The Skylight Shoppe serves upscale comfort food, such as this chicken and waffles dish.
Because it’s already blessed with huge mid-day business thanks to its enviable location amidst the office towers of midtown Manhattan, you wouldn’t think New York City’s Maloney & Porcelli steakhouse would promote a lesser-priced lunchtime option. But the restaurant went all out earlier this year and came up with a clever idea. It’s an in-house pop-up called the Skylight Shoppe, a throwback luncheonette that operates every day from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in a curtained-off part of an event space on the restaurant’s third floor.
Alan and Michael Stillman’s Fourth Wall Restaurants owns Maloney & Porcelli. The company also operates national steakhouse chain Smith & Wollensky and four additional restaurants. Fourth Wall has been working for the past couple of years to revitalize the single-unit Maloney & Porcelli concept, which was founded in 1996. The Skylight Shoppe is a key part of that effort.
The restaurant’s third floor event space can handle parties having anywhere from 30 to 128 guests for seated dinners and accommodates as many as 175 people for receptions. That nighttime business is still going strong, which is why the Skylight Shoppe limits itself to serving weekday lunch. It takes about 30 minutes to convert the space each time from formal event area to retro luncheonette.
Part of the promotional value of the Skylight Shoppe is that its menu offers much-different food from the classic American steakhouse fare offered in the main restaurant. “We wanted to evoke the throwback luncheonette feel of the ’50s with upscale comfort food,” executive chef James Jermyn tells the New York Daily News.
Price points are much different, too, helping to attract a customer base that couldn’t necessarily spring for a full-blown power lunch at Maloney & Porcelli. These customers also get a look at an excellent private event space most of them wouldn’t otherwise see.
Jermyn’s Skylight Shoppe menu offers plenty of retro items, many with a Southern touch. There are three wedge salads (“The Providence,” provolone, pepperoncini, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, oregano vinaigrette, $11); five throwback sandwiches (“Chicken ‘n Waffle,” cheddar cheese, lingonberry & jalapeno jam, $11); and a pair of chopped steak offerings (“Chicago Style,” French’s mustard, tomatoes, bread & butter relish and onion, $13).
Other options include a mug of tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons for $3 and half-dozen side dishes that include peppadew poppers, bacon & blue cheese hush puppies and spiced sesame coleslaw. Each is priced at $4.
Five signature sodas include the Blood Orange Creamsicle and Skylight Shoppe Cola. Both are $5. Wine and beer are available, but the soda shop atmosphere steers customers to items like the banana cream pie milkshake that costs $6. There are also “spiked sodas” such as the Bay of Pigs (housemade cola, Jamaican dark rum, molasses & lemon bitters, $9.)
It adds up to a quite a promotional gambit. Maloney & Porcelli got a ton of publicity with its Skylight Shoppe concept and is bringing in plenty of customers who would never have eaten there otherwise. The restaurant also tapped into the pop-up fad in a way that enabled it to maximize use of its building’s space. It was all done without diluting the primary brand; we’ll be watching to see if other restaurant operators latch on to this excellent idea.