The massive rooftop at Union Market has hosted everything from a 700-seat pop-up tennis stadium to al fresco art exhibits. Now, it’s the permanent home of Hi-Lawn, an open-air bar and restaurant from Blagden Hospitality Group restaurateurs Greg Algie and chef Nathan Beauchamp (Tiger Fork, Calico, Fainting Goat) and Paul Carlson (Royal, Lulu’s Wine Garden). The year-round destination, which will follow seasonal themes, debuts on Friday, September 18 with tons of space for a social distancing. This fall, the vibe is picnic chic meets backyard barbecue—think a giant astroturf lawn set with (reservable) tables, well-spaced spots on the faux-grass, a menu of grilled items and stocked picnic baskets, and a shipping-container bar for pouched cocktails, wines, and buckets of beer.
The outdoor setting is fitting for the pandemic, though the rooftop venture—which boasts 360 degree city views—has been in the works for over a year. As with many other businesses that have been in the works, the concept has evolved, and will continue to do so as regulations (and weather) shift.
In addition to that shipping-container bar, a second storage unit retrofitted with a commercial kitchen is expected to arrive this fall. In the meantime, Beauchamp will prepare picnic baskets that patrons can order via no-contact system GoTab. They can then have them at tables that fit up to six guests, or designated picnic spots on the “lawn.” Patrons can choose between a snack-y spread with dips, crackers, cheese, charcuterie, and other nibbles, or a “hi-brow” option filled with items like lobster rolls, salmon rillettes, salads, and caviar with potato chips. As with Beauchamp’s outdoor menu at Calico, diners will find cheffy cookout items like grilled burgers made from local beef (or meatless); grilled sausages with peppers and onions; Mexican street corn; and caprese salad. You may even find a lobster boil down the line.
Drinks from Blagden Hospitality Group barman Ian Fletcher run the gamut from high to low, ranging from Champagne to buckets of beer and spiked seltzer. There are island-style painkiller cocktails served a la pouch, and boozy “adult juice boxes.” Cocktails often channel a relaxing theme, like “I Miss Spa World,” mixed with white rum, elderflower, cucumber, mint, and lime. There’s also a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails and other zero-proof options.
Hi-Lawn was slated to open over the summer, though it suffered pandemic-related delays—which means the team is already planning for cooler months.
“We saw this as a fantastic opportunity because it’s so much outdoor space, which is a blessing, but it’s scary too,” says Carlson. “Our concept has to be continually flexible and creative.”
To that end, the group is already exploring options for keeping things distanced-yet-cozy like tents, yurts, or fancy igloos. You’ll likely find a winter glamping theme with more picnic baskets, warm drinks, and cheffy takes on campfire foil packets filled with veggies, meat, and seafood. Though as Carlson says, “It’s hard to predict—no one even knows what November will look like.”
“Whenever you go to Europe, people dine al fresco through the colder months. It’s not a particularly joyous year, but what makes us who we are as a hospitality industry is finding ways to bring that comfort and joy.”
Hi-Lawn. 1309 Fifth St., NE