Banking on a bistro locale
Last Modified: February 18. 2013 2:03PM
WILKES-BARRE – When Isabelle Garcia chose a century-old bank building as the location for her restaurant, she was thinking outside the box.
The restaurant and hospitality industry veteran was searching for a place other than a square shell that could be home to anything from a shoe store to a credit union.
She asked friends to be on the lookout for a property and traveled from the Washington, D.C., area to the corner of West Ross and South Main streets to see what developer Sam Johnson had available.
Johnson converted the upper floors of the former South Side Bank building into luxury apartments and ran out of money for a ground-floor restaurant and bar. Garcia liked what she saw in the space with high ceilings, plenty of natural light and Victorian architecture and settled on it as the spot for her Southside Bistro.
“This one was very nice,” Garcia said.
“It has a lot of character,” she added and will be a fitting place to serve traditional French food in the comfortable setting of true bistro.
“In France it’s a neighborhood restaurant,” she explained.
Among the dishes patrons can expect to see on the menu is Cassoulet, a dish of white beans, duck confit and sausage, said Garcia, 48, a native of Toulouse, France. Sunday brunch also will be served.
Over the next three months the space will be turned into large and small dining areas, a private room for special events, a bar and kitchen. It will have seating for approximately 200 people.
Garcia’s restaurant cleared a hurdle last week when Wilkes-Barre City Council approved the transfer of a liquor license. “That was a key element,” she said.
Besides the build out that she and Johnson are funding Garcia has to hire a staff of between eight and 12 people to cook and serve the food and drink to her patrons. Her expertise is on the financial side rather than in the kitchen.
Garcia has more than 15 years of experience and her resume includes such notable names as Club Med and Les Halles, home to globe-trotting chef Anthony Bourdain of the “No Reservations” food show on television.
There is nothing local like what she plans to offer. Any competition is a few hours drive.
“There’s no other French restaurant within 100 miles,” she said.