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Jan 22, 2018
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The Scoop: Ben Poremba to open two new restaurants in Clayton

Monday, June 22nd, 2015




Restaurateur and chef Ben Poremba is adding to his lineup of area eateries with two new concepts in Clayton — Parigi, an Italian-inspired spot with a Parisian twist, and a soon-to-be-named Jewish deli.

As first reported by Feast Magazine, Parigi is slated to open in November and will be located in Clayton on the Park, a residential high-rise at 8025 Bonhomme Ave. “Since it’s an apartment building I wanted something solid, a place that can be everyone’s favorite,” Poremba said.

Parigi will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and room service will be available for building residents. Poremba said the dinner menu will feature both extruded and hand-cut egg pastas, as well as steaks, sauces and vegetable side dishes. “We’re working very hard to make things look very simple,” he said. “It’s going to look like it’s just pasta and steak, and there’s no froufrou, but it’s going to take experience and precision to pull it off.”

Breakfast will be counter service, offering a variety of pastries from La Patisserie Chouquette and Blueprint Coffee. Lunch will feature some items from the dinner menu, but will also have faster options for the time-strapped business crowd. Poremba intends to add brunch service a few weeks after the opening.

Josh Charles, a member of Sauce’s 2014 Ones to Watch class, is leaving his post as chef de cuisine at Poremba’s Elaia and Olio to be executive chef of Parigi. “The last couple years at Elaia and Olio have been amazing and I am looking forward to taking my experiences with me to Parigi,” Charles said. “At Elaia and Olio, we do Mediterranean food with a focus on French technique, so I am very comfortable with the flavors and techniques of Parigi.”

Poremba is confident in Charles’ ability to run the Parigi kitchen and execute the menu. “(Josh) almost intrinsically knows my style, my standards and my flavor profiles,” he said.

Aaron Sherman, wine director for Poremba’s Bengelina Hospitality Group, will spearhead the beverage program along with Bess Kretsinger, bar and general manager of Olio. The wine selection will feature an approachable array of French, Italian and American varietals, and Poremba expects Kretsinger to look to early 20th-century Parisian trends for inspiration. There will also be about 10 beers available on tap.

Parigi’s 75-seat dining room will have a sleek, contemporary decor with Parisian influences and accents. A 16-seat private dining room will be available for events, as well as Parigi’s rooftop bar with 360-degree views of the city.

The location for Poremba’s Jewish deli has yet to be finalized, but the concept is slated to open in Clayton next year.

Poremba’s hospitality group includes Elaia and Olio, Old Standard Fried Chicken and Simone Faure’s La Patisserie Chouquette. All of which are clustered in Botanical Heights, which Poremba considers his home and flagship for Bengelina. “Even when the new restaurant opens up, I’ll be spending most of my time here in Botanical Heights,” he said.


The Scoop: Six Row Brewing Co. ceases operations at Midtown brewpub

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015




Over the weekend, news that Six Row Brewing Co. would close its doors at 3690 Forest Park Ave., was sudden and swift, as reported by St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The 5-year-old brewery and pub made the announcement via Facebook Saturday, June 6, stating that operations at the Midtown location would cease at the end of the day.

Co-owner and brewmaster Evan Hiatt said the next step for Six Row could potentially involve a partnership, but he could not provide specific details. “As soon as we know that the partnership is going to solidify, then we’ll send out a press release,” he said. “I don’t have anything to release yet and the reason for closing is also tied into that.”

The pub was popular with Midtown and area residents, who have lamented Six Row’s closing on social media. “People are bummed,” Hiatt said. “There’s no doubt about it.”



The Scoop: The Pig closes doors in Frontenac, The Shack to open second location in its spot

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015


{Fried chicken at The Pig}


Michael Del Pietro’s latest concept, the Southern-inspired The Pig (formerly The Salted Pig), served up its last plate of ‘cue last Saturday, Feb. 21. As reported by St. Louis Magazine’s George Mahe, The Pig struggled to stand out during its 10-month run at 731 S. Lindbergh Road amid the recent surge of area barbecue eateries.

