“The initial concept was to create a little nook where our friends could come and eat healthy food.” Sabrina de Sousa explains sitting cross-legged in her Chinatown walkup apartment next to her business partner and best friend Alissa Wagner. “We were like why can’t we go to a restaurant and just order a great salad. Why is it so complicated? Why do we have to go to Whole Foods to get that? There isn’t a restaurant that provides food that we want to eat on the day-to-day, that is clean and simple, but also interesting.”, She adds.
So Dimes was born. The charming restaurant in New York’s Chinatown was a much-welcomed addition to the neighborhood. With a menu that attracts anyone in search of health-conscious fare, and an airy almost gallery-like space, the restaurant, still in its infancy has become an overnight sensation. The dream of opening a space where their friends could gather, is now a solidified reality and can be shared with an even larger community of patrons who flock to the space for barley bowls, spiced quinoa, love toast, and homemade rose water and lip balm they sell in addition to the seasonal food.
Dimes is the brainchild of Sabrina and Alissa who themselves are the very definition of “dimes”. (n. A very attractive person, a perfect ten- Urban Dictionary). The two met working in the Nolita Thai restaurant Lovely Day where they were both waitresses and bartenders. On a fortuitous trip to Patagonia, the friends began talking about an idea for a new restaurant, one they could run together. With almost 20 years of restaurant experience between them, they had a wealth of knowledge they could dig into. “We went on a trip to Patagonia together and Sabrina was thinking of opening a juice bar at the time. I had gone to culinary school a couple years before that and offered to help with the food, and then we just started throwing ideas at each other and they merged really well together.” Alissa explains. “We were just dream talking for the most part.” Sabrina adds, envisioning a perfect place with food that the two of them and their friends were longing for and couldn’t easily access anywhere else at the time.
The initial concept was to create a little nook where our friends could come and eat healthy food
Sabrina De Sousa
They spent nights in Sabrina’s apartment brainstorming and tweaking a business plan that would one day manifest into Dimes. They both remember those times with much affection. “We were just talking about how amazing that period was. We were just daydreaming. We had all these intricate ideas we wanted to do. We were writing our business plan, and we were getting all these inspiration photos, mapping out all these sweet little ideas…” Sabrina and Alissa reminisce.
The Dimes space is not just a popular destination because of the clean, seasonal, and beautifully presented food the girls dreamed up in their Chinatown apartment. The experience of going into Dimes is multi-faceted. And that is exactly what Alissa and Sabrina intended. Inspiration came from their diverse backgrounds and interests. Making the space a living and breathing personification of them both. “I went to art school and I wanted to be a painter, but I always came back to working in restaurants. I loved the community, I loved the food, and then eventually, I sort of realized ‘why am I not taking this more seriously?’ and pursuing it as a career. I feel like it’s a really creative outlet. It allows me to use that part of my brain but just with a new format.” Alissa expresses. For Sabrina, the construction of the space was a central focus. “I think design is a huge influence. You go to a restaurant and it needs to encompass a little bit of everything. All of your senses need to be intrigued. Keeping a simple aesthetic allows your mind to wander in a way. Invites you to think of everything as a whole. We had a really keen sense of what we wanted the space to look like. That was really important, along with the food.” In addition to the design, Sabrina also brought with her a passion for alternative medicine and herbal remedies which she hopes to expand on within Dimes one day. In the meantime, you can pick up her coveted lip balm and rose water they sell.
Now that the restaurant is up and running and is frequented by friends, family, and those who want to be a part of the Dimes community, (you will too if you follow their Instagram @Dimestimes) the girls have time to take a step back and appreciate what they have built. “My favorite part of the job is walking in there, knowing that it happened, and that everyone is having a good time.” Sabrina says as she smiles at her partner and best friend as they finish the last nibbles of their barley salad.
THE FOOD LIFE Q&A
S: Chinatown, NY
A: Chinatown, NY
Last Thing You Ate
S: Zucchini Pasta
A: Dimes Lavender Acai bowl
Tastiest Thing You Have Ever Made
S: Coconut fish stew
A: Lamb meatballs in broth with shishito peppers, barley, gremolata, cilantro yogurt, mustard greens.
Cookbooks & recipes? Or improvisation
S: Art of fermentation , Cooking with Frida
Soundtrack in Your Kitchen
S: Brian Eno
A: Clanging pots and pans
Favorite Food City
S: New York!
A: New York
I always have _______ In my Kitchen
A: Thai Chillies
S: Chili flakes and coconut vinegar
A: Chili garlic paste
What is your kitchen "uniform"/favorite thing to wear when you cook:
S: My Mexican Apron
A: When I’m at home- a very frumpy dress with sunflowers on it that is so comfortable
What is your food "kryptonite"
If you could eat a meal prepared by anyone in the world who would it be:
S: Not Jamie Oliver
A: Alice Waters
Weirdest/most adventurous thing you have ever eaten
S: Fried silk worms in Thailand
If you had to be the spokesperson for a food or beverage what would it be
A: PG Tips Tea
Drink of choice (what's your poison?)
Are there any family recipes or food traditions that have been handed down to you
S: Oxtail Soup
A: Irish soda bread
If it's true 'you are what you eat' - what are you
A: An egg
What is the "recipe" for success according to you
A: Have fun
S: Vegetables from my future garden
A: A perfectly ripe peach
What's your food philosophy
S: Food brings everyone together, treasure those moments
A: Don’t be too fussy – keep clean, beautiful and fresh.
What’s your comfort food
Favorite childhood snack
S: Entenmanns mini powdered donuts
A: Oreos and milk
Biggest challenge opening your own restaurant
S: Embracing never ending fix-ups
A: Staffing and staffing issues
Favorite memory from the early days of Dimes
S: Getting to know our regulars
A: Daydreaming with Sabrina about all of the things we were doing to do at the restaurant
Proudest professional moment
S: Our writeup in the NY times
A: Our write up in the New York times – high five Sabs!!
Sabrina, you have always been interested in natural remedies. Any current ones you can highlight
A shot of apple cider vinegar with aloe juice and a teaspoon of manuka honey.
If you didn't own a restaurant, what would you want to be doing professionally
S: Designing Interiors