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Mar 03, 2015
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First Look: Zydeco Blues

Friday, December 5th, 2014

If you’ve been gasping for New Orleans cuisine in West County, drink deep at the new oasis at 1090 Old Des Peres Road in Des Peres. Zydeco Blues, which tapped former 1111 Mississippi executive chef Wade Waller and sous chef Ian Martin to skipper its kitchen, opened the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, boasting a menu rife with New Orleans and Cajun standbys.

Savory, hush puppy-like beignets served with honey butter welcome guests to their tables and make for fine finger food while perusing the selection of Big Easy standards like etouffee, po’boys, red beans and rice, jambalaya and others. Soups, salads and whimsical starters, like the Asian-inspired crawfish potstickers, also make an appearance. Six house-made desserts are available, including sweet beignets with raspberry dipping sauce and creme brulee laid over with bananas Foster.

At the bar, look for eight draft beers (including several local offering), 14 wines by the glass and more by the bottle, and a selection of NOLA beverages, including bottled Abita beer and house-made hurricanes. All of it’s served behind a gargantuan reclaimed wooden bar from the late 19th century, the top newly resurfaced with gleaming copper.

At the moment, much of the decor is in progress while owner Ron Gordon select artwork for the walls, but expect more Big Easy than Mardi Gras, Gordon said. He is opting for an aesthetic that honors New Orleans’ musical roots – indeed, on Friday and Saturday evenings the dining room will host live blues, rock and other music (presumably zydeco, at least once).

Zydeco Blues is open Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.


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-photos by Michelle Volansky

First Look: Grapeseed

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

In February, The Scoop reported that chef Ben Anderson would open a restaurant at 5400 Nottingham Ave., in the South Hampton neighborhood. After months of renovation, the wait is over. Grapeseed quietly opened Friday, Sept. 19.

The menu is divided into snacks, small plates, sandwiches and entrees. The restaurant sources from numerous local purveyors, including meat from Rain Crow Ranch and Todd Geisert Farms, produce from Double Star Farms and breads from Companion and La Bonne Bouche.

Wine figures heavily in the beverage program. Patrons will find nearly 50 wines – 16 by the glass – on the menu. Craft beer enthusiasts can select from six local brews on tap; another 16 are available in bottled format. The cocktail menu holds nine drinks, including Todd’s Famous Sangria, created by bar manager Todd Brutcher. Brutcher keeps his sangria seasonal; the current offering is bursting with apple flavors, while butternut squash will make an appearance in the weeks ahead.

The remodeled interior features woodwork by local green-builder Mwanzi. The majority of the wood used for tables, banquettes and accent pieces, hails from the restaurant’s own space, including stairs repurposed into tabletops. Grapeseed also offers patio seating both near the front entrance and on a secluded back patio. Open Tuesday through Sunday, Grapeseed currently offers dinner; lunch service is anticipated in the near future.


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-photos by Meera Nagarajan

First Look: Butchery

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Carnivores, prepare your grills and break out your roasting pans. Full-service butcher shop and food emporium Butchery has opened its doors. In June, Truffles announced it would add the meat market next door to the restaurant at 9202 Clayton Road in Ladue. Since quietly unlocking doors in late August, Butchery has seen a steady flow of patrons hungry for everything from house-made sausages to premium cuts of beef.

Truffles executive chef Brandon Benack directs operations at Butchery, while meat geek Andrew Jennrich helms the chopping block. Together, they’ve created a unique shop. “Few people in St. Louis are dealing with whole animals,” said Jennrich, noting that Butchery can provide hard-to-find cuts like tomahawk steaks and secreto, a little-know piece near the pork belly, all typically not available at other butcher shops.

While beef, pork, lamb and chicken are sourced from highly regarded local and regional farms, Butchery also makes numerous meat products in-house. It boasts a state-of-the-art aging room for curing charcuterie and offers prepared and ready-to-cook items like sausages, beef patties and pork potpies. Butchery even renders animal fat and sells it in 8-ounce containers. “We’re selling flavor,” Benack said. The Butchery will even marinate your cut for free using the Cryovac machine at Truffles to vacuum-seal it.

