That indefinable something. In regard to a restaurant, it’s an all-encompassing feeling, not just what you’re sipping or chewing. It’s the owner’s smile, the servers’ attentiveness, the decibel level, the seating and so on. When it all clicks, you know you want to come back.
Now let me introduce you to a 2-year-old little gem in Washington Heights called Charles E. Fromage, whose name might make you smile. The owners – Honore and Tony Schiro – were indeed inspired by the childhood entertainment emporium Chuck E. Cheese, minus the pizza, arcade games and animatronic stage shows. Charles E. is a civilized, grown-up 14-seat bar for stiff drinks and light snacks, live music during the warm-weather months, and enveloping warmth anytime.
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The Schiros’ food-and-bev industry entrance was a later-in-life step. Tony is a retired MPS teacher, and his wife, also a teacher, will soon follow in his footsteps. Maybe it’s the years of dealing with kids that makes Tony seem unruffled, unperturbed. He is the barkeep and kitchen head honcho, the creator of the addictive five-cheese spread they call “glop,” the fennel-laced olive salad and grilled eggplant-tomato dip capalatina – spreadables that liven up a cracker or slice of baguette.
At C.E.F., dining is making a meal around these and other tasty snacks (the goat cheese and fig dip is another delight). Mix in some of Tony’s various seasoned nuts and even chocolates from Tosa’s artisan maker Tabal and you have the spot-on accompaniments to a glass of rich, spicy red wine, a foamy tap beer or heady cocktail. This is the sort of higher-end – but not uppity – bar that helps make a neighborhood feel like home.
ADDRESS: 5811 W. Vliet St., 414-305-1458
HOURS: Wed-Sat 4-10 p.m.
SERVICE: Warm, attentive