Steve Herud
Architect Etienne Descloux thought of a French beach bar: “ Standard“ chairs, “EM“ and “Guéridon“ table
by Jean Prouvé plus „PET“-lights by Alvaro Catalán. Photo © Steve Herud
The men behind Maxie Eisen: Roy Peters, David Ardinast, Oskar Melzer and James Ardinast (left to right). Birds by american artist Curti Jeré. Photo © Steve Herud
Only the best: the Ardinast brothers import the meat for their pastrami from the USA – and cure it here in Frankfurt. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
Glossy and lipstick red: the bar of Maxie Eisen, alongside “Pirkka” stools by Ilmari Tapiovaara (Artek).
Photo © Steve Herud
Reflections of the night: “Cité“ armchairs by Jean Prouvé as well as lights by Charlotte Perriand (“Pivotant“) and
Alvaro Catalán (“PET“). Photo © Steve Herud
Color as well in the bathroom. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
In the middle of the district around the main station: Maxie Eisen. Photo © Steve Herud
Beef brisket with oh là là
by Martina Metzner
Mar 3, 2014

Frankfurt thrives on its polar oppositions. On the one side, the sleek skyline and on the other, traditional half-timbered houses, and right in the middle, wedged in-between is the district with the central train station. International flair meets down-to-earth appeal meets multicultural mix. Welcome to the city which only some ten years ago made the headlines mostly with high crime rates and drugs issues. Now it is being lauded as hip, fresh and authentic. And in case you haven’t yet heard: The “New York Times” has just voted Frankfurt into its list of 52 must-visit cities this year. Including a note on a certain bar: the newly opened Maxie Eisen.

Maxie Eisen is something of an icing on the cake – following the recent transformation of the streets around Frankfurt’s train station, whose motley mix of red-light hotel, bazaars and dives forms a contrast par-excellence to the perfect city’s sleek-and-clean appearance. The Bahnhofsviertel has since emerged officially as one of the city’s trendiest hotspots. It was around two years ago that new bars started to pop up; first it was Plank, then Pazza Pazza, followed Lido, and finally Walon & Rosetti. Early December 2013 then saw the opening of Maxie Eisen. Located on Münchener Strasse, which runs parallel to Kaiserstrasse, and only one block down from Plank, the place with the funny-sounding name is in fact two things in one: a pastrami restaurant and a bar. For our vegetarian readers: Pastrami is cured and smoked beef that tends to be served inside a sandwich – a dish created by Jewish chefs in the United States at the end of the 19th century.

Experts in hospitality and design

The fact Maxie Eisen “is really taking off”, as the people who run it describe the current hype, is only to be expected. After all, top restaurateurs and designers from Berlin and Frankfurt teamed up to mastermind this new eatery. The makers on the restaurant side are the Ardinast brothers James and David, who with their Ima bars and bistros caused a veritable culinary stir in downtown Frankfurt before they then ventured further afield to Frankfurt’s Bahnhofsviertel, with branches in the 25h Hotel on Niddastrasse and another venue on Otto Strasse. For the interior design they got none other than Berlin star architect Etienne Descloux on board, who is buddies with their associate Oskar Melzer and jazzed up the cozy Pastrami concept with an extraordinary overall finish.

Contemplating the corner bar from the outside at first, you will be forgiven for mistaking Maxie Eisen for a pretty child daycare facility, even if it’s not the first thing you’d expect to find in the Bahnhofsviertel. However, it’s not toys but Jean Prové’s wonderfully colorful Standard chairs along with charming PET straw luminaires by Alvaro Catalán that grab the eye and bid you step inside. Then we spot the enormous photographic wallpaper by Berlin-based designer duo Bless, whose mountainous landscape dotted with holiday homes exudes a southern flair paired with a decidedly 1970s feel. Add to this the open kitchen and the exceptionally friendly staff and you get the right ingredients for an incredibly comfy atmosphere where you’ll immediately feel at home and maybe have to fight the urge to kick off your shoes for utmost comfort.

However, that’s only half the story – to get the full picture you need to take a glance behind the mirrored sliding wall or door, to where the bar is. Once you step inside, the atmosphere morphs entirely, giving way to the elegant ambiance of dimmed lights, which is why after 10pm the door remains strictly closed. Imagine maroon walls clad with copper-colored metal from the hip down. The center of the room houses the polygonal bar with a red counter that conjures up the juicy lips of some seductive beauty. Design buffs will be pleased that every effort has been made to present exceptional design: At the bar you get to sit on “Pirkka” stools by Ilmari Tapiovaara, which are wonderfully accentuated by “Pivotant” luminaires by Charlotte Perriand. In the back there are two “Cités” by Jean Prouvé for night-owls seeking a quick rest and relax.

A central bar where eyes meet

Maxie Eisen’s extraordinary design called for some concessions from top restaurateurs James and David Ardinast: Take the round Guéridon by Jean Prouvé, for example, which seats up to six people but is an unusual format for restaurants, which are geared towards achieving optimum efficiency by maximizing the number of seats and providing utmost flexibility. Likewise the bar which, having been placed in the center of the room, offers less space for guests and potentially less turnover compared to a wall solution. Descloux explains his decision thus: “I wanted a bar where everyone gets to stand at the counter and which offers ample opportunities for sitting face-to-face.” Another sensory communication aid for which Descloux opted: the reflections emitted from the wall metal fittings around your legs. And James Ardinast has since warmed to the round tables. It turns out, he says, that they entice strangers sharing a table to talk to one another.

But why only furniture from recent years? Descloux says he looked to a French beach bar for inspiration, something that is evidenced in Maxie Eisen’s accompanying name: “buvette”. The architect with roots in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (he’s currently working on a project for the prototype apartment of the “Friends for Friends” online platform), simply felt Prouvé’s Standard chairs were most suitable.

Nonetheless, it’s not just the two side-by-side interiors that make Maxie Eisen special, but also the 60-square-meter corner-shop footprint: The two rooms are characterized by their polygonal geometry, a feature that Descloux was keen to emphasize and accentuate. One way of doing this was by giving the bar a hexagonal shape, which emulates the hexagonal layout of the room.

Maxie Eisen’s interior divides opinion. Because it is so unusual for a hospitality concept. Some critics say it’s too “contrived”, in other words, everything has been deliberately designed and arranged to perfection to give it an easy-going, accidental feel. “Yes, that’s right,” Descloux is quick to admit. But he was set on creating a well-designed space anyway, so what.

The name and its history

Looking closer, it is more than the design that is “contrived”. Shortly before the opening, the Ardinast brothers not only thought of a name but also dreamed up a matching story: Maxie Eisen was a Jewish mafia boss in 1920s New York, who made his royalties trading kosher meat, bread and fish. Here it is – the perfect bridge to the city that many consider Frankfurt’s big sister, and where pastrami shot to fame in delis like Katz, and complete with details on the brothers’ cultural background. Which is why a picture of Maxie Eisen and his buddies graces a wall in the restaurant. But even if the mafia concept may be a good way to kindle public interest, it falls short of expectations once you step inside. One reason is that the interior is anything but Mafioso style; another is that Frankfurt’s shady characters tend to much prefer other bars in the neighborhood. But if you’d like to watch what’s going on outside, then Maxie Eisen is definitely the perfect choice.

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