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Oct 26, 2016
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The Scoop

The Scoop: Ben Poremba to open Mexican restaurant, Nixta, in former Old Standard space

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016



Three months after closing Old Standard Fried Chicken, Ben Poremba has a new concept ready to debut: Nixta, a Mexican restaurant at 1621 Tower Grove Ave. A soft opening is slated for Nov. 11. “I’ve opened many restaurants in the past five years,” Poremba said. “This one is as exciting as Olio.”

Don’t expect endless bowls of chips and salsa or a long list of tacos. Nixta’s menu will focus on the complex styles and techniques found in traditional Mexican cooking. “It’s a Mexican restaurant, but not in the traditional American sense of the word,” Poremba said. “It’s mostly inspired by street food, but it’s also inspired by my partner chef Tello Carreon’s grandmother’s cooking.”

Carreon spent the past two years as chef de cuisine at Elaia, and the previous year and a half between Elaia and Olio’s kitchens. “Tello appeals to me. I’ve been working side by side with him. We’ve been toying with ideas to showcase his cuisine,” Poremba said.

Dishes will also see some South American and Spanish influences, which Poremba said run parallel to the Mediterranean and North African influences he’s known for at Olio. Dishes include pepita guacamole, grilled octopus with mole, roasted pork shoulder, braised beef cheek mole and more. The bar program will focus on pisco drinks.




{Bengelina Hospitality Group owner Ben Poremba}


The Mexican restaurant is only one project in the works for Bengelina Hospitality Group, which has had an eventful year. In June, Poremba passed the top toque of Elaia and Olio to chef Ben Grupe, shifting his focus to that of restaurateur for the group’s Botanical Heights establishments and newest restaurant, Parigi in Clayton.

Now more details have emerged about Poremba’s Jewish deli project, which The Scoop reported in June 2015. AO&CO is slated to open next year, in a location yet to be determined (Clayton, the Central West End and University City are all contenders, Poremba said.), but customers can get a sneak peek of what’s to come at brunch popups beginning next month at Parigi.

Poremba said he wants to bring a contemporary Jewish deli to the St. Louis area in the vein of Russ & Daughters Cafe. To that end, menu items for the first popup include house-made bagels, cured fish, chicken soup, beef tongue tartine and other traditional deli items with a Poremba twist. “I want to make it feel sort of traditional and true to the spirit of a Jewish deli,” he said.

Though the first popup on Nov. 20 has already sold out, Poremba said there will be some walk-in seating available, and he hopes to host the next at the beginning of December.


The Scoop: New Waterloo brewery catches fire Sunday

Monday, October 24th, 2016



Just one month after opening, a fire broke out at Hopskeller Brewing Co. yesterday morning, Oct. 23. Owner Matt Schweizer said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, and no one was injured. “That is the most relieving part to me,” Schweizer said.

Hopskeller opened Sept. 21 at 116 E. Third St., in Waterloo. Schweizer spent more than a year renovating the building originally constructed in 1853 to house his seven-barrel brewpub. Hopskeller is closed until further notice; the full scope of the damage is still being assessed.

“We’re going to rebuild,” Schweizer said, adding that the timeline will “probably be measured in months and not weeks.”


-photo by Michelle Volansky

The Scoop: Chef Chris Ladley to depart Quincy Street Bistro after two years

Friday, October 21st, 2016



After two years, Chris Ladley is departing Quincy Street Bistro. His final dinner service is today, Oct. 21. Ladley had been executive chef since Chris Tirone departed in November 2015.

Ladley said he plans to take a break from the fast-paced workload of a chef, take a vacation and help some of his friends with restaurant projects. “I just realized that I’m not getting any younger,” he said. “I’ve been at Quincy for two years now, and they’re at a really good place with the menu so I decided to take a little break,” he said. Ladley’s resume includes time as executive chef at Herbie’s Vintage ’72, as well as PastariaBrasserie and The Dubliner.

Ladley said Quincy Street Bistro owners Mike and Sue Enright will continue business as usual this weekend, and he anticipates a smooth transition to a new, yet-to-be-named chef. “A lot of people here have been here for years, and we’ve become this functional family, so I’m kind of bummed to leave, but at the same time I’m looking forward to recharging the batteries,” he said. “I’m stoked about the dining scene that has been evolving in the city, and I want to stay a part of it for sure.”

