Nicole Marquis, owner of the two popular HipCityVeg quick-serve restaurants, is developing a vegan bar at 131 S. 13th St. called Charlie was a sinner. Construction began shortly after New Year's, and she invited me to tag along to follow the project through its opening.
With the restaurant about a week from opening, plenty is falling into place. Chef Michael Santoro is cooking in the basement kitchen. Staff is being hired and scheduled. Decorative touches are finding their way inside. The bar top is on order, and is expected to arrive this week.
Outside, though, workers installed a navy blue canopy on the sidewalk awning, bearing the name "Charlie was a sinner."
(Yes, that is how Marquis is styling the name: capital C in "Charlie," lowercase letters after that, and wrapped up with a period.)
The awning, however, was wrinkled and soiled. Marquis got the installation guy on the phone Friday and insisted on a quick fix.
Marquis and director of operations Michelle Soda want everyone - their hostesses, waiters, busers and bartenders - to be up on the food and what's in everything.
Friday evening, chef Michael Santoro prepared several dishes from the menu for the staff, gathered at the bar. (Despite several requests, Marquis has resisted releasing it to me.)
Santoro started with a "crab cake" made of shredded zucchini, soft tofu, vegan mayo, and mustard, and topped with a remoulade of vegan mayo, and greens. Then came potato croquettes (a crunchy, salty bar snack), homey bucatini and vegan meatballs, and house-smoked sausage with parsnip mash and pear cider gravy. For dessert, he sent out a chocolate cake topped with sorbet, and apple fritters with a chocolate sauce.
The health inspection is expected shortly, and that will dictate the opening schedule.