UTICA — A North Utica staple is getting a new look, logo and name after being acquired by Mohawk Valley Garden.
The investment group Wednesday took over operational control of Babe’s Macaroni Grill & Bar on North Genesee Street and plans to rename it Babe’s at Harbor Point.
Mohawk Valley Garden CEO Robert Esche said the style of food will stay the same, but the menu will be reduced from 101 items to around 75 or 80 items and the restaurant will focus on bringing in high-quality ingredients to serve customers. The color scheme also will change to red, white and black.
“We want to keep it affordable for families — a community place,” Esche said. “I think we’re going to rehab every square inch of that building over the next 12 to 15 months, little by little. We’re definitely going to phase it so there won’t be any shutdown period. ... We’re not rebranding it, I like the name Babe’s, I think it’s a staple for North Utica and the region, so we’re going to be calling it Babe’s at Harbor Point.”
Babe’s will be run by Jeff Stone, president of ORB Food & Beverage, who previously ran the restaurant from 1997 to 2015, when he left to work full-time at the Adirondack Bank Center.
Stone currently leads the operations for 72 Tavern & Grill, as well as the concession and catering services for the Comets, Utica City Football Club, and all concerts and special events at the Adirondack Bank Center.
“While I have not been at Babe’s for over four years, I look forward to returning to a place that has both a rich history of good food as well as an infinite amount of potential,” Stone said in a news release about the acquisition. “Our goal is to restore the great things about Babe’s from the start of the 21st century while also adding (to) and modernizing the facility.”
Babe’s at Harbor Point will remain open while Mohawk Valley Garden reorganizes operations and updates the facility, Esche said. Improving the parking lot is an issue he hopes to address quickly, too.
Esche said the changes to the quality of the food will begin within the week and then, in the coming weeks, they will start reducing the menu.
“The quality of the ingredients is something that’s very near and dear to me in everything that we do, whether it’s Aqua Vino or 72 Tavern & Grill,” he said. “We want to make sure that’s our top priority. The menu itself won’t change too much, just the quality of the ingredients.”
Babe’s at Harbor Point is the second restaurant under the ownership of Mohawk Valley Garden, and the third owned by Esche, who has owned Aqua Vino since 2007. Mohawk Valley Garden also operates the Utica Comets, Utica City FC, ORB Food & Beverage, and Garden Entertainment.
Esche said it’s important to him to continue to advance the vision of Mohawk Valley Garden and provide more for people in Utica to do.
“We kind of believe in the vision of the mayor and our county executive and the rest of the area, I feel it’s just a matter of time until Harbor Point gets its due credit,” he said. “I think Harbor Point is working its way out of the woods right now, and I believe it’s eventually going to happen. … I think it’s a way to build off of a lot of positive energy and building off of the lightning in the bottle that so far has been captured.”