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Behind Our Dumbo Design: A Q&A With Cetra/Ruddy

Just a couple weeks after opening our doors in Brooklyn, the newest location of SUGARCANE raw bar grill was featured in the annual Open House New York weekend. Scores of guests were able to tour the brand new space by award-winning architecture and interior design firm Cetra/Ruddy.

To give you a taste of those tours, we chatted with Nancy Ruddy – co-founder of Cetra/Ruddy – about her approach to the design of the restaurant.


What can guests expect from the design of SUGARCANE raw bar grill in Dumbo, Brooklyn?

We really wanted to keep the design true to the SUGARCANE raw bar grill brand that was born in Miami back in 2010. That first location has a warm, inviting and high-spirited atmosphere that brought open concept dining to the next level with the three distinct kitchen areas. Our north star was the idea of celebrating the shared experience, and to truly epitomize the restaurant’s mantra of “kick back, eat well, stay awhile.”


What are some of the unique features of this venue?

The building itself, the Civil War-era Empire Stores, already brought incredible features to the design: the 2-feet-thick schist walls in the center of the space, centuries-old wood rafters, aged brick walls and iconic arched windows and doorways. We wanted to create design moments that would highlight those features, such as hand-crafted lighting to illuminate the wood ceiling and a stunning entry experience framed by a colored glass pane screen. And throughout the space we used custom furniture created for SUGARCANE raw bar grill, honoring the vintage and eclectic feel.


Are there any new elements or textures that you used in this space that are different from SUGARCANE raw bar grill in Miami?

Whereas in Miami, we more or less built the place from scratch, it was important to us to really celebrate Brooklyn’s industrial past and honor the spirit of this building’s unique history by highlighting those existing structural elements. That’s not something we’ve ever done before for SUGARCANE raw bar grill, and it really brings a new dimension to the design story of the restaurant brand as a whole.


How did the history and original design of the Empire Stores building come into play?

Empire Store building was a Civil War-era landmark cargo warehouse that once held coffee, molasses and exotic goods from South America, Cuba and Africa – which is quite fitting for the building’s next chapter as a home to SUGARCANE raw bar grill. The architecture and the interior design reflects the diversity of Brooklyn’s industrial past by incorporating salvaged materials and restoring original elements of the building, really preserving and celebrating the building’s layered past.


What are you most excited for guests to see or experience in the space?

There are some great details in the restaurant that I think guests will really appreciate – embedded antique cement tiles, fragments of South American caning in the lounge, and the multiple bars throughout the venue   that all incorporate materials from Cuba, South America and Africa.