Del Pietro confirmed the closure, saying the concept just didn’t work out. The Pig was a step outside of his restaurant wheelhouse; his other concepts are a lineup of well-known Italian spots, including Sugo’s, Babbo’s, Tavolo V and Via Vino Enoteca. Del Pietro said he does not have immediate plans for another restaurant and will focus on his other eateries. Sauce reviewed the barbecue spot in October 2014.



{Breakfast fare at The Shack}


The Frontenac space won’t sit idle for long though. Brant Baldanza, co-owner of OG Hospitality Group (Cucina Pazzo, The Tavern and both locations of The Corner Pub & Grill), swept in to nab the space for a second location of The Shack, his breakfast, lunch and “sometimes” dinner concept in Valley Park.

“We were looking for a new location of The Shack for the last nine or 10 months,” Baldanza said. “We really like the concept with breakfast, boozy shakes and the fun atmosphere.” He expects to have the doors open by mid-April or early May.

“What a great area to be in, and we’re just super excited,” said Baldanza, who was quick to note that the new location near his home takes the cake for cutting down his commute.

The Shack first flew as a pub grub concept at 3818 Laclede Ave., in Midtown before making the jump to 13645 Big Bend Road in Valley Park in May 2014, where they zeroed in on morning and mid-afternoon menus. “We feel there’s an absence in the breakfast market that The Shack is trying to fill,” Baldanza said.

Jessie Gilroy, chef de cuisine at Cucina Pazzo and member of this year’s Sauce Ones to Watch class, and Steven Caravelli, executive chef of OG Hospitality, will develop the menu. Breakfast will not deviate much from The Shack’s current list of skillets, omelets and riffs on classics, like the Shack de Madam – two slices of Texas toast loaded with honey-glazed ham, thick-cut bacon, white cheddar cheese plus The Shack’s cheese sauce and a sunny-side up egg. A few changes will be made to the lunch and dinner menus, including wraps and house-smoked specials like chicken wings and prime rib.

Baldanza aims to replicate the bright, fun atmosphere of the Valley Park location. Expect to see repurposed wood door tables, a white tiled backsplash behind the bar and walls covered with guests’ graffiti. The Frontenac space will seat about 130, and Baldanza said developing outdoor seating is possible.

The Scoop: Chef Eric Brenner to helm upcoming Lascelles Granite City Tap & Grill

Thursday, December 4th, 2014



Chef and restaurant consultant Eric Brenner is at it again.  The former chef and general manager of Alumni St. Louis and partner at Fit Fuel 365 is developing a new, upscale-comfort food concept slated to open in Granite City, Illinois by the end of the year.

Brenner hopes Lascelles Granite City Tap & Grill, located kitty-corner from Granite City Hall at 1324 Niedringhaus Ave., will bring more diverse dining options to the community. “There’s a concerted effort to redevelop the Granite City downtown,” said Brenner.

Brenner, who is both executive chef and general manager at Lascelles, has designed the menu around modern riffs of culinary classics, like meat and potatoes or chicken and dumplings. “The combinations are things people will understand,” Brenner said. “But we’ll try to push the boundaries within that name as much as possible.”

For example, his spin on pork and applesauce will feature a porterhouse pork chop topped with a house-made apple compote and served with sweet potato purée and braised red cabbage. Another common combination, beef and barley, will be served as braised short ribs served with barley risotto and roasted seasonal vegetables. Brenner said the menu will also include a lineup of burgers and sandwiches, and he hopes to experiment with house-smoked items, as well.

Appetizers will include dishes like shrimp and grits and mac-n-cheese. For dessert, Brenner looks to put a twist on iconic combinations like coffee and doughnuts or cookies and milk (a gooey butter cookie served with a vanilla milkshake and a spoonful of blueberry sauce). Lunch and dinner will be served Monday through Saturday.

Behind the bar, guests will find 12 taps featuring brews from both sides of the river, along with a variety of domestic cans and bottles. Cocktails and wines by the glass will also be available.

