Quest For Fire: The Gramercy Tavern Wood Stove

"No standardized equipment can ever replicate that awesome campfire quality of smoke and caramelizing heat.”Photo: Melissa Hom


It takes more than skilled hands, sharp knives, and a creative mind to power New York’s restaurants. There's also some heavy equipment that deserves periodic recognition.

The wood-burning stove at Gramercy Tavern is an insatiable beast that requires two chefs to run. It's effectively an overgrown campfire made from hot white oak logs, and it's hard to maintain, requiring constant poking, prodding, and feeding. The heat is constantly changing, and there’s no thermostat. So why not use a more docile stove? “There’s nothing like it,” says executive chef Mike Anthony. “The food is meant to be simple and rustic, and no standardized equipment can ever replicate that awesome campfire quality of smoke and caramelizing heat.”

The stove was created by Tom Colicchio, who asked the BBQ gurus at J&R; Manufacturing for something they had never done before. “I told the guy, ‘What if you made it twice as deep as your ordinary grill, and put a box over the top of it?’” Colicchio remembers. “And the guy said, ‘Uh, that could work.’” It was one of the keys to the restaurant’s success, says Anthony. “It’s a rustic and beautiful way to handle the dishes we do up there, and they’re only going to get more rustic and more simple as we go along.” We hope that's not true: If the stove at Gramercy gets any more rustic, the chefs will have to start wearing pelts.