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Jan 28, 2015
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The Scoop

The Scoop: Tiny Bar to open downtown in April

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015



Downtown St. Louis will gain an itty bitty bar this spring. Tiny Bar will be set up a 250-square-foot shop in the lobby at 1008 Locust St. The bar, set to open in April, is a joint venture between Aaron Perlut (pictured), Andrew Barnett and Brian Cross of public relations firm Elasticity and the building’s owner Daniel Cook, as reported by St. Louis Business Journal. Elasticity is located on the third floor of the same building.

“It was a really instinctive decision in that Dan was trying to find a use for the space,” Perlut said. “We really wanted to create a very unique space that would complement what’s already downtown and serve high-quality beverages.”

True to its name, The Tiny Bar will seat just eight to 12 people, and Perlut said Tiny Bar will serve wine, five local craft beers on draft and top-shelf liquor and cocktails. We’ve been working with (co-owner) Ted Charack from Planter’s House to create a drink menu. We certainly won’t be relying on any of the (Elasticity) owners’ expertise for that stuff.”



The Scoop: The Wine Merchant prepares to move to larger location

Monday, January 26th, 2015



After 20 years on South Hanley Road, The Wine Merchant will relocate just two blocks away at 7817 Forsyth Blvd., as reported by St. Louis Business Journal. Wine Merchant vice president Jason Main said plans to move the specialty shop first surfaced in spring 2014 when a developer approached shop management.

Rehab to the space, the former home of First National Bank, began in late fall. “There will be an amazing level of rehab,” Main said. “The interior will be mezzanine style. We’re getting a new computer system, a new wine rack and liquor cabinet. It will be the coolest wine shop in St. Louis.”

Other building improvements include two second-floor event spaces. Main said the rooms, which will seat about 30 people each, will be used for more frequent, enhanced classes, winemaker symposiums and private tastings. “People call up and want a class for eight people,” Main said. “The new space will mostly be able to accommodate that. We’re also talking about adding Sunday classes. We’re in uncharted territory. We’re going to take it slow and see what develops and what the public wants.”

While some elements are expanding, the shop’s extensive selection of wine and cheese will remain the same “We like to keep it seasonal,” he said. “All of our employees have tasted the wines, and … we taste everything before we buy it.”

Look for The Wine Merchant to move into its new building in late spring or early summer.



The Scoop: Tony’s to open casual downtown cafe, Tony’s A.M.

Friday, January 23rd, 2015


{Vince Bommarito Jr.}


Tony’s Restaurant has relaxed its dress code, but if those nice tablecloths still intimidate you, you may feel more at home at the Bommarito family’s forthcoming casual cafe, Tony’s A.M., it’s opening mid-February at 10 S. Broadway, as reported by the St. Louis Business Journal, and will be located just down the street from the downtown icon of Italian cuisine. Tony’s A.M. will operate under the direction of Tony’s executive chef, Vince Bommarito Jr.

Hours will be 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and prices between $3 and $10 at the counter-service cafe, which will serve made-to-order breakfast and lunch, plus desserts by Tony’s pastry chef Helen Fletcher. Morning options will include breakfast sandwiches and pastries by Fletcher, while the lunch menu will feature hot and cold sandwiches made from fresh-roasted turkey, ham and roast beef, plus salads and three soups.

The new eatery won’t serve alcohol, but local roaster Chauvin Coffee will provide coffee service and craft a special blend for Tony’s A.M., which will also sell Chauvin beans.

Bommarito said wasn’t planning to open a morning restaurant, but he agreed to it when the building’s management company offered him the space. He anticipates the cafe will draw customers from the building’s other tenants, which include law and accounting firms, and which will gain around 200 new people next month when architecture firm HOK moves in.

-photo by Carmen Troesser



The Scoop: Companion to move baking operations to new facility in Maryland Heights

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015


{Companion owner Josh Allen}


Companion has recently annouced plans to move its headquarters, including the Companion outlet, from its current location in the Dutchtown neighborhood to a new 41,000-square-foot facility at 2331 Schuetz Road in Maryland Heights. Construction is slated to begin in March with the move scheduled for August. The new facility will house baking operations, a private event space, a baking school for home cooks and a 60-seat cafe serving breakfast and lunch.




Companion owner and founder Josh Allen said he has finally reached the end of the two year search for a new location. The 4.5 acres in Maryland Heights will provide opportunities to increase Companion’s overall capacity and growth, he said, as well as add more space and improved climate controls, safety and sanitation processes. It will also let him connect with his clientele in a new way.

