Tales from a Carroll Gardens newbie
Don’t be fooled by the gleaming pastry case or the casual vibe.
Opening a restaurant, especially in saturated Brooklyn, involves precise clockwork. In fact, it’s just like launching a start-up, except instead of selling one product, you’re selling hundreds. Service, hours of operation, coffee temperature, barstools, wine selection–everything has to be right. And that’s only what the customers happen to see. So much goes on behind the scenes, even before the sun rises, that anyone who’s harbored a secret dream of opening their own restaurant might run away screaming.
Being original in that kind of environment is risky. Yet that’s exactly what Sheila’s in Carroll Gardens aspires to be—a start-up that cares about its employees, vision, and every neighborhood customer who walks in the door begging for a croissant for their commute or a glass of wine as a wind-down. It’s a mom-and-pop neighborhood joint, in the best way, at a time when that’s getting harder to find.
And yet, “I’m not a morning person,” says owner Colin Clarke, which is surprising, since he’s clocking 4:30 a.m. wake-ups to spend 20-hour days in his new, all-day farm-to-table restaurant. Clarke is a veteran of local favorite Franny’s, where he spent six years (the beloved Flatbush Avenue pizzeria closed Aug. 20; the neighborhood mourns), and Gramercy Tavern, where he clocked seven years and was indoctrinated into the Danny Meyer school of hospitality. You could say dinner service is in Clarke’s DNA....
Read the rest of my story on Sheila's, a new restaurant in Carroll Gardens, over at The Bridge.