Chef Scott Crawford’s new restaurant has finally arrived.
For Jolie, la petite fille du chef Scott Crawford, there was a certain je ne sais quoi about the City of Light.
On a family trip to Paris the winter before last, the then 7 year-old fell in love with its bistros and brasseries. She spoke French with the locals and became a connoisseur of the cozy blankets on offer at the city’s outdoor cafés. She tried beaucoup varieties of cheese.
“When we had to come home she cried and cried because she didn’t want to leave,” Crawford recalls.
And so, for the past two years, the owner of the Person Street mainstay Crawford and Son has been working to bring a little of Paris to his daughter, and to Raleigh. Crawford’s new restaurant, Jolie, opens this month in an all-but-forgotten shoe shop right beside his flagship.
Raleigh architect Louis Cherry, who also designed Crawford and Son, describes his and Crawford’s vision for Jolie as something of a complementary contrast to its brother space (named for Crawford’s son, Jolie’s older brother, Jiles). The restaurants—both located in a subdivided building that dates to the mid-1920s—each seat around 60 diners, though Jolie is split between an indoor dining room on the street level and a rooftop patio.
Where Crawford and Son creates a deep, rich environment with its low lights and deep colors, Crawford wanted something brighter, more feminine for Jolie—in a word, pretty.
“Prettiness, it is different from beautiful even, it has a certain cheerfulness,” Cherry explains. “Aesthetically, we were going for a strong reference to the tradition of French cooking and French design. So it’s a modern, minimalist aesthetic overlaid with a set of traditional expectations—bistro chairs, tile, decorative patterns, pops of color.”
A neon sign and glossy black finish to the building beckon from the outside. Aged oak floors, white panelling and gold-colored antique mirrors greet you as you step in. To your right, framing the open kitchen space, a white marble bar top gleams; a long, tan leather banquette invites you to stay (in France, you have to ask for the check). French light fixtures, blue-and-white 1930s-style wallpaper and a kitchen service window lend the perfect of amount of whimsy to the space.
It’s a tight squeeze to be sure; there are maybe 3 feet between the banquette tables and the back of the bar stools. The rooftop patio—lush with trees sourced from Brewery Bhavana, wall planters, window boxes growing lavender and pots of French tarragon and basil—feels even more intimate.
Crawford wanted it that way.
“I enjoy [small dining spaces],” he says. “Not everyone does. At [the Charleston bistro] Purlieu, by the end of my meal, I was sharing dessert with an elderly couple sitting next to me. We’re talking generations apart, just laughing, having a great time talking about food and family. People who enjoy that are going to enjoy this restaurant.”
For Crawford, this sense of fellowship and community building is part of what dining out is about. It’s why, when he opens his concepts, his family is never far from his mind.
“I hope [as Jolie and Jiles] get older, they can learn how to fill roles in these restaurants, to learn how to be part of a team and how to earn,” he says. “Restaurants can teach you a lot of cool lessons in life.”
“These are neighborhood restaurants,” Cherry says. “They’re part of the fabric and very much intended to be part of a community, very urban and very much a great part of the city.”