“We want to teach folks about what we do,” Allen said. “The cafe will be right on the production floor, so our bakers can show off their work and people can see them in action. We’ll be able to better accommodate tours, too. We’ve been missing that personal interaction.”

-photos by Spencer Pernikoff

The Scoop: Mastermind Vodka to move from Illinois to Missouri

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015



Illinois-based Mastermind Vodka  is moving its award-winning spirits across the muddy Mississippi. Taking over the space formerly occupied by The Nest at 10440 German Blvd., in Frontenac, Mastermind hopes to open its distilling operations, tasting room and restaurant by mid-April.

While the restaurant’s concept, chef and bartender are still in the works, the makers of the small-batch vodka and moonshine are confident about their new location.

“Pontoon Beach is a wonderful place, but we wanted to branch out,” said spokesman John Parker. “The central location balances West County, South County and the central corridor.”

The restaurant will seat up to 150 inside with plans to create outdoor seating. Mastermind Vodka products are currently distributed to retailers in the St. Louis and Chicago areas.

The Scoop: Guerrilla Street Food signs on for a brick-and-mortar

Monday, January 19th, 2015


{Guerrilla Street Food at Food Truck Friday}


Heads up, South Grand: a Filipino invasion is headed your way this spring. Co-owner Brian Hardesty announced that his popular food truck Guerrilla Street Food has signed a lease to open a brick-and-mortar location at 3024 S. Grand Blvd., as reported by St. Louis Magazine.

The space, formerly occupied by Sekisui, sits at the intersection of Grand and Arsenal Streets at the burgeoning dining and entertainment district in Tower Grove. Hardesty said he anticipates an April opening. “We love the South Grand neighborhood,” he said. “It’s a place that we go when we get off work … It’s a great community and we just want to be a part of it.”

Hardesty, who left his position as executive chef at Element in November, said the 1,500-square-foot space would allow for about 24 seats inside and about 12 on the adjoining patio. He envisions a fast-casual spot open for lunch and dinner service with an expanded menu of Guerrilla Street favorites and new offerings. “(We’ll) more than double our current menu,” Hardesty said. “We’ll add a bunch of side dishes … There are so many new dishes from the Philippines we have yet to explore.”

Guerrilla Street Food joins a growing list of food trucks that have added brick-and-mortar spaces to their operations. Lulu’s Local Eatery opened in May 2014 in the same neighborhood, and Seoul Taco relocated to a larger location at 6665 Delmar Blvd. in University City in December 2014.

Can’t wait until April to get your Filipino fix? It’s business as usual on the food truck, which will continue to roll after the brick-and-mortar opening. Hardesty is also opening a Guerrilla Street satellite kitchen at 33 Wine Bar at 1913 Park Ave., in Lafayette Square. The food begins flying this Friday, Jan. 23, and will continue every Friday and Saturday night.

-photo by Michelle Volansky


The Scoop: Miss Leon’s Soul Food Restaurant, Bombers Hideaway open in The Grove

Thursday, January 15th, 2015



Serving soul food with a side of entertainment, Miss Leon’s Soul Food Restaurant and Bombers Hideaway bar and event venue opened Jan. 5 at 3960 Chouteau Ave., formerly the home of Bad Dog Bar & Grill.

Leon Augustus Braxton Jr. is the chef at the eponymous soul-food establishment, which is tucked into the Bombers Hideaway building but has a separate kitchen and dining area. Braxton formerly cooked at CJ’s On the Hill and Rehab Bar & Grill, both owned by Chad Fox and Jim Weckmann, who also own Bombers Hideaway.

“I’ve been frying chicken my whole life,” Braxton said. “I’ve grown up on comfort food: food your grandma fixed you when you were sick, food your family had after church on Sunday morning. I focus on the food I grew up on.”

Miss Leon’s is open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. Children are welcome until 7 p.m., and for $10 on Sundays, diners are treated to all-you-can-eat fried chicken.

The big hit so far has been chicken gizzards, Braxton said, and other menu items include catfish, chicken-fried steak, macaroni and cheese and greens.

The restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol, but there’s plenty available at the Bombers Hideaway bar. “I don’t want to have to deal with my own liquor license,” Braxton said. “I like the give and take that a restaurant and a bar have for each other.”

