Cerise Zelenetz has spent the better part of the last decade creating logos and menus for New York City restaurants. Now the local illustrator is finally getting the chance to design her own with the opening of Cherry On Top, a natural wine bar with a rooftop in Bushwick. The space, which loosely nods to the all-day cafes of Paris, opens its doors at 379 Suydam Street, near Wyckoff Avenue, on September 9.
“I made things difficult for myself,” Zelenetz says, standing in her mostly handmade bar a week before its opening. “But I’m glad that I did. I wanted everything to feel like it came from somewhere and had a story behind it.”
To open the bar, Zelenetz teamed up with partners Amir Nathan and Jordan Anderson, former Via Carota and Olmsted alums, respectively, who recently opened Sami and Susu on the Lower East Side. Nathan and Anderson are keeping things tight with an 11-line menu of that will change with seasons. There’s an Olivier salad (a Russian potato salad, $10), burrata with tomatoes and pesto ($17), and a head-on “deviled” fish that’s been gutted and filled with a mix of smoked trout, creme fraiche, and scallions ($25).
“I don’t want this to be confused for a full-on restaurant,” she says. “It’s based on the Parisian wine bar where you can go and have snacks and feel like you’ve actually eaten.”
Wines can be ordered by the glass or bottle from a list made up of classical and “funkier” pours, a word Zelenetz uses with some chagrin. “We’re not focused on region,” she says. “I’m choosing wines that are fun and on the inexpensive side.” Swick Wines, for whom the illustrator has designed several labels, will anchor the menu with a cuvée created for the bar.
Zelenetz has previously illustrated logos and menus for several New York City restaurants, including Sami and Susu, Ernesto’s, and Oddfellows Ice Cream. “At some point, it became my own restaurant,” she says. Cherry On Top is based out of a former Oddfellows factory, meaning there wasn’t a pre-existing bar set-up to work around. “The layout was completely up in the air,” she says, so she decided to sketch out the space in a series of drawings.
Elements that appear in early illustrations of Cherry On Top — custom tile work, red tabletops, and hand-painted lamps — have mostly made their way to the bar that Zelenetz plans to open this month. The dining room is outfitted with handmade cushions and hand-drawn illustrations. Upstairs, a sizable rooftop with a separate bar is outfitted with collected vintage furniture and plenty of plants.
These aren’t the trappings of a typical natural wine bar, and intentionally so. “I wanted to create a space that is fun and welcoming and you can ask questions even if you don’t know about wine,” she says. In lieu of roaming sommeliers, bartenders will run food to customer tables, according to Zelenetz. Most wines are priced between $11 and $16 a glass, and a small bowl of olives comes free to every slightly mismatched table.
As for the bar’s name, Zelenetz says that Cherry On Top nods to its origins as an ice cream factory, as well as her own roots. Her first name — Cerise — translates to “cherry” from French, and as a child she would sign her name with a misshapen illustration of the fruit. That same logo, dreamt up by four-year-old Zelenetz, now adorns the bar’s front window.
Cherry on Top is open from 5 p.m. to midnight daily. Closed Tuesdays.