace serves only breakfast and lunch, with breakfast being the busier shift: "Most of the conventions coming here," one of the servers told me, "arrange for lunch banquets for their participants, so it can be really slow in here. I only make money during breakfast."

There were only four other patrons in The Terrace when I stopped in for lunch the other day. The space looks as if it were last updated two decades ago and the menu items were expensive: $10.50 for a hamburger and fries, $12 for a grilled chicken quesadilla, for example.

It will be interesting to see — now that the former revolving dining room Skies is being turned into a non-revolving VIP lounge — what the Sheraton has planned for the dreary space called The Terrace. "I haven't heard any plans," confided the server.

I'm thinking anything would be an improvement.

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