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Nov 27, 2014
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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The Scoop

The Scoop: Ferguson community bands together for storefront clean up

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

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{Volunteers cut sections of plywood for boarding up broken windows at Snappy’s Bar and Grill}

 

Rocked by protests and looting in the wake of Monday’s grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown, the Ferguson community turned out in force today, Nov. 25, to help local restaurants and businesses sweep up and rebuild. South Florissant Avenue swarmed with volunteers, who boarded up broken windows, cleared away glass and comforted the distraught.

 

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{At left, Natalie’s Cakes & More owner Natalie DuBose, and at right, family friend Cynthia Smith}

 

Natalie DuBose, owner of Natalie’s Cakes & More greeted visitors outside her storefront at 100 S. Florissant Road, while volunteers nailed sheets of plywood to an empty window frame. A chair had been thrown through it in the middle of the night. “This is not going to stop us,” said Cynthia Smith, a family friend.

Up and down the street, the outpouring set a vastly different tone from the near-deserted West Florissant Road corridor, which as of this morning was roped after several buildings were set ablaze during the night. Police checkpoints turned around individuals attempting to enter the area, including members of the press.

On South Florissant Road, however, the sidewalks thronged with business owners, journalists, protesters and volunteers, cleaning up or simply observing the scene. Restaurant industry professionals, among others, each had their stories.

Joel Flores, owner of El Palenque, said he closed his doors several hours before the grand jury decision was announced and watched the subsequent protests from home on TV. The restaurant at 254 S. Florissant Road sustained several broken windows, though Flores said nothing was damaged inside. “This morning, everybody was helping to clear,” he said. “Neighbors and friends.”

Next door, a large group of volunteers was busy boarding up more than a dozen broken windows at Snappy’s Bar and Grill. Among them was Ken Jenkins, a Florissant pastor and brother of Jerome Jenkins, co-owner of nearby Cathy’s Kitchen Restaurant & Diner. The popular American diner is known for its community outreach efforts: the kitchen was seen serving free food to assembled protesters before Monday night’s grand jury decision. A witness said that later, several individuals linked arms in front of the restaurant to prevent it from being damaged, an incident documented frequently on social media outlets.

Ken Jenkins confirmed that Cathy’s storefront suffered minimal damage, only a broken window or two. Meanwhile, local volunteers quickly gathered to help. “It’s been really neat to see the community come together,” Jenkins said, adding that “over 100 people, black, white, every nationality” had turned out. “That’s Ferguson,” he added. Jerome and Cathy Jenkins were not immediately available for comment.

At Queen’s Chop Suey, owner Xiaojiang Yang said he packed up the restaurant’s ordering computer and left Monday evening before the grand jury announcement, later watching the protests on TV. “I was scared. I couldn’t go outside,” he said. This morning, he discovered two large windows had been broken. Around 10 volunteers showed up to help nail plywood.

 

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{Fire damage at St. Louis Fish & Chicken Grill}

 

Mahmoud Wardeh, whose family owns the St. Louis Fish and Chicken franchise on South Florissant and Chambers avenues, boarded windows and cleared the debris from a trash can that had been set on fire inside. The rest of the building sustained only minimal damage. Wardeh said he was grateful for the sporadic groups of volunteers that were assisting with clean up.

“We can’t judge a community by an individual’s actions. We were against boarding the stores, but sometimes you have to protect the property. Business owners and community members have to pay for this,” he said, gesturing up and down the street.

 

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{The burned storefront at Little Caesars}

Perhaps the hardest hit restaurant on South Florissant was a Little Caesars Pizza franchise, which was set on fire during the protests and gutted completely by the blaze. Robert, a manager of the franchise who requested that his last name be withheld, said that unauthorized volunteers had attempted to help put out the flames last night before police ordered them off the premises. On Tuesday morning more than a dozen volunteers, including employees of the franchise, could be seen helping with the clean-up effort. Others passed out bottles of water or collected debris with wheelbarrows. Robert said he was concerned for the safety of volunteers, but “I appreciate having the community. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Still, the optimism and unity of the moment was not without a sense of foreboding. Many of the restaurant owners reported dramatic fluctuation in business since the unrest began in August. Most were not certain, at present, whether their businesses would be able to open their doors tomorrow and sensed that a long road lay ahead: Three years ago, the Little Caesars required seven months to rebuild after it was leveled by a tornado. “It may go quicker this time, if we decide to rebuild,” Robert said. “That’s a big if.”

 

Click here to read how the South Grand and Clayton communities regrouped after yesterday’s events.

