BRISTOL — When driving through Bristol Center, it’s hard to miss the bright yellow building that sits at the bottom of the hill. Once a classic country store, the building has now been transformed into Cafe Sol, the newest endeavor for local chef and entrepreneur Julie Woloson.
Woloson formerly operated a successful catering business in the area for 10 years, called Fiddlehead Concepts. Last December, she dissolved the company and began her journey toward opening her own restaurant.
The plan has been in the works for nearly two years, Woloson said, ever since she first inquired about the building. When her business partner, Eivind Rynning, purchased the building in May, the two put their plan into action and did a full renovation of the building over the past seven months.
"I’m originally from Brighton and I moved out here about 26 years ago," Woloson said. "I’ve always admired this building and thought it was fantastic. I always thought it was a great location."
Location plays a key role in the success of any restaurant, and Cafe Sol is only a short drive from several communities with limited dining options — Honeoye, Bristol, Bloomfield and Naples — while also being close enough for people in Canandaigua, Victor and even Rochester.
Those who travel south on Route 64 to Bristol Mountain during ski season have no choice but to drive by the restaurant, which made a Dec. 6 opening date an obvious choice.
"This is a great time of year to be opening for us," Woloson said. "For a lot of places it’s an odd time, but because of the location you have to stop or slow down to go by it.
"Then in the summertime we have the lake people and in the fall we have the leaf peepers," she added. "A lot of traffic goes by here. It’s amazing."
Central location isn’t the only thing working in her favor. Woloson has created a unique menu that includes old favorites and plenty of gourmet options, while also incorporating local growers. Menus will be changed seasonally, based on the produce that’s in season and what local farmers have to offer.
The current menu features appetizers like house-made hummus and buttermilk fried chicken wings, as well as "limburger" sliders and seafood puffs.
This season’s entrées are mainly comfort foods like stuffed pork loin, mac and cheese with Kielbasa and hearty pasta dishes, as well as new twists like sesame-crusted tuna with wasabi aoli and wine-braised short ribs with a "Hershey-kissed pan sauce." The vivid descriptions on the menu can pull anyone in, and there are enough options to please everyone without being overwhelming.
Cafe Sol will also be serving beer and wine, including local favorites from Southern Tier Brewing Company, Ithaca Beer Company, Heron Hill Winery in Canandaigua and Arbor Hill in Naples.
"Everybody I talk to is very enthusiastic about having a new place in this area," said Rynning, who’s originally from Norway and lives in Bristol part-time. "A lot of people know her and her cooking, and her reputation is good. She’s a fabulous hostess too, so I know she’ll do fine."
Woloson said the business plan will be executed in stages, beginning with dinners Wednesday through Sunday. Soon they’ll be offering brunch on weekends and sweet and savory baked goods to go during the week, and eventually catering for small events.
"We need to have that progression. It just makes sense," Woloson said. "We kept setting the date back, so finally I just said ‘We’re opening.’"