Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Hanover Street Chophouse owner goes low-key with new eateryBy MIKE COTE
July 15. 2017 5:50PM
MANCHESTER -- Steven Clutter, owner of the Hanover Street Chophouse, remembers the day celebrity chef Danny Meyer sent him a letter. Clutter was so excited, he ran around the Chophouse to show his employees.
When Clutter decided to open a second location, he borrowed an idea from the New York restaurateur: Keep it close.
Meyer opened his first four New York restaurants in the Union Square area within walking distance of each other. Clutter's new Crown Tavern, under construction at 99 Hanover St., is less than a block from the Chophouse.
While they will operate in close proximity, the Crown Tavern will be worlds away from the Chophouse, with a casual setting and a menu centered on bar food like burgers and pizza. Gentlemen can leave their suit jackets at home.
Clutter began pondering the idea with chef Stuart Cameron and general manager Tony Chapman about 2 1/2 years ago. They wanted to create a place that bore little resemblance to the Chophouse, which since 2005 has become a downtown destination for fine dining. Menu prices will be less than half those at the Chophouse, Clutter said.
"The concept is a neighborhood kind of place where Steven, Stuart and Tony want to hang out on their days off," Clutter said last week. "Beers on draft. Easy-sharing food. Lots of appetizers. More appetizers than entrees."
The Chophouse generates a lot of its clientele from business executives. Clutter is hoping to see some of those regulars relaxing at the tavern in their off hours when the Crown opens in August.
"You see a lot of guys in suits during the week. Hopefully we see them in jeans and T-shirts or shorts and T-shirts at the Crown when they're just looking for something quick and easy," Clutter said.
The recent burst of investment in downtown Manchester - including the transformation of the former Amoskeag Bank building into the 875 Elm Street luxury apartment complex - inspired Clutter to make the move.
"Over the last couple of years, everybody has been getting bullish on Manchester despite some of the negative stuff. All of these big investors and people buying up mills and buildings, reports of hotels being built and stuff," Clutter said. "We want Manchester to be that place." A place where you can run two restaurants on the same street.
"We've always been looking for someplace we could walk to. It's just easier to manage and keep an eye on and go back and forth instead of having to get in a car and drive to Portland or Nashua or something like that," Clutter said. "This is literally a 60-second walk from back door to back door. It's like a separate dining room."
The building, at the corner of Hanover and Chestnut streets, was most recently occupied by Child and Family Services. Back in the 1920s, it was known as the Crown Theatre. Clutter decided to pay homage to that era, complete with a lighted marquee.
"When we started looking at the building, we thought, 'Oh, that's easy. The Crown Theatre? Let's just call it the Crown.' Boom. Done," said Clutter, who financed the project with a bank loan and "saving up my quarters."
During a walk-through on Wednesday, Clutter, Chapman, Cameron and other members of their team reviewed progress to the buzz of power saws and the clank of boards. About half of the space in the open-concept restaurant will be dominated by the bar area. The white-tiled kitchen will feature a wood-burning oven and a plancha - a Spanish grill that consists of a steel surface heated by a gas flame.
The Crown will seat 120 people inside, and the fenced courtyard outside will seat 50. Chef Cameron said the menu will be driven by local and seasonal ingredients and simple presentations.
"Where do we want to go on our day off? We don't want to go in a suit and tie and spend a lot of money on our day off," Cameron said. "We want to go have a beer at the bar and a burger, a beer at the bar and a pizza, a beer at the bar and a simple piece of fish. And that's what it's going to be."
Chapman, who has been working at the Chophouse for almost 10 years, hopes tavern patrons who haven't yet tried the upscale eatery - where steaks top out at nearly $60 - will eventually be lured to the flagship location.
"I think once guests see what we're doing here, they will be willing to take that extra step and try over there where they haven't been because they were afraid or skeptical," the general manager said. "This might give them a little bit of an intro of what's next down the road."
And it offers the team the chance to show off their culinary prowess in a different venue.
"It's also fun because it will show people that we can do other things than what we do there," Chapman said. "We're not just a one-way street. We're more than a fine-dining steakhouse."
Contact Business Editor Mike Cote at 206-7724 or firstname.lastname@example.org.