For the past few months, Brenner has helped oversee renovations to the 2,500-square-foot building, which was built in the 1920s as a bank. The interior design will incorporate historic elements of the building, such as the original granite flooring, and the bar will be situated where the bank teller counters once stood. Even the kitchen’s walk-in cooler will be installed in what was once the bank vault.

Brenner estimates Lascelles will seat between 60 and 70 guests with additional seating outside; he hopes to add an adjoining Biergarten come spring.


-photo by Josh Monken


The Scoop: Bob Brazell to open fast-casual fried chicken spot near Cherokee

Monday, November 17th, 2014



Bob Brazell, former executive chef at Athlete Eats, is bringing a new riff on chicken to the old Popeye’s at 3422 S. Jefferson Ave., with a fast-casual concept, Byrd & Barrel. As first reported by St. Louis Magazine, Byrd & Barrel, which is slated to open in January, will allow on-the-go guests to zip through the drive-thru, while others can enjoy the sit-down dining space and bar.

“This is an idea I’ve had for a while,” explained Brazell, who left his post at Athlete Eats in August to launch his catering business Snack STL, which he will continue to operate. “We found this location at Jefferson and Cherokee, and being that it was an old Popeye’s, we decided it would be a chicken-focused restaurant … We want to give people the opportunity to get good, locally sourced food from a drive-thru.”

One of Brazell’s partners is Ben Strake, who also co-owns Tamm Avenue Grill and The Corner Cup, where Brazell recently consulted on the menu. Another partner is Mike Rostek, who has worked for the past eight years at Entertainment Consultants International, most recently as the operations executive at Ballpark Village and a managing partner of PBR St. Louis. Brazell said Strake will handle the marketing and business end of Byrd & Barrel, while Rostek will focus on front-of-house matters.

Brazell plans to feature chicken from different local purveyors in weekly specials. “You’re going to see a lot of different cultural influences on the food,” he said, citing everything from Asian- to Mexican-inspired menu items that push past the expected fried chicken. Some dishes will have their own local flair, such as the Provel-laced mac-n-cheese topped with a mixture of breadcrumbs and Red Hot Riplets (one of Brazell’s favorite guilty pleasures).

Since Brazell plans to cook everything to order, the drive-thru menu will be streamlined with a smaller selection of fried chicken with sides, soups, salads and sandwiches. “It’s not fast food,” explained Brazell. “It’s food that you want to eat.” There will be more options for those who dine in, including starters and a wider selection of main entrees.

With about 50 varieties, canned beer will certainly dominate the beverage list, but Brazell mentioned bottle-only breweries will not be excluded. Wine and a modest list of specialty cocktails will also be available.

Renovations to the dining room and kitchen are currently underway, and Brazell estimates that there will be around 30 seats, inside while the patio will add an additional 45 during warmer weather. Byrd & Barrel will offer lunch and dinner and will likely cater to the late-night Cherokee crowd. “It’s going to be a good atmosphere where people want to go and hang out,” Brazell said.

-photo by Greg Rannells

The Scoop: Vincent Van Doughnut to open shop in Clayton

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014



For Brian Marsden, owner of Vincent Van Doughnut food truck and soon-to-be Clayton storefront at 40 N. Central Ave., the love of doughnuts runs deep.

“As a kid, I would go through sleeves of those processed, powdered sugar doughnuts,” said Marsden, a more than 20-year veteran of the restaurant industry. Love for the fried treat followed Marsden into adulthood, and in November 2013, a 1960 Ford Grumman Olson step van known affectionately as “Clyde” began rolling St. Louis streets, serving up a wide variety of classic and specialty doughnut creations.

“Things just took off,” said Marsden, who received a call to compete on the premiere of Cooking Channel’s “Donut Showdown” soon after launching the food truck. Vincent Van Doughnut clinched first place, bringing home bragging rights and $10,000.

As first reported by Feast Magazine, Vincent Van Doughnut is now expanding its business with a brick and mortar slated to open late December. “We have been looking for a storefront for over a year,” explained Marsden. “In Clayton, we found what we wanted.”

