"It's pretty unprecedented, what we're doing here," says City O' City chef Brendon Doyle, who's champing at the bit to open the restaurant's expanded space today -- after more than a month off for renovations.
"And we're all super-excited about it," he continues. "We use the word 'unprecedented' a lot. It's kind of been our keyword for the last few months: unprecedented service, unprecedented design, unprecedented menu."
They have a lot to be excited about. The space feels about five times bigger than it was, with high, open ceilings, plenty of sunlight and lots of expansive seating areas. The walls are all freshly painted, with giant, beautiful designs by the local husband-wife design team of Sabin Aell and Randy Rushton. Their company, Subsequenlty Now Productions, spent ten months redesigning the entire restaurant, top to bottom.
"It's such a healthier environment," says owner Dan Landes. "The bathrooms are clean and beautiful. And I think the biggest benefit is that by having a better space for our workers to work in, they're going to be able to provide a better service for the customers, and better food in more efficient time."
Better food? One thing's for sure: It's not just the ceilings that got lofty. The ultimate goal is nothing less than "international recognition as being a leader in vegetarian cuisine," says Landes, owner not just of City O' City, but also WaterCourse Foods, long the town's top vegetarian restaurant (and the former occupant of the 13th Avenue address). And that means changes.
"We have some of the old favorites, but the rest is a brand-new menu," Landes explains. "Basically, it's a vegetable-centered menu, where we're not doing a lot of vegetarian meat substitutes. It's all vegetable-centric, so we're featuring the vegetables in their natural state."
Among the old favorites sticking around are the seitan wings, Florentine pizza and a slightly modified BBQ sandwich. And this team seems confident that we'll not only like what we taste, but that we'll be surprised by what we taste.
"It's really something that's not happening in our country at all," says Doyle. "Really, everything on is based on the fruits of the earth."
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City, O' City will be open today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., then again from 5 p.m. to "9ish," Landes says. But tomorrow, the place should be keeping its full, regular hours of 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.
For now, feast your eyes on the new, improved City, O' City on the next page.
Photos continue on the next page.