Apart from all the meaty goodness, patrons will find local cheeses, myriad house-made condiments, grab-and-go sides, a sandwich menu, a selection of boutique pantry perks and wines that hail from Truffles’ award-winning wine list.

The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Here’s a look at what’s happening at Butchery:


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-photos by Meera Nagarajan

First Look: Ices Plain & Fancy

Friday, August 8th, 2014

The late Victorians – Agnes B. Marshall among them – jived so resolutely with the myth of eternal return that they doubtless would be proud to see some of their culinary techniques at work today at Ices Plain & Fancy, one of newest, and zaniest, storefronts for a sweet tooth at 2256 S. 39th St.

Marshall, who pioneered a series of dessert-making techniques in 19th-century London before her premature demise, has been pulled from obscurity by college chums Troika Brodsky (communications director at Schlafly), Darla Crask, Max Crask (former executive chef at Tripel) and Matthew Deutschmann, who opened the shop together in late July.

At first glance, the corner ice cream shop in the Shaw neighborhood is a modest little boutique, with mosaic tile floors and a large portrait of Marshall hanging on the wall, along with a few blown-up pages selected from her oeuvre of culinary books. Ices Plain & Fancy is a title of Marshall’s, borrowed for the name of the shop. All of it belies the positively weird science going on inside the kitchen.

Exhibit A: the 5-foot industrial liquid nitrogen tanks standing behind the glass-walled ice cream bar. At less than 321 degrees below zero, the dangerously cold liquid nitrogen is piped through a nozzle and poured directly into Nitro Ices, ice cream made to order in stainless stand mixers while you watch from behind the glass. The nitrogen freezes the cream rapidly enough to prevent the formation of ice crystals, resulting in an ultra-smooth, silky texture. (And don’t be alarmed – the nitrogen evaporates harmlessly when mixed with the cream.)

Though Ices hasn’t even thrown a grand opening celebration, the magic is spreading. Lines are starting to accumulate around the corner, and the staff already goes through a tank of nitrogen a day.

The Nitro Ices are offered in around seven rotating flavors, each of which can be made vegan with soy ingredients. They can be served in a cup, cake cone or a house-made waffle cone. Also on the menu is vanilla-flavored soft serve ice cream and Sump Pump, soft serve infused with “an obscene amount” of Sump Coffee’s Ethiopian roast, according to Crask. A special flavor of Nitro Ice and sorbet are rotated every couple days, and behind the counter, a refrigerator holds a generous selection of artisan sodas, including Virgil’s Root Beer, Cheerwine, Fitz’s and more.

Ever the experimenters, the owners are in the process of acquiring a liquor license for making booze-infused ice cream. And while ice cream is the only offering at the moment, the prospect of other food appearing on the menu isn’t far off the horizon, Brodsky said. Before they can take on that challenge, the madcap ice cream quartet has their hands full performing their peculiar brand of science theater, like some scene from those turn-of-the-century fairs in London, or St. Louis, their encircled clientele observing in wide-eyed wonder.


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 -photos by Michelle Volansky

First Look: Bocci Wine Bar

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Former Italian restaurant Bocci at 16 N. Central Ave., in Clayton recently underwent a space and menu renovation to become Bocci Wine Bar. As The Scoop reported in April, Bocci Wine Bar’s new focus is wine and small plate, wine-friendly fare.

Among the changes at the reinvented spot, Bocci Wine Bar is now one of a handful of St. Louis restaurants to offer wine on tap from stainless steel barrels. “White wine is stored in its own compartment kept at 40 degrees and red wines at 54 degrees,” said owner Frank Schmitz, who also owns Barcelona Tapas and Coastal Bistro in Clayton. Two-ounce wine flights are also available for those interested in tasting and comparing a larger selection.