-photos by Garrett Faulkner

 

The Scoop: South Grand, Clayton restaurateurs and community regroup after day of tension, protest

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

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Restaurants and businesses in the South Grand district are cleaning up after sustaining damage late last night, Nov. 24, following the protests near Interstate 44 and Grand Boulevard. People assembled in the Shaw neighborhood there after St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch delivered the grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Volunteers gathered today to collect paint and supplies to decorate the boarded up businesses, encouraging people to support their community through patronage and online donations.

Natasha Bahrami, owner of Cafe Natasha’s, located at 3200 S. Grand Blvd., said nine of the restaurant’s windows were shattered around 12:40 a.m. Bahrami said she was across the street at the time of the incident. “We have too many windows and it was a prime spot to get hit,” she said. “Mom and Dad are a little bit hurt about it, and of course, I am too, but we’re going to make it through this one.”

Bahrami said the support from community residents and the Tower Grove East Neighborhood Association was overwhelming. “As I was coming across the street, (TGENA members) were already coming to clean up the glass,” she said. “The support we felt immediately made me feel better.” Although the restaurant is currently boarded up, Bahrami said Cafe Natasha’s would will be open for business today.

 

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Dave Bailey, who opened his second Rooster location last month at 3150 S. Grand Blvd., said people also broke 10 or 11 large windows at the restaurant, though nothing was stolen from inside. “I boarded up the entire façade (this morning.) I really didn’t want to,” he said.

Rooster closed an hour early last night, but despite the damage, doors opened this morning to welcome diners for breakfast. Bailey plans to resume business as usual unless circumstances warrant otherwise. “We’re getting quite a show of solidarity from the neighborhood,” he said. “If we have to close early, we will make that call on a nightly basis depending on what’s going on … Obviously the safety of my staff is my primary concern.”

MoKaBe’s, located at 3606 S. Arsenal St., served as a safe space for Shaw protestors, where they gathered before and during the protests. Calls for comment to MokaBe’s were not immediately returned.

Other restaurants that reported damage include Baida at 3191 S. Grand Blvd., Saint Louis Bread Co. at 3114 S. Grand Blvd., Basil Spice at 3183 S. Grand Blvd., and King & I at 3155 S. Grand Blvd. While all are open for business today, some may close early depending on circumstances today.

Meanwhile, Clayton restaurants are regrouping after many closed doors early yesterday, pending the grand jury announcement at the courthouse in their community. The Wheelhouse co-owner Stephen Savage closed his sports bar after lunch service yesterday, citing safety concerns for customers and employees. “Staff and customers: they are the two most important aspects of our business,” he said.

Chef-owner Gerard Craft noted similar concerns when he opted to close Pastaria and Niche, both located in the Centene building in Clayton, along with his two CWE restaurants, Brasserie and Taste. “It’s really important to keep all our employees in mind. We have close to 200 employees that live in all parts of St. Louis. Whether protests or difficulty getting around, there were a million reasons to close,” Craft said.

After a night of tension and unrest in Ferguson and St. Louis’ Shaw neighborhood, Pastaria and Niche remain closed today, Nov. 25, along with other restaurants in the Centene building, Cantina Laredo and Kakao. Other Clayton business district restaurants closed today include The Crossing, Bocci Bar, Mad Tomato, Half & Half and Companion.

Some Clayton eateries did open today, including Barrister’s, Avenue, Barcelona, Sauce on the Side, Remy’s and Five Star Burgers. The latter kept its regular hours of operation yesterday as well. “I’m not one to close my doors. I think it’s important to stay open,” said owner Steve Gontram. “I’m not going to fold under pressure and close my doors … I’m going to stay open and be a business that serves the community and, of course, be cautious and lookout for the safety of my employees.”

While the Thanksgiving week is typically one of the busiest of the year for restaurants, several owners noted that business had slowed in the week’s leading up to the grand jury’s decision. “We’ve had fewer pre-Thanksgiving orders than in the last 10 years,” said Companion owner Josh Allen.

After much discussion among themselves, most Clayton restaurateurs anticipate returning to regular hours tomorrow, Nov. 26. “We’re all in it together,” Allen said.

Click here to read how the Ferguson community regrouped after yesterday’s events.

 

Catherine Klene and Ligaya Figueras contributed to this report.

 

 

 

The Scoop: Taco Circus to offer quick-serve tacos in Bevo Mill

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

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The tacos will fly when quick-service restaurant Taco Circus opens in early December. As reported by Ian Froeb of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Taco Circus is a project by Mikey Carrasco and Christian Ethridge, both transplants from Austin, Texas. The long-time friends settled on 4258 Schiller Place in Bevo Mill as the space where they will give St. Louisans a taste of what they ate as kids: tacos.