The new Vincent Van Doughnut will land next door to Barcelona Tapas in the space that was previously home to Pomme, at 12 N. Meramec Ave. Marsden says fans of the food truck needn’t worry; they can continue to catch Vincent Van Doughnut curbside throughout St. Louis, too.

Marsden envisions the storefront like a European cafe, offering breakfast and coffee options to complement its lineup of classic and artisanal doughnuts. Other offerings will likely include scones and croissants, and Marsden is also considering items like Alumni’s decadent Vincent Van Doughnut-pudding made with his cake doughnuts.

Inside, the storefront has exposed brick, hardwood floors and enough space for just under 20 seats. Marsden expects to be open early, around 6 a.m., to cater to the Clayton work crowd, but he said he might have late-night hours on the weekends to accommodate bar goers.

The new location will also place Marsden near his brother, Brendan Marsden, who heads Whitebox Eatery at 176 Carondelet Plaza. “We’re stoked,” Brian Marsden said. “The response to Vincent Van Doughnut has been overwhelming, and we’re excited to keep growing.”


The Scoop: Racanelli’s New York Pizzeria to open fifth location in The Loop

Thursday, September 25th, 2014


{Racanelli’s owner John Racanelli}


A slice of the Big Apple is coming to the Delmar Loop thanks to John Racanelli, owner of Racanelli’s New York Pizzeria, who will open his fifth storefront at 6314 Delmar Blvd., in November.

Racanelli learned the art of pizza-making growing up in an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx. “I learned to make pizza the old-fashioned way,” he said. “We make everything from scratch using the best products.” His brothers, Vito and Sam Racanelli, were also inspired by their food-oriented Italian upbringing, opening Onesto Pizza & Trattoria in South City and later Mad Tomato in Clayton, which is still owned and operated by Vito Racanelli.

The first Racanelli’s Pizzeria storefront was opened two decades ago in University City, which was later transformed into Market Pub House in 2010 and is still owned by John Racanelli.

The menu will remain consistent with the offerings found at the Kirkwood, Webster Groves, Central West End and St. Peters locations. While slices of hand-tossed, New York-style pizzas are the house specialty (Racanelli’s personal favorite: sausage, mushroom and jalapeno with extra cheese, cooked well-done), other crowd-pleasers include parmigiana heroes topped with a generous ladle of fresh tomato sauce, sandwiches on house-baked focaccia and house-made calzones and strombolis.

Construction crews began work on the new storefront in mid-September in the space that formerly housed the vintage designer clothing shop, Timeless Authentic Garments. Racanelli expects two dozen seats inside and an additional 10 to 15 seats outside. The new location will also offer dine-in, carryout and delivery.


The Scoop: SugarfirePie to open in Olivette

Thursday, August 21st, 2014


{Carolyn Downs of soon-to-open Sugarfire Pie}

Desserts are taking center stage at Sugarfire Smoke House’s latest venture set to open this October in Olivette – a sweets-centric storefront showcasing the pies and treats of co-owner and long-time pastry chef Carolyn Downs. As initially reported by Feast Magazine, Sugarfire Pie will be located in the former space of L’Ecole Culinare Academy at 9200 Olive Blvd., which happens to be a mere two doors down from the original Sugarfire Smoke House.

Sugarfire co-owner Mike Johnson said Sugarfire Pie is a solution to the cramped conditions and growing demands Downs has faced while baking in the Olivette kitchen. “We have such little space, and we’re cooking there 24 hours a day,” said Johnson, who estimates that Downs bakes roughly 500 pies a week and a few hundred cookies each day.

Downs, who also owns and bakes at the dessert-driven Cyrano’s in Webster Groves, plans to capitalize on the new space by adding to her repertoire of decadent creations. Alongside her infamous crack pie (a pie we love so much that it made our list of 10 Pies to Try) and chocolate chip cookies studded with flakes of smoked sea salt, Downs plans to churn out soft serve chocolate and vanilla custard that will be topped with everything from crumbled slices of pie and cake to Sugarfire’s own house-made bacon dipped in chocolate.

