Central Rises from the Ashes

Ash covered pots in Central’s kitchen.Photos courtesy of Central
Ash covered pots in Central’s kitchen.Photos courtesy of Central

Seeing an opportunity where most would see disaster, partners Anna Montoya and Taylor McKinney are inviting customers of their Central restaurant to offer suggestions on how to refine the fire-damaged establishment as they rebuild.

The restaurant was extensively damaged by fire Dec. 29, forcing the operators to disappoint 200 diners with New Year’s Eve reservations. Firefighters determined the blaze was accidental

The restaurant remains closed, but the operators are aiming to re-open in February with a new chef and other tweaks, thanks to their patrons.

The staff was present when the fire ignited in an electrical breaker panel in a kitchen wall. Fire Chief Kirk Summers said “pyrolysis” caused the fire, where wood in the wall behind the cooking area was continually heated and became more susceptible to ignition. “It finally reached the tipping point where the wood was sufficiently degraded and was exposed to enough heat that they got an ignition,” Summers said.

To battle the blaze, McKinney said, “the firefighters had to knock out a beam in the wall, the kitchen was completely flooded and all the equipment was totaled.” Smoke damaged the booths and some light fixtures. About $20,000 worth of wine was lost due to temperature fluctuations, he said. In all, he estimates a $350,000 loss, which is covered by insurance.

Patrons in Central prior to last December’s fire
Patrons in Central prior to last December’s fire.Photos courtesy of Central.

Using the company’s website, regular customers have been sending requests for changes in lighting and seating to create more intimacy and even suggesting changes to the drink menu. McKinney says the partners’ goal is to improve the overall experience, not just replicate what was lost, and that even the menu and wine list will see some changes.

Eric Davidson, a regular at Central whose office is located directly behind the restaurant in the Landmark Plaza building, likes the Peruvian influences in the Central fare and suggested that the owners keep the food as authentic as possible. “Also, I’m a bit of a wine snob, so a deeper, more interesting wine list would be appreciated,” he added.

A new chef yet to be identified will be directing the kitchen and the menu will include more fish dishes and additional tapas choices, publicist Rachel Svoboda said. The concept, American fusion with Latin influences, will remain, she added.

McKinney said demolition is under way and building inspections and a “fire test” are on the horizon. He remains upbeat despite the enormity of the project. “We’re going to have a brand new restaurant,” he said.




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