Executive chef Neil Alkobri’s menu is organized simply by farm, land and sea and is loosely based on the flavors of the Mediterranean. The regular menu is also accompanied by wine and food from a different region of the world each month. May recently featured Argentina; signature wines from the region were paired with ceviche, quinoa cakes, beef empanadas and churrasco. June focuses on French wine and cuisine.

While menu items feature locally sourced ingredients, it doesn’t get much more local than Thursday evenings, when diners can bring items purchased at the Clayton Farmers Market and hand them over to Alkobri, who will return a market-inspired dish to the table. A recent visit yielded a just-picked vegetable flatbread with zucchini, summer squash, asparagus and radishes, while another diner feasted on Naked Bacon-wrapped scallops.

Some elements remain untouched, like Bocci’s fabulous bi-fold window wall on Central Avenue that opens to seamlessly blend the restaurant and patio areas. It’s an ideal spot for a glass of wine on a beautiful day.

The restaurant is open Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m. Here’s a look at what to expect at the new Bocci Wine Bar:


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First Look: Death in the Afternoon

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Like the expat loungers of Hemingway’s Pamplona, the midday clientele at Death in the Afternoon, located at the corner of Citygarden at 808 Chestnut St., might well start losing themselves in carefree lunch rendezvous. Co-owners Adam Frager and TJ Vytlacil, who also own members-only downtown spot Blood & Sand, have been hard at work, and devotees have noticed: Though its official opening took place today, June 9, Death in the Afternoon was serving lunch to crowds (many of them Blood & Sand members), as early as last Thursday, June 5. Yet unlike its exclusive older sibling, Death in the Afternoon is open to the public Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Executive chef Nick Martinkovic, who joined Blood & Sand in January, is putting the finishing touches on the menu of soups, sandwiches and salads with Japanese and Mediterranean flair. Some entrees, like pork ramen and falafel, are still being tweaked in the kitchen but will roll out in the first month.

The somewhat inchoate bar program is still being set up, too, though 10 draft beers and six wines by the glass are expected to be available this week. Brewers Mike Sinclair and Chris Gaglio will operate Upper 90 Brewing Company in the restaurant’s basement prep area, a separate venture that will brew small batches for Death in the Afternoon. No cocktail menu is planned, though spirits are available behind the bar.

Blood & Sand members may still be surprised at Death in the Afternoon’s adjusted concept – sleek, uncloistered, nonexclusive and, for now, staunchly devoted to lunch (though brunch service is on the horizon). The name, borrowed from an early title of Hemingway’s and, later, a cocktail he invented, actually is inspired by the vistas from the dining room floor. Frager said Citygarden’s foliage, on full display through the floor-to-ceiling glass, reminded him of the gardens at Papa H’s Key West, Florida, estate – not to mention the duo’s first venture was named for a cocktail, too.

Here’s a first look at what you’ll find downtown at Death in the Afternoon:


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-photos by Garrett Faulkner

First Look: Grand Hall and Grand Hall Market at Union Station

Monday, May 12th, 2014

St. Louisans cheered in 1985 when Union Station, once a bustling passenger rail terminal, was restored and redeveloped as a mixed-use project that included shopping, dining, lodging and entertainment. The historic landmark is seeing new life yet again with the $30 million renovation by Lodging Hospitality Management, which purchased Union Station in 2012. Grand Hall and Grand Hall Market were revealed to the public Saturday, May 10, marking the completion of the first phase of renovation.

Housed under a soaring 65-foot ceiling, the sweeping Grand Hall features a 70-foot, 22-seat bar and lounge where patrons can enjoy beer, wine and cocktails, and small plates. Grand Hall Market includes a Starbucks, gift shop and model train display.

