Before Lane Harlan opened the Remington bar W.C. Harlan two years ago, she visited Sinaloa in Mexico and had her mind blown.
She and husband Matthew Pierce (who co-owns W.C. Harlan with Harlan) had long been fascinated by Mexican culture, but they could not believe what they found — and tasted — in person.
"I was taken aback by the spirit of some of the traditions, the food culture and just the authenticity of things," Harlan said from the sunroom in her Tuscany-Canterbury home last week. "So many places you go, there's great grandmother's recipes. It just felt very refreshing to me."
The inspiration from her travels fuels Clavel, Harlan's next endeavor she hopes to open in Remington in April. Harlan, Pierce, their families and W.C. Harlan's staff are currently gutting and renovating the 227 W. 23rd St. location themselves, she said. (Corky's Grill last called it home.)
Clavel, which translates to "carnation" in Spanish, will serve the style of Mexican food Harlan first experienced in Sinaloa, including tortas, ceviche and handmade tortillas. The chef, Harlan said, is Carlos Raba, who grew up in capital of Sinaloa, Culiacan.
Harlan, who plans to work with local farmers, described the food as "a very simple take on the northern Mexican cuisine that [Raba] experienced at gatherings with his family." The recipes are rich in history, she said.
"The recipes from his great grandmother went to grandmother and now to his aunts and his mother," Harlan said. "That's what he's cooking."
The bar program will focus on imported liquors made from the agave plant, which includes mezcal and tequila. Patrons will be able to create their own flights of alcohol, she said. There will also be a cocktail menu, Mexican beers and wines from Spain and South America.
Harlan took W.C. Harlan's speakeasy concept to heart (by, for example, favoring word-of-mouth buzz over traditional marketing avenues), so it is not surprising she wants to keep some details to herself. Like, why Clavel?
"In this case, I want people to take whatever meaning they want to take from it without me spelling it out for them," she said. "But it felt right for us."
Remington residents have mostly responded well to W.C. Harlan since it opened in January 2013, Harlan said, so it made sense to open Clavel on the same street.
"We really love Remington," she said. "Since we moved in with W.C. Harlan, we've definitely seen some really positive changes in the community."
Even though they share close proximity, don't expect Clavel to look or feel like W.C. Harlan, she said. For one, Clavel will have outdoor seating and a carry-out window. But more notably, their perspectives are opposites, even if the level of quality W.C. Harlan established remains the same.
"W.C. Harlan is kind of [steeped] in the past, whereas, in terms of the aesthetics," she said, Clavel "is what you would imagine a place would look like in the future without all the space rockets."