“When we were growing up, if we had $5 we would go to taco places,” said Ethridge, who left his job as commissary manager for Baileys’ restaurant group this summer to get Taco Circus up and running. Ethridge said he wants Taco Circus to be a legitimate alternative to current fast food choices. The duo chose the restaurant’s name because it suggested “controlled chaos, family-inclusive and light-hearted – and just wanting to convey the message that it’s a fast-food place and not a restaurant with servers.” In fact, it will be just Ethridge and Carrasco cooking, ringing up orders and wiping down the few tables in the 700-square-foot space.

The menu will be limited; look for just a handful of tacos (including a breakfast taco featuring eggs, potatoes, house-made chorizo, breakfast sausage and local bacon), a couple fajitas, side dishes like beans and rice, a salsa bar and perhaps a dessert. With only 15 or 20 seats, Ethridge and Carrasco expect Taco Circus to do more carryout that dine-in business.

Ethridge anticipates opening Taco Circus in early December after brightening the space with a lively paint job, a neon sign and vintage circus posters. “No clowns,” he added. “We’re not to the point of kitsch.”

 

The Scoop: St. Louis breweries take top honors at recent beer festivals

Friday, November 21st, 2014

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Raise ‘em high and toast to our area breweries, many of which seem to be scooping up medals right and left at prestigious beer festivals. Recently, Perennial Artisan Ales picked up gold and silver medal wins at the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild’s 12th annual Festival of Barrel Aged Beers. Perennial’s barrel-aged Abraxas brought home the highest honor in the festival’s experimental category and was runner-up for best of show.

This is the third consecutive year Abraxas has brought home the bling, first with a silver in 2012 and then with a gold in 2013 and 2014. “It’s humbling to see people like it so much,” said Perennial brewmaster Cory King. “People are always after the next new thing, so for (Abraxas) to be around for so long is awesome.”

Abraxas is an imperial stout which is aged for a year in Rittenhoue Rye barrels with cacao nibs, vanilla beans, ancho chiles and cinnamon sticks which started as a home brew in King’s kitchen. More than 90 breweries could submit up to three entries each, for a total of more than 300 beers in 11 categories. Perennial co-owner Phil Wymore estimates that Abraxas won out over 30 beers in the experimental category. “This is one of our favorite festivals,” he said. “It’s so niche that to be honored as having the best barrel-aged beer is special.”

4 Hands Brewing Co. also took home FOBAB hardware last weekend. The brewery announced via Twitter that its barrel-aged Bonafide with cinnamon brought home bronze, while Volume 2 walked away with the silver medal. Owner Kevin Lemp could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile on the East Coast, Urban Chestnut earned accolades at the Great International Beer & Cider Competition in Rhode Island. UCBC earned three gold medals for its Schnickelfritz, Zwickel and Bushelhead cider and a bronze for its Aramis, as reported by Alive Magazine.

Co-owner David Wolfe said he was pleased to see the honors bestowed upon UCBC’s top-selling beers and cider. “It’s neat that the two of them combined make up a considerable amount for our total portfolio volume,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said competitions like this one help UCBC realize where it stands on a national level. “You like to see where your beers stack up against other beers, specifically in those categories,” he said. “It’s a great barometer in that sense.”

Catherine Klene contributed to this report.

The Scoop: Kaslik relocates, Lester’s closes two locations

Friday, November 21st, 2014

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Less than two years after opening its doors in Florissant, Kaslik Restaurant is moving just down the road to 7847 N. Lindbergh Blvd., into a free-standing 3,500-square-foot space with seating capacity up to 150. Kaslik chef-owner Wesam Hamed said he’s glad to have the additional space to serve locals and out-of-towners from as far away as Joplin.

“Business is very good and people come from all over, but we have a problem with dining in because there are only 20 seats,” Hamed said. “We’re missing the diners.”

Those diners will now have plenty of room to sit and enjoy the hot and cold appetizers, vegetables, eggplant and the rest of the traditional Mediterranean fare that made the original location successful. Kaslik’s catering business will be run out of the new location as well.

Hamed plans to keep the lease at 8141 N. Lindbergh Blvd., and open a new restaurant whose concept is still under development. Hamed hopes to open Kaslik at the new location Dec. 1.

While Kaslik expands, local sports bar Lester’s is cutting back. As reported by The St. Louis Business Journal, Lester’s locations in the Central West End and Chesterfield have closed. Vice president of operations Pedro Beltranena was not immediately available for comment. Lester’s in Ladue remains open.

 

The Scoop: Concert venue The Gramophone to become a full-time bar, expand food service

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

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A new chapter approaches for The Gramophone co-owners Andrew “Roo” Yawitz and Scott Swanston, as they transition popular Grove nightspot from a concert venue to a bar that also serves sandwiches, soups and salads. After their New Year’s Eve party, doors will temporarily close for renovation, and the reopening is scheduled for early February 2015.