Entertainment at Bombers Hideaway ranges from line-dancing lessons to dart competitions to cabaret shows, which take place in the large adjoining event space, a converted warehouse with stage lighting and a performance platform.

-photo courtesy of Timrek Photography 

The Scoop: Grbic family wins ‘Guy’s Grocery Games,’ announce plans to open new Lemmons

Thursday, January 15th, 2015


{From left, Erna, Ermin and Senada Grbic}


Three South St. Louis siblings cooked up a recipe for success during their Jan. 11 appearance on The Food Network. Senada, Erna and Ermin Grbic of Grbic Restaurant won Guy’s Grocery Games, a culinary competition hosted by network personality Guy Fieri. The Grbic clan bested three other families from around the country to win a $10,000 cash prize. They also advanced to an additional round for a chance to win a final $20,000 shopping spree.

According to Ermin Grbic, Grbic’s restaurant manager, the family was recommended for the show and went through rounds of interviews before making it onto the program, which he described as an “unreal” experience.

“After you get in the zone you don’t even notice the lights or camera people,” he said. “It’s just like being in the kitchen with my siblings, just working together like we always do.”

The siblings will use their winnings to send their parents on vacation and to reinvest the money back into their South City restaurant, which taps the family’s Bosnian roots to create its popular Eastern European cuisine.

The Grbics are also in the process of opening a new restaurant concept; they recently purchased the building that once housed Lemmons, which they plan on reopening in the summer as a sports bar. Senada Grbic said the new space will honor its former  in both name and menu; they plan to call the space Lemmons or Lemmons by Grbic. “I’m hoping to do the menu sort of like the original Lemmons with more of a modern fusion,” Senada Grbic said. “We don’t want to mess with the history of the place.”


The Scoop: Embattled Trattoria Branica shuttered

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015


Italian eatery Trattoria Branica, which occupied a storefront in Le Chateau Village in Frontenac, has closed, as reported by the St. Louis Business Journal. B & F Enterprises, which owns the property, confirmed the closing. “Unfortunately, (the restaurant was) not able to keep up with their obligations,” said Barbara Kantrovitz, a B & F representative. She would not elaborate further on the reasons for the closing, but she added that a search is ongoing for a new restaurant tenant to fill the space.

Former owner Sam Kacar relinquished the restaurant to his ex-wife Rebecca Kacar in a 2012 divorce settlement. Court documents collected by the St. Louis Business Journal reflect a series of tax liens imposed on Rebecca Kacar in 2014, as well as a landlord action suit filed by B & F enterprises in September against the restaurant owner.

Calls to Trattoria Branica for comment were not returned.



The Scoop: Patrick Connolly leaves Basso

Monday, January 12th, 2015


{From left, Patrick and Suzanne Connolly in their home}


Chef Patrick Connolly is no longer at the helm of Basso, the Italian gastropub in the basement of The Restaurant at The Cheshire. The James Beard Award-winning chef confirmed he has left St. Louis, moving back to the East Coast with his wife, Suzanne Connolly. His last day at Basso was Dec. 22, 2014.

Connolly said after two years with Lodging Hospitality Management, the company that owned Basso, it was time to move on. “It was never the right fit,” Connolly said. “I love the O’Loughlins and I love my team at Basso, but it was tough … It’s a hotel company and it never quite fit into the way that I run a kitchen.”

Connolly arrived in St. Louis in November 2012 and helped open doors at Basso just 19 days after moving in. A St. Louis native, Connolly made a name for himself in New York City, earning a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast in 2008.

LHM president Steve O’Loughlin said he was sorry to see Connolly go but was not surprised by the decision. “His ultimate dream is to open up his own place, and I feel fortunate that he helped us get off the ground and get us where we are now,” O’Loughlin said. “I just wish it was longer … I was just hoping he would love St. Louis and maybe change his mind, and end up staying with us.”

Connolly said currently he plans to move to Philadelphia to assist a friend with his three restaurants. Though he has no immediate plans, the chef said he does intend to open his own restaurant one day in New York. The move also allows the Connollys, including their new child, to be closer to his wife’s family. “It was more of a personal decision to move back east,” he said.

O’Loughlin said Rex Hale, executive chef at The Restaurant at The Cheshire, now oversees all culinary operations at The Cheshire. “The idea is to still embrace what Patrick has downstairs,” O’Loughlin said. “I don’t want to tweak too much that’s going on down there. I love everything that Patrick has done … I can’t wait to see what he creates in New York.”


-photo by Greg Rannells

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