Downs’ lineup of pies will come in all shapes and sizes, including pop tarts, hand pies, gooey butter pies and whoopie pies. She also plans to offer Cyrano’s bread pudding, a cake of the week and a variety of cookies.

Inside Sugarfire Pie, an open kitchen will allow guests to watch as Downs and her team mix, roll and bake their creations. Johnson estimates about 16 seats and said the shop will be decked out in a 1950s motif with an eclectic spirit similar to Sugarfire Smoke House. Expect to see retro TV sets, tile mosaics and plenty of vintage mid-century décor.

Sugarfire Pie will be open daily for dine-in or carryout service and will offer online ordering. Specific hours have yet to be determined.

The Scoop: Pittsburgh-based Walnut Grill to open in Ellisville

Monday, June 9th, 2014



Walnut Grill, an upscale casual restaurant with three locations in its native Pittsburgh, is making the 600-mile trek along Intestate 70 to fill the space in Ellisville at 1386 Clarkson Clayton Center Drive, the former home of a Chevys Fresh Mex. As first reported by the St. Louis Business Journal, Walnut Grill is expected to open in late October or early November, with three or four other area locations to follow in the next four years.

Walnut Grill Holdings president Kirk Vogel said that since 2005, Walnut Grill has made it a goal to expand from Steel City to the places along the I-70 corridor. “There are multiple towns along the way that have very similar demographics to what we have here in Pittsburgh,” he said, adding that St. Louis was a natural bookend for the project since the growing suburbs and a Midwestern culture can appreciate the family-friendly concept.

On the menu, Walnut Grill offers a long list of small plates ranging from lobster-laced mac-n-cheese to sweet chili chicken lettuce wraps. Entrees cover all culinary bases with seafood, steaks, chops, chicken and pasta options. Sandwiches, soups and salads round out the rest of the contemporary American menu. Both gluten-free and kid-friendly menus are available upon request.

A serious sweet tooth will be satisfied with desserts like a caramelized walnut ball – a scoop of French vanilla ice cream rolled in caramelized walnuts and topped with chocolate, caramel and whipped cream. Walnut Grill also offers wines by the glass and bottle, a large selection of draft and bottled beers and specialty cocktails.

Renovations are slated to kick off July 1. When finished, Walnut Grill will have a redesigned entrance, an expanded patio space with fire pits and a vibrant dining room and bar area.

The Scoop: Rise Coffee House to go mobile in August

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014


{The recently acquired, soon-to-be mobile Rise coffee truck}


St. Louis’ food truck fleet adds yet another to its ranks with word that Rise Coffee House, which opened in September 2013 at 4180 Manchester Ave., in The Grove, is bringing the first java-concentrated concept to the streets in August. Nick and Sara Endejan, manager and barista at Rise, respectively, co-own the truck in partnership with Rise owner, Jessie Mueller. The husband-and-wife team wanted a mobile way to caffeinate St. Louisans without sacrificing the experience of a quality coffee house. “In other, bigger cities, there are coffee trucks already rolling down the streets,” Sara Endejan said.

On board, expect to find a full line of cafe options, including hand-brewed coffees, pour-overs and traditional espresso drinks. Like the brick-and-mortar, Whisk: A Sustainable Bakeshop will supply the truck’s line of breakfast treats, ranging from savory scones and seasonal muffins to gluten-free pastries. The truck will use beans from Blueprint, Goshen and Sump, although Endejan said she hopes to feature other roasters currently unavailable at Rise. Tea-sippers can enjoy a selection of ReTrailer products.

Art Farm, a screen-printing shop and graphic design studio that initially helped brand Rise, is currently designing the exterior of the food truck. Look for the same eye-catching shade of teal and eclectic array of accents Rise currently sports at the coffee house.

In other mobile food news, the popular sandwich shop Fozzie’s Sandwich Emporium caused buzz online when it tweeted an image of its new catering truck, prompting questions about a potential Fozzie’s food truck. A manager at the shop’s Richmond Heights location, as well as a follow-up tweet, confirmed that, for now, the truck will only be used for catering.

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