Scott Crawford is bringing a bit of Paris to Person Street.
When Crawford opened Crawford and Son a year and a half ago, he also founded a restaurant group, Crawford Hospitality, signaling much more was on the way. It was just a matter of time.
It appears that time has come.
Crawford is opening his second Raleigh restaurant: a French bistro named Jolie next door to Crawford and Son on the corner of North Person and Pace streets. Jolie is named for Crawford's daughter and is the French word for "pretty."
Crawford said Jolie is aiming for a fall opening in late October or early November.
Bistro is one of those restaurant words so often used it sometimes loses its meaning, attached to everything from upscale spots to casual fare, possibly with French cuisine nowhere to be found.
Jolie, though, comes from the source, inspired by a recent family trip to Paris, where Crawford said they ate in a dozen bistros over 10 days. To him, a bistro is incredibly specific, a cozy realm for casual French classics in a lively setting.
"A true Parisian bistro is inviting, vibrant, happy, serving simple delicious food," said Crawford, a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist. "It's simple in design, it's simple in what we put on the plate. The fish is cooked perfectly, the steak is cooked correctly. The attention to detail will go into the execution of that simple food. Friendly, warm, knowledgeable service. There's nothing really complicated about it."
The menu will feature French standards like steak frites, Croque Madame, rabbit cassoulet, plus modern liberties, like turnip vichyssoise with smoked trout and caviar, and foie gras-stuffed chicken. The wine and beer list will be exclusively French, with cocktails focused on aperitifs.
Though side by side, Jolie and Crawford and Son will stand in stark contrast. Crawford and Son is a dark space of gray, brick and wood that Crawford himself calls a bit masculine. He says Jolie will be bright and pretty, a corner spot filled with light from outside.
Seating will be even less than that at Crawford and Son, with tables for 35 and a bartop for 10. The narrow Person Street sidewalks won't allow for outdoor seating, but there will be a rooftop deck.
Each restaurant is named after his two children, a nod, Crawford said, to a tradition of putting the family name on businesses: a farm, a sawmill and a machine shop.
"For me, everything is about my family," Crawford said. "Everything we do. ... When we talked about opening a French bistro, my daughter's name is Jolie. It means 'beautiful' in French. It made perfect sense. We didn't think about it too much. We want this type of restaurant in Raleigh. We thought the name would fit the restaurant perfectly."
Halfway through his third decade in restaurants, Crawford’s idea of perfection has changed. To be clear, he doesn’t believe in perfection, only the pursuit of it, the teetering drive between ambition and self-destruction that nearly killed him years ago.
Most of Crawford's career has been spent running high-profile fine dining kitchens in resort hotels, including Herons at the Umstead in Cary. In 2015, he opened his first independent restaurant, Standard Foods, around the corner from Crawford and Son but left after six months to open his own place.
News & Observer dining critic Greg Cox named Crawford and Son his 2018 Restaurant of the Year in January.
Both Standard Foods and Crawford and Son took the chef on a somewhat more casual route than his roots in the height of fine dining, an industry-wide trend making neighborhood restaurants the star. Crawford said he went from seeing certain diners once or twice a year for birthdays and anniversaries to seeing some up to three times a week.
"When I came up, we were obsessed with the pursuit of perfection, to a fault," Crawford said. "And maybe we had it wrong. We thought perfection could only exist in fine dining. ... The way I came up, it was all about the grande cuisine, and I never realized until I matured as a chef that you can actually focus that same perfection on casual food and make a lot of people really happy. Getting that perfectly cooked steak with perfectly crisp frites is perfection."
Crawford and Son chef de cuisine Bret Edlund will move over to Jolie, pastry chef Krystle Swenson will make desserts for both restaurants, and John May, formerly of Piedmont in Durham and Vivian Howard's Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, will serve as general manager.
Jolie will be open seven days a week, eventually serving a Sunday brunch, though unlikely at the beginning.
Raleigh architect Louis Cherry will renovate the space at 620 N. Person St. He's a designer popular among restaurant owners, having worked on Crawford and Son, Ashley Christensen's Death and Taxes and others.
Crawford's restaurants have been part of the revitalization of Person Street, which also includes Yellow Dog Bakery, the Person Street Bar, Oakwood Pizza Box and Pelagic bottle shop.
Another Crawford restaurant looks to make this district within Oakwood more and more of a destination.
"We've watched this little corridor change, in that's it's becoming an area where there's foot traffic, people come and enjoy a nice Saturday and Sunday walk," Crawford said. "We see it in the mornings and afternoon; there are a lot of great places to go and stop by. We really do love the way this corner feels. We think it's one of the most special little corners in the city."