By Denise Allabaugh
WILKES-BARRE — The former Le Manhattan Bistro in downtown Wilkes-Barre has reopened with a new name, a new look, a new menu and a world-renowned chef who has come back to his roots.
Well-known restaurateur Rob Friedman of Friedman Hospitality Group has transformed the former French restaurant in a vintage bank building at South Main and Ross streets into Bank + Vine featuring seasonal farm-to-table dishes curated by executive chef Chad Gelso.
Gelso, 31, grew up in Dallas. When he was 15, he started working with his cousin Nick Gelso, who formerly owned the fine dining restaurant Gelpia’z in Kingston.
When he was 17, he left the area, graduated from New England Culinary Institute in Vermont and spent time in London, Chicago, New York, Maine, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
Most recently, Gelso was the head chef at Lebanese restaurant Suraya in Philadelphia, which was named best new restaurant and best restaurant in Philadelphia. He also was a contestant on Hell’s Kitchen starring Chef Gordon Ramsay.
“It was an amazing experience,” Gelso said. “He (Ramsay) is tough but he really is a great mentor and a great guy. He certainly knows how to teach and mentor.”
Now, Gelso said he is glad to return to the area after traveling around the world and he likes to preach about healthy lifestyles.
The menu at Bank + Vine features dishes ranging from vegetable preparations to seafood.
“It’s just good food,” Gelso said. “It’s farm-focused and seasonal. We’re pulling from different countries. We’re pulling from different cuisines and cultures. What I’m trying to do here is highlight the farmers and growers.”
Erin Crofchick, the general manager at Bank + Vine, also grew up in the area in Wright Twp. and recently returned after doing large catering events in Philadelphia.
She said they are trying to bring as many local ties to the restaurant as possible including using produce from the Farmers Market in Wilkes-Barre.
The former 108-year-old South Side Bank building was remodeled and includes vines in the design as well as art of bank notes and bank robbers in addition to artwork called an “ode to the Wyoming Valley.”
Friedman’s grandfather the late Jack Friedman’s 82-year-old cash register from Friedman Electric in Pittston also is on display.
Bank + Vine features both indoor and outdoor dining. Tables are socially distanced and indoor dining is limited to 25% occupancy as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
Friedman said while the restrictions are tough, Bank + Vine is the largest of the restaurants he owns in the area that allows for social distancing and he’s excited about the new theme.
He also owns Fire & Ice Restaurant in Kingston Twp. Kevin’s Bar & Restaurant in Kingston, Cork Bar & Restaurant in Wilkes-Barre, Grico’s Restaurant in Exeter, River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Twp., the Beaumont Inn in Dallas and Friedman Farms.