Ink, the newest addition to Cooper-Young’s restaurant community, is not technically an upstart, so much as a makeover of the former Cortona Contemporary Italian concept. Nor is the sudden change new to a corner restaurant space that has seen many concepts wither on the vine in the last 20 years. And that’s precisely why manager Jennifer Dickerson says they decided to mix things up.
“Because of the size of the space, to be profitable we had to have people in the seats all week long, even on slow nights like Tuesday and Wednesday,” she says. “Our idea was to split the place in two, so we’re not relying so much on dining to provide the revenue. We thought adding more of a bar atmosphere would help with that, because people are generally more apt to walk into a bar to hang out than they are to come into a restaurant to have a sit-down dinner.”
Diners will still be offered the option of a sit-down dinner, but the dining space is smaller and the menu features more items for sharing as well, which suits the bar and lounge area as much as the dinner table. Entrées, which range from $18 to $22, include some of the favorites from Cortona’s menu, like the Arancia Rosa shrimp and grits, and fans will still have Cortona’s brick-oven pizzas ($15-$18) to fall back on.
Among the new menu items are sharing plates like the sweet potato poutine with feta and shiitake gravy and the carnival chicken on a stick. They also serve a weekly Sunday Soul Brunch with soul-food favorites and the sweet sounds of soul classics on vinyl.
As for the bolstered bar area, Dickerson says they’ve got the largest champagne selection in town at the lowest prices, and their cocktails are also full of bubbly. The “867-5309,” for instance, is one of Dickerson’s favorites: champagne, grapefruit, St. Germain, and honeysuckle vodka.
“We want everything to be high-quality but down to earth,” Dickerson says. “New takes on old classics.”
Ink, 948 S. Cooper (729-0101)
With Imagine Vegan Cafe settled into its new location eastward down Young, the restaurant space between Goner Records and Skunx Chef Pub was ripe for the taking, and Robin Brown was ready with a concept.
Greencork, which is set to open in August, is Brown’s reentry into the food scene after a hiatus from restaurant management and catering. Her focus is accessible, affordable wine offerings and a comfortable atmosphere for sampling those wines with small plates.
The most interesting aspect of this particular wine and small-plates concept is the addition of self-service. Like SoBou in New Orleans or the Wine Room outside of Orlando, Greencork will feature wine dispensers where patrons can select and pour their own 2-ounce, 4-ounce, or 6-ounce samples from 32 different wines.
“It seemed to me that there was something missing in Cooper-Young,” she says. “What it was is a place where people can come and kick back at the right price point. You’ve got the [Young Avenue] Deli, which is great, it’s an icon. And then you’ve got more upscale spots. But we wanted to fit something in the middle.”
The ambience will be relaxing and unintimidating, says Brown, who has arranged comfortable couches and chairs around a newly built fireplace and downsized the existing bar to give it a cozier feel. The 32 wines on tap will change regularly, and if all goes according to plan, the selection will expand. Greencork will also feature champagnes, full bottles and splits, as well as some craft beers and eventually some liquor drinks. Brown says she’s also interested in offering a non-alcoholic option like dry sodas — fizzy waters with little or no sugar, often mixed with fresh fruit.
As for the menu, Brown and her daughter Katy Sloan are working on small, sweet and savory items to pair with the array of wines. Think familiar foods with little twists, like the Reuben spring rolls or bacon, lettuce, and tomato cheesecake. And if you’re feeling romantic, grab a picnic basket for two ($24) complete with meats, cheeses, cheese trufﬂes or spread, salmon mousse, pâté, crudités, deviled eggs, fruit, condiments, and bread and crackers.
“We want this to be personal,” Brown says, “a comfortable place where the wine is always at the right price, there’s always a friendly face, and the food is recognizable and tasty.”
Greencork, 2156 Young (207-5281), email@example.com