The idea “has always been in our back pocket,” Yawitz said. “One factor was the increase in foot traffic in the neighborhood. As The Grove became more popular, more people are walking up and looking for a place to drink without a cover charge. We want people to be able to stop in anytime.”

The Gramophone, which began offering sandwiches in November 2013, will expand its food and drink menu with the addition of soups and sides, as well as a bloody mary menu and house-infused whiskeys. Permanent seating will soon allow for about 100 guests. However, Yawitz said The Gramophone won’t lose its touch with its music roots. “Music will still be a big part of our brand,” he said. “We’ll still have live music on the weekends mostly, and feature smaller, local bands, anything from solo acts to four-piece bands to DJs.”

After its remodel, The Gramophone will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

 

 

The Scoop: Chef Corey Ellsworth takes the helm at Bixby’s

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

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Bixby’s, the lunch and brunch restaurant located inside the Missouri History Museum, has welcomed new executive chef Corey Ellsworth to its culinary lineup. Ellsworth, who was previously executive chef at Chandler Hills Vineyard, said he was drawn to the historical element that often influence Bixby’s menu.

The current Louisiana Purchase-inspired fare allows Ellsworth to delve into Missouri’s past and pull culinary inspiration from Spanish and French roots. The menu features meats such as bison, duck and turkey, along with seasonal ingredients such as persimmon, apples and cranberries.

“I’m really excited to come into a place that has a really wonderful reputation already and just try and excel and make it grow and push it to do even better than where it is now,” he said. “That’s my goal, and I’m pretty tenacious when it comes to meeting my goals.”

Local catering company Butler’s Pantry operates Bixby’s, and its president Richard Nix Jr. said Ellsworth’s international culinary experience (he has cooked everywhere from Yosemite National Park to Nicaragua) will be an asset in Bixby’s kitchens. “We didn’t want the place run by caterers. We’re learning from him, and he’s learning from us,” Nix said.

 

 

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

Monday, November 17th, 2014

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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: Chef Brian Hardesty and Element part ways, Brian Coltrain steps up to executive chef

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

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Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 12 with comments from Element co-owner Carol Hastie.

Executive chef Brian Hardesty has left the kitchens of Element, as of today, Nov. 12. Hardesty said the choice came down to a “difference in vision” and that the decision was a mutual one. “I wish them the best,” he said. “I hope to watch Element evolve and succeed, and they have a great crew over there.”

Element co-owner Carol Hastie said chef Brian Coltrain will step into the role of executive chef. “He has lots of really cool ideas, and he’s a great chef,” Hastie said. “He’s good at teaching, and he’s a good leader.”

Hastie said Element will soon see a new lunch menu and changes to the dinner offerings under Coltrain’s leadership. “We’re not going to change what we do as far as the local, seasonal items on the menu,” she said. “But we want to put a little more approachable items on the menu, as well.”

As for Hardesty, he will continue to focus on the growth of Guerrilla Street Food. He is co-owner of the popular food truck, which serves Filipino fare.

Element, which opened in September 2013, is known for innovative new American cuisine created under a team of several chefs. Sauce reviewed the downtown establishment in January.

 

-photo by Michelle Volansky

The Scoop: McArthur’s bakery transitions to new ownership

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

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After 35 years operating McArthur’s Bakery, owner Randy McArthur has passed his apron on to new hands.

Live to Venture Holdings, owned by Scott and Sheila Rinaberger, purchased McArthur’s in early November, following the bakery’s year-long search for new ownership. McArthur was intent on finding someone with the talent, energy and capital to invest in his family’s legacy and move it into the future.

“Scott recognizes the solid reputation for high-quality products that McArthur’s is so well known for,” McArthur said. “I sensed his excitement and enthusiasm about moving the bakery into the future right from the start.”

Scott Rinaberger will work alongside Ben Abel, the bakery’s new director of operations, with a focus on updating McArthur’s image and renovating the facilities. The pair hopes to expand weekly cake production and is looking into online retail options. New updates to the menu, including more salad options and a children’s menu, are in the works for early 2015. The Rinabergers also own two franchised restaurants and a preschool in Chesterfield.

McArthur said he has taken steps to see that existing bakery employees, some of whom have been with company more than 20 years, will “remain in place with us after the sale.” He added that while he is happy to let go of the day-to-day demands of running a bakery, he will miss his longstanding customer relationships and the employees that contribute to the family atmosphere at McArthur’s. “I’m just excited for Scott and his team and all of my ex-employees,” he said. “They have the opportunity to take this family business and push it forward into the next generation.”

Rinaberger and his team welcome the opportunity. “It’s an incredibly humbling responsibility that we know we’re taking on,” Rinaberger said. “We understand and respect the legacy of McArthur’s, and we certainly won’t mess with that. We’ll just enhance it.”

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