The Scarlet Letter

If the winding streets of the neighborhood locals call the Warren had a heart, it would be the Scarlet Letter.  Dubbed a gastropub by the online apps that decide these things, the unassuming spot is operated by Jessye Corman, who is the majority owner as well.  The outside of the restaurant is painted a dark forest green, with large windows that look into the mostly open floor plan of the space.  There is an outside porch with patio seating, framed in cast iron fencing, that can only be entered through the restaurant proper.  The Scarlet Letter’s single door is diagonal on the street corner.  Inside, cushioned benches rest against the outside walls, opposite chairs that Jessye found in Bric’a’Brac, the upcycle and antique shop across the street.  The bar is on the wall opposite the door, and seating extends beyond and behind it.  Alternating round and square tables fill the space, each decorated daily with fresh flowers she gets at one of the other local shops in the Warren.  The large windows that make up much of the external walls oftentime become clouded with moisture as the place fills up at night.  The doors to the kitchen are wide, and slightly off center on the wall at the back of the pub.  Diagonal from the bar, a semi-circular stage rises from the wall on the right.  Inset lighting highlight this area during performances.

A neighborhood pub like this, even a trendy one, grows its own traditions.  Once a month they have Candlenight, where they turn off just about all the electricity in the place–though obviously not the kitchen.  People are encouraged to bring their own candles, though Jessye has plenty on hand.  After the first few attempts, few people bring anything heavily scented.  The combination of the various scents those first few months left the place stinking like a lilac bush dipped in honey, roasted in a Thai market, and then sprayed with cloves, rosewater, and musk. As with so many things affiliated with the Scarlet Letter, people have learned that simpler is best.  Some of the regulars melt crayons at home for candles, and other make their own out of beeswax.  For those who still purchase their contributions, they make sure its scent is light, if present at all.  Oftentimes Candlenight devolves into a sort of open mic night, where poets, storytellers, and local artists too timid for some of the town’s brassier venues let down their guard and perform in the flickering light to crowds that encourage and offer support. 

At least one girl, Kristin something, has gone on from Candlenight to make something for herself.  She wrote the pub a letter when she was on tour in Chicago, letting them know how she was doing.  She included a tape with the letter, and asked Jessye to play it on Candlenight.  Tapes followed every month she was away.  This sort of loyalty, the sense of community, is the entire reason Jessye opened the place to begin with.  Jessye tries to support the artistic community that has come to make this neighborhood their home however she can.  She and the Fergus Gallery down the street routinely work together, and she sponsors events like Candlenight and the Art Hop to keep new voices speaking out and up.  And when strangers stop by, she encourages them to raise a glass with her regulars and her friends, knowing that the circle has gotten a little wider.

As it stands, Jessye herself often functions as the bartender most nights.    Dmitri Barkas, a culinary student at SKU and the son of a well-known and controversial author, serves as her chef.  A friend of a friend’s daughter named Courtney leads the Letter’s server and busser staff.  Jessye is actively seeking a new bartender, and other staff to support the family she’s cultivated over the last few years.

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