Green Hill Kitchen opens in Greenport; owner buying neighboring buildings

08/16/2018 6:01 AM |

Walking through the upstairs lounge at Green Hill Kitchen, Christoph and Robin Mueller are quick to point out the sound system over the stage. 

The speakers, the father and son say, were purchased from The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett, a music venue so iconic it sometimes transcends the local music scene and books popular recording artists like Paul McCartney and Coldplay to perform intimate sold-out shows.

“It’s got a real history to it,” son Robin says of the system, which now resides at the former home of The Loft on Front Street. “Some real legends played through those speakers.”

Dad Christoph closed on the Greenport building, which also previously housed the Harbourfront Deli, for $2.25 million in June. Within five weeks of the closing date, their new farm-to-table restaurant and live music venue was open for business.

It’s not exactly The Stephen Talkhouse today, but the two men, Sagaponack residents by way of Switzerland, point to the South Fork nightspot as inspiration for what their business could one day be.

Their plans for the village, however, don’t end with their restaurant. Christoph, who sold his tech company last year after 35 years in business, has also purchased the building across Front Street that’s currently occupied by Deep Water Bar and Grille and is in contract to buy the adjacent Industry Standard building and business.

The purchase of three restaurant properties at the same intersection by one previously unknown individual is enough to get the Greenport rumor mill churning. But the fact that the Muellers have expressed interest in several additional buildings as well has it spinning fast enough to power the entire village.

At least two other Front Street business owners, Rena Wilhelm of the Weathered Barn and Ian Wile of Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market, said Mr. Mueller has expressed an interest in purchasing the buildings they currently rent. The Weathered Barn property is also the home to Burton’s Bookstore.

Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said he’d heard rumors of someone buying up several buildings along Front Street, but no plans have been filed with the village.

“He hasn’t applied for anything with the zoning or planning boards or reached out to the Village Board or myself,” the mayor said.

Christoph said it’s true he’s in the market to purchase more real estate.

“I’ve looked at a lot of buildings,” he said from an eight-seat table on the first floor of his new restaurant. “I’m interested in all of Greenport.”

But Christoph, former CEO of Cosa Xentaur Corporation, a company specializing in industrial measurement instrumentation for everything from aerospace to agriculture, doesn’t want the community and other business owners to panic over his sudden interest in Front Street real estate.

A table setting on the first floor of the Front Street restaurant. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

He says his purchase of two commercial buildings — and the pending transfer of another — are simply statements of the value he sees in investing in Greenport. He has no plan to drive out tenants or to explore new uses for any nearby buildings, he assures.

“We’re not house-flippers,” he said. “I want to buy stuff then keep it. Greenport has a great future.”

To that end, the Muellers and co-owner/chef Wolfgang Ban said they hope to keep Industry Standard’s staff in place after they close on the building and business, both of which are owned by Bryan Villanti, who recently opened Rocco’s Caddyshack east of the village. “If nothing’s broken, why fix it?” Mr. Ban said.

The future of Deep Water Bar and Grille, where the Muellers only own the real estate, is more complicated. Owner Beth Pike has a lease that runs through the end of the year. Robin Mueller said it would ultimately be Ms. Pike’s decision whether to continue in the space where she’s run her first restaurant in since 2015.

“I’m not really sure what I’m doing,” she said, when asked about her plans beyond December. She declined to comment further until she has a better understanding of the new arrangement.

For now, she’s operating her restaurant and bar with live music and second-level outdoor seating across the street from where her landlord has a similar setup.

But Mr. Ban, a native of Austria who earned a Michelin star at his former Manhattan restaurant, Seasonal, said the two neighboring restaurants are ultimately offering different dining experiences.

“I don’t think you can compare the two places,” he said. “These are two very different menus.”

Green Hill Kitchen is emphasizing its use of local ingredients and its plans for live music in its branding. The top of the menu features a logo with a guitar and fork and the bottom includes the hashtag #foodfarmmusic. In between is a list of dishes that includes comfort fare like a pork belly BLT and a burger made from beef ground on premises to a sandwich made with local sea bass and a schnitzel dish no doubt inspired by the chef’s heritage.

Mr. Ban brims with excitement when talking about the possibilities of cooking in a region known for its farming and fishing heritage. The local vineyards, he said, remind him of growing up in Burgenland, a wine region in Austria.

“The seafood here is the best you can get,” he said of the North Fork. “I bought sea bass from Southold Fish Market caught so fresh it was so stiff it didn’t move.”

The Muellers said that while they’ve certainly heard the concerns of neighboring business owners, they want to assimilate to the village as smoothly as possible. Robin, who previously worked as a director of photography in television, said part of his role in the new restaurant is community outreach.

“The people we have met have greeted us with open arms,” he said.

For Christoph, who said he made the recent investments with his children’s future in mind, owning a restaurant and, more specifically, a live music venue, fulfills a lifelong fantasy.

“For me, this is a passion,” he said.

Editor’s Note: Green Hill Kitchen posted to social media Wednesday evening that all upcoming live music shows have been canceled. No explanation was given.

Top Caption: Christoph Mueller, left, Chef Wolfgang Ban and Robin Mueller in front of the bar at the new restaurant. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

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