TODD SUMLIN tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
TODD SUMLIN tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Helen Schwab

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Helen Schwab

New owner, concept for Penguin

By Helen Schwab

hschwab@charlotteobserver.com

March 18, 2015 03:23 PM

UPDATED March 18, 2015 03:56 PM

Alesha Sin Vanata, owner of littleSpoon in Myers Park, confirms she’s bought what was once The Penguin in Plaza Midwood, and plans a new concept – she’s just “locking down” a few details before spilling it.

But it won’t be a pizza place, as commenters on social media have claimed, she says. Nor will it be a burger place, since “I feel America has enough burger restaurants... And I want to honor the hard work The Diamond and Pinky’s (both of which have had former Penguin folks on board) are doing.”

What she is willing to say, though, offers a few hints. “We will support local. We won’t be able to be as ‘local local’ as littleSpoon is.” That suggests a cuisine (she admits “ethnic”) whose ingredients aren’t all commonly available here –and wine. “Maybe wine,” she says with a laugh. “There are a couple of things we’re missing (here).”

It’ll be upscale casual, she’s also willing to say, with prices in the range of Soul Gastrolounge’s. She’s interviewing her first chef candidate ( “he’s local”) Thursday, and “we’ll see how that goes.”

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“I love Plaza Midwood. I feel this corner being empty has been so sad. I’m looking forward to ... cleaning up the empty liquor bottles. I’ve got great plans for the design of it.”

She wants the exterior to return to its “original glory”; she knows some of the history of the place (she hadn’t known it was ever thought of as a bar), but plans to find out more.

“We’ll clean up on the inside, modernize.”

She hopes to open this summer.

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