Cafe Society

At Humboldt, you are where you eat...

Concept Restaurants took on an iconic space when it transformed the former home of Strings -- the iconic restaurant founded by the late Noel Cunningham almost three decades ago -- into Humboldt, which I review this week. "This was a legendary space that had a legendary restaurant," explains Sean Huggard, operations director for Concept. But to make the space work today, Concept had to make many physical changes -- and designed it with several distinct seating options. This way, explains Huggard, "you can come to Humboldt several times and not have the same experience, based on where you want to sit."

See also: Humboldt is a solid neighborhood restaurant -- no Strings attached

The highest levels of energy are found at the bar and community tables; the main dining area has what Huggard calls "second-tier energy." Beyond that lies the quieter, more formal dining area "for when Mom and Dad are in town," he adds, and past that, the narrow atrium with brick walls, potted plants and lights reminiscent of Larimer Square by Bistro Vendome.

I've sat in both ends of the spectrum -- in the sleepy atrium and at the never-a-dull-moment community table, with a girls'-night-out to our left and the open kitchen to our right -- but I never did get to sit in the main dining area.

Perhaps that's because Huggard said this section was great for a first date, which I haven't been on in 25 years.

One place no one will be able to sit: the mezzanine. That Strings hallmark was removed in the renovation.


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Gretchen Kurtz has worked as a writer for 25 years; during that time she's stomped grapes in Napa, eaten b'stilla in Fez, and baked with Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss. Her work has appeared in publications including Boulevard (Paris), Diversion, the New York Times and Westword. Our restaurant critic since 2012, she loves helping you decide where to eat and drink tonight.
Contact: Gretchen Kurtz