Make A Wish! The Eleven to Bring the Dead to Life at Lark Hall
Concept bar and restaurant slated for Grand Opening Nov. 11
ALBANY – An era and culture that once felt prehistoric is dancing its way back into a neighborhood that has undergone myriad changes in recent times.
And the charge is being led by Lark Hall, located at 351 Hudson Avenue at the center of the Lark Street Corridor. Lark Hall’s owners, Jenn and Justin Miller are also launching The Eleven at Lark Hall, a built-from-the-ground-up bar and restaurant located on the venue’s ground floor.
“We’ve had the (music) venue open for a few years, and would watch patrons leave our shows and scatter to the bars and restaurants in the area,” Jenn said, adding, “and with The Eleven, we have a unique concept where we now offer dinner and a show.
The Eleven’s grand opening is slated for November 11, in conjunction with a show with renowned pianist Holly Bowling in the music hall. The bar has completed several soft openings to work out all kinks, and will open for dinner service this Friday, Nov. 3, and Saturday, Nov. 4, beginning at 4 p.m.
For early risers and coffee lovers, The Eleven also features a coffee bar with light pastry and other breakfast offerings. Brewtus Roasting, a company based in Delmar, is providing the beans for regular coffee, as well as espresso for specialty drinks.
The Eleven’s menu primarily consists of small plates and farm-to-table charcuterie boards featuring several high-end meats and cheeses, as well as a vegan option, rotating salad and sandwich options, and waffles of many varieties—eleven, in fact. Curated flights of wines paired with cheeses by a sommelier will be offered, and all bar staff will be expertly trained to answer most questions about The Eleven’s vino offerings.
Dale Hajdasz, executive chef for The Eleven, was asked to describe the delectable menu, and did not mince words.
“We’re striving to bring some of the best imported and locally sourced ingredients to Lark Street,” he said. “From two-year-aged prosciutto straight from Parma, Italy, to the finest burrata made right in downtown Troy. We will be offering different charcuterie boards made with ingredients from France, Italy, and our talented local artisans with accouterments that are made in-house. Just wait until you try one of the sandwiches prepared by a highly talented staff.”
He added that the sweet and savory offerings will be both made in-house, and sourced locally. And like a true Haller, Hajdasz stressed the importance of all aspects of Lark Hall functioning to give a unique user experience.
“We want your dining experience to be as good, if not better than, your concert going experience right upstairs at Lark Hall,” Hajdasz added.
One of the major highlights The Eleven will bring is over 100 feet of outdoor cafe seating along Lark Street and Hudson Avenue. The City of Albany’s Lark Street Corridor Improvement Project includes bumping out the sidewalks that flank the building, opening up plenty of space for outside seating when the weather permits. Building beyond just a “dinner and show” concept, the Eleven will also host a coffee shop open daily with small plates and cozy seating to work or people watch, or to sit inside the venue’s lounge and cafe areas.
The Eleven’s new main bar area features a 13-foot-long antique bar that was recovered from an 1880’s era tavern in Troy, New York – the bar still has its original mirrors that bookend a backlit “Stealie” stained glass medallion, the iconic Grateful Dead logo featuring a 13-point lightning bolt splitting a skull. The bartop was made from repurposed bowling alley slabs, then filled with epoxy to create a reflective glean that will surely be familiar to experienced bargoers.
A custom-built tap system offers 12 draught beers – 11 mains and a rotating 12th affectionately called “The Other One,” another homage to one of the Grateful Dead’s vast song repertoire.
“Some of our beers will be on the menu for a while; some may rotate fast. It will really depend on customer tastes and seasonal offerings,” Jenn said.
The Millers purchased the building on March 14, 2018. They began a series of phased renovations for what was initially conceived as a multi-tenanted building with a primary focus on hosting a performing arts space on the upper floors. Having discovered the Hall’s historic main room in nearly pristine condition—albeit in need of major updating—the Millers set to work tackling various projects that started with major electrical upgrades and renovating a first-floor yoga studio that Jennifer ran from September 2018 through late 2021.
Renovations continued throughout the building in 2019, and Lark Hall held a variety of private parties, special events, and smaller-scale concerts while the main room was still largely in its original condition. Deer Tick and Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket were the very first bill at The Hall on August 11, 2019. In February 2020, additional renovations were completed to move in first-floor tenant Lark Street Mercantile. At that time, the Millers were headlong into major renovations and upgrades to the entire building that would allow for full ADA access and guest amenities, including an elevator, venue-level bathrooms, installing a historic bar, and state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems. Then, COVID hit in mid-March 2020; we are all well aware of the pandemic’s effect on the whole entertainment industry.
With half an elevator completed and non-essential construction ground to a halt, the original opening planned for September 2020 was delayed until March 2021. With a “brand new” venue completed, COVID restrictions were still limiting gatherings and the ability to host national touring acts, so a gradual approach was taken to opening carefully and safely. This additional time brought uncertainties but did allow for extra time and attention to be paid to the venue’s unique characteristics and amenities, including the main room’s unique mezzanine space that serves as an upgraded viewing area with a private bar, bathrooms, and host services.
Lark Hall quickly established itself as a special venue with a wide range of artist and genre bookings. While the concept of growing into the entire building was always part of the original grand plans, the exact timing and theme didn’t materialize until late 2022, when the Millers learned that the Lark Street Mercantile would be closing its doors. With the venue operations stabilized and running with a fantastic team, the timing felt right to take the next big step by adding a bar and restaurant to complement the venue. The next round of renovations started in March of this year, and the Millers are excited to re-open Lark Hall—or The Hall, as its employees and fans call it—and to continue setting a new entertainment standard for the city, and region as a whole.
The Eleven, a song written by Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh and Jerry Garcia’s longtime compadre Robert Hunter in 1968, is a complex maze of storytelling and frenetic psychedelia, and walking the halls of the place will bring back memories of that bygone era through an impressive amount of art donning the walls. Much of it is Grateful Dead inspired or adjacent, and showcases the Millers’ extreme passion for live music.
“I kind of came of age in college toward the end of the Dead’s career and was pretty quickly hooked on the music, but also the sense of community that came with the whole scene,” Justin said. “Jenn and I have since traveled to many places in the country and visited countless venues as part of our musical journey together, and all of that has inspired what we built.”
The Eleven hosted two days of open interviews a month ago and came away with what Jenn describes as an “all-star list of music loving” people who have already shown their dedication to The Hall. With the new hires, Lark Hall now employs more than 30 people, all of whom are encouraged to be themselves at work to create an inclusive environment.
Depending on who’s bartending, you might walk in and hear a Phish show emanating from the speakers while you situate. The next day, Amy Winehouse could be crooning.
“With The Eleven opening, you now have a very customizable experience when you visit Lark Hall for any of our offerings,” Jenn concluded.
Aside from the soft openings this week, The Eleven will also be open on Sunday at 4 p.m. and will be highlighting the Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals at 8:20 p.m. (Many employees are big Bills fans, and they invite you to come enjoy the game with them!)
For a full list of upcoming events in the music hall, please visit www.larkhallalbany.com.