Sitting snug on the corner of Tryon and West Trade Street is Essex Bar and Bistro. From the outside, the eatery is sleek with steel beams and floor-to-ceiling windows — and on the inside, it's cozy and comfortable with warm lighting and soft seats. Its location is a nod to its function, as the busy corner at Bank of America Plaza allows it to serve the young professionals in the area conducting business lunches or leaving the office to grab a bite and a sip on their way home.
That's not to say that the bistro and bar isn't for guests that don't spend their days in offices. The food menu and bar program are designed to fit everyone's taste.
There's no fancy verbiage on the multicultural menu, either. Simple names and simple descriptions correlate to the old-school style of cooking that adheres to each culture's preparation for each dish. Management has an open mind about where the Essex's cuisine is headed. Co-owner and chef, Haim Aizenberg, says the Essex Bar and Bistro has a plan, but isn't afraid to make small tweaks and improvements in their menus as they go.
Creative Loafing sat down with Haim to talk about the bistro atmosphere, bar and menu program and the Essex concept.
Creative Loafing: How does the bar program and the food menu work together to create a cohesive vision for the restaurant?
Haim Aizenberg: You can see that in the drink menu, we pick from each culture, each country their traditional drink, that's something very cool. People know mojitos and the basic stuff, but we take it and give it a tweak. We're not trying to jump to places. We let people absorb and understand where we're going to and then step it up. If you sit here a month or two from today and we talk, you'll see we'll be much different. We're probably going to be in different places as far as tweaking and changing stuff on the menu. We'll see what's working because right now, something I might say is going to be my best-seller but maybe in a couple months from now I say, "You know what? It's not as big as I thought it was going to be." So you got a plan, but it's a plan/not-a-plan because you never know what people like or not.
What do you offer that other places don't?
Our pita bread, our falafel, our shawarma, all that stuff is made from scratch, like real scratch. And it follows each culture's basic rules of how it needs to be done and how you're doing it. and we're not trying to shoot for too much. It's almost like mom-food style in a cool and nice atmosphere and presentation. But that's what sets us apart. I really think that the staff and the menu, all those things when they come together it's great all around. Because the greater concept is more than "Oh, I got chicken and I got beef and I got falafel." No. It's the whole environment, it's the whole package.
How do you target a young demographic but also include customers outside of that demographic?
If you want to get steak or a $30 or $35 plate, you can have it. If you want to have a $9 or $10 or $12 plate, you can have it too. You don't have to be committed to drop $50 or $60 a person if you don't eat. If you come, get a cool, medium sized plate. You can come after work, get a $10 or $12 plate and a cool drink and it's very cool and young. For the older people, you can have a traditional dinner, come over and have a steak with seafood or whatever they want. You don't necessarily have to come and dress up, you can come here from work or you can come here on your way back home, whatever you want.