The Midway at Union Station is already complete, and 30,000 square feet of event space now hold court where shops formerly sat. Phase two of the project will include renovation to guest rooms at St. Louis Union Station Hotel. Other plans include updates to meeting rooms, the hotel restaurant and the hotel’s front desk. St. Louis Union Station is currently open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Here’s what’s in store at one of St. Louis’ most treasured landmarks:


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First Look: Sweetology

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Need a sugar rush? Sweetology will help you get your fix. The new entertainment retail concept focuses on a hands-on baked goods decorating experience, as The Scoop reported in January. Sweetology opened doors April 29 at 9214 Clayton Road in Ladue, in the space previously occupied by the Women’s Exchange of St. Louis.

In addition to decorating a cake, cupcake or baked good (sourced from The Cup), patrons can relax in a small lounge area called The Drinkery with a beverage and a sweet bite or two. “Our brand is somewhere between sprinkles and chocolate martinis,” said co-owner Kara Newmark. Sweetology also sells bulk candy and grab-and-go decorated cupcakes, cakes, cookies and cake-related gifts.

The decorating experience is available on a drop-in basis or by reservation. Seating for 32 is available in the workshop area. A private space upstairs is also available for parties. Here, a first look at Sweetology:


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-photos by Michelle Volansky

First Look: Art Bar St. Louis

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Doors recently opened at Art Bar St. Louis on April 25, revealing a creative, colorful space brimming with local artistic touches at 2732 Cherokee St. Co-owners Tom Halaska and Tatyana Telnikova told The Scoop in January they wanted to create a bar that embraced all kinds of art – visual, performance, musical and more. Already, local artists cover the walls with two large murals and about a dozen paintings for sale.

A 54-foot-long bar dominates the space, offering seats for 20 to 25 patrons. Halaska said Art Bar St. Louis currently does not have a drink list, as he wants the customers’ orders and the bartenders’ creativity to determine the menu. However, this doesn’t mean options are limited. The bar is well stocked with a growing selection of 15 wines by the glass, five local draft beers, several bottled brews, and plenty of spirits to go around. The Art Bar crew is also creating its own house simple syrups, like Serrano mint, lavender and beet.

Those feeling peckish can select from a daily menu of charcuterie, cheese and house-made pickles to create a board of their choice. Or order up a paper cone of freshly popped popcorn seasoned with the flavor of the day, from orange chipotle to tequila lime. Art Bar St. Louis will soon serve up their own pierogis, prepped at HandleBar (Telikova’s other restaurant), and Halaska said there are plans to build a kitchen and eventually serve a full menu.

Hours are Monday to Saturday from 4 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Here, a look at what to expect at Art Bar St. Louis:


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-photos by Michelle Volansky

Three Reasons to stop in for sipping at the new 3500 Winehaus

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

100710_3500WinehausWelcome to Three Reasons, a new online column that tells you exactly why to visit certain spots around town. We won’t just tell you that a new restaurant has opened, we’ll tell you what dish we’d get there. We won’t simply report that a festival is happening this weekend, we’ll tell you which parts can’t be missed. Consider them recommendations or think of them as simple suggestions. Either way, here’s three reasons …

The grand opening celebration at 3500 Winehaus is Oct. 8 and 9, and owners John and Marci Kuehner have given customers at their wine bar and retail shop at 3500 Watson Road a handful of reasons to stop by. Here’s what we like:

1. If you don’t feel like ordering a bottle from the selection of 82 wines, you’re bound to find something on the by-the-glass menu that features 12 reds, 12 whites and two sparkling wines from around the globe.

2. The Kuehners support the city by purchasing salami, coppa and mortadella from establishments on The Hill, and Turkish bread dips (think baba ganoush, hummus and that roasted red pepper pleaser, biber ezme) from Aya Sofia. The wine bar doesn’t have a kitchen for making their apps and the Kuehners could be grabbing prepped food from, say, Sam’s. We’re glad they didn’t.

3. A plan for all seasons. The interior is tastefully decorated but when you need a breath of fresh air, the covered patio in front will be a respite. As the weather cools, they will be adding side flaps to ward off the chill and opening a back patio with a fire pit. In January, renovation of the basement commences. Upon completion, the room will service wine tastings and private dinner parties.

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