Behind the giant question marks

Since October, there's been a vacancy at the heart of downtown.

Large, paper question marks have concealed the windows at the corner of Battery Park Avenue and Haywood Street, which used to be Restaurant Solace (and before that, the Flying Frog Café). The company that owns the building posted the 6-foot-high punctuation in the windows after Restaurant Solace left.

Now, the owners can take down the question marks. A new restaurant, Isa’s Bistro, is coming, and it will be owned by businessman Antonio Fraga and his wife, Isabel, the business’ namesake.

Antonio Fraga has never owned a restaurant before (although he is an investor in New York City's Telepan, which focuses on seasonal fare); his business acquires and manages properties. In fact, his company, FIRC Group, owns the restaurant building, along with the rest of Haywood Park, West Gate shopping center and several developments in Florida.

"We're doing a lot of demolition in there," Fraga says.

The eatery will open in March or April, although he's not sure what it will serve, Fraga says. “The food planning will come later on,” he says. He's brought on Jason Cancilla, a former manager at Grove Park Inn, to run the place, and he's in the process of hiring a chef.

In the meantime, the Haywood Park Café (set to open in the atrium of the Haywood Park building) is still in the early stages of development. That restaurant also shares staff with FIRC Group. In October, Wes Reinhardt, vice president of FIRC, estimated that the breakfast and lunch café would be open by 2013.

At the end of December, construction in the former Souper Sandwich space had not begun. “Just waiting on the building permit to be issued, which is expected any day,” Reinhardt told Xpress in a Dec. 27 email. “Once permit is in hand, the upfit work will commence immediately. And completion won’t take long. … The team, concept, menu and fixtures are all ready to go.”

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