Co-owner Mike Enright declined to comment on the transition at this time.

The Scoop: New owner discusses vision for Blood & Sand

Friday, October 21st, 2016



In December 2015, Blood & Sand co-owners TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager announced they were putting the downtown restaurant up for sale in order to focus their attention on their software company, Brigade Society. On Thursday, Oct. 20, the duo announced that Tim Murphy, an early member, had purchased the business.

“Tim was the best fit and the best person,” said Frager. “We probably could have closed sooner and for more money if we wanted to just cash out, but we were willing to put our eggs in his basket because of the strength of Tim as a buyer and for his character. We’re excited to be able to leave it in such great hands.”

Murphy, who has a business background and managed restaurants in the 1990s, became a member at Blood & Sand only months after it opened in September 2011. While he first joined for the drink and cocktail program, he soon became enamored with its food menu, service and ambience as well.

“It’s one of St. Louis’ great jewels,” said Murphy. “I remember it went up for sale on Dec. 26, and that’s the day I started wanting to buy it. I thought, ‘It’s the only restaurant I’d consider buying. I have to make a run at this.’”

Enthusiastic and committed to Blood & Sand’s staff and concept, Murphy intends to keep the ethos of the fine-dining eatery, as well as its staff. Executive chef Chris Krzysik will helm the kitchen, where he has worked for last four years. Sean Coltrain will head the beverage program, and certified sommelier (and one of the youngest in the country at a mere 21) Zac Adcox will run front of house.

“The staff is amazingly good,” said Murphy. “It’s one of the best we’ve ever had. It’s a great place to come in and celebrate. Or if you come in to process having a bad day, the staff is kind enough to understand and let you do that as well.”

In addition to the atmosphere and people, Murphy intends to keep membership prices and volume consistent. “I want to be as full as we can be and still put out exceptional food and drinks,” he said. “I don’t need to be 100-percent packed. I’m not Applebee’s and don’t want to be.”

Members and guests can expect to see the same menu items with the addition of more adventurous dishes, potentially including wild game entrees and a pawpaw cheesecake. Diners can also expect to see a bit more playfulness and tweaks in plating.

For their part, the former owners report success in their restaurant point-of-sale business, and while they are sad to not be at Blood & Sand on a daily basis, they are pleased with the establishment’s direction.

“Our dream was the person who took over would build on the success and serve the community we created,” said Frager. “Tim’s going to be able to build upon that legacy. It’s exciting. He’s been with us from the beginning, and this couldn’t have worked out better.”

The Scoop: Details emerge as Polite Society plans on late 2016 opening

Thursday, October 20th, 2016



After nearly seven months of construction, co-owners Brian Schmitz and Jonathan Schoen are finishing up work on Polite Society at 1923 Park Ave. The duo hope to open in late November or early December.

“Polite Society grew out of a conversation about the type of restaurant that should exist but hadn’t,” Schmitz said, adding that the name itself comes from a dedication to their customers and, as employers, to go the extra mile for their staff. This includes things like giving employees a stake in the company or access to employment benefits.

A focus on their staff’s well-being is not surprising; both Schmitz and Schoen got their starts in the restaurant industry as servers at Bar Italia. Individually, they’ve consulted on several area projects, including Lucha, Egg and Spare No Rib.

As reported by the Post-Dispatch in March, the concept of Polite Society had been in the works for years, but it wasn’t until Ricardo’s closed in late 2015 that things started to click. The 3,000-square-foot space will feature a 12-seat bar and cozy interior with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, an extensive wine rack and seating for 60 to 70. “When Ricardo’s auction came up, I saw the space in a new light when it was more emptied out,” Schmitz said.

Executive chef Thomas Futrell, who spent two-and-a-half years as Scape’s executive sous chef, will bring a seasonally focused menu to the table. Schmitz described the cuisine as “vegetable forward and seasonally driven with a fair amount of change” that may include dishes like a pork Wellington or a rotating root vegetable salad.

Beverage director Travis Hebrank, another Scape alum, will helm the bar with an equal focus on classic and house cocktails, a curated wine selection and around 30 bottled beers.

Schmitz said Polite Society will be open daily for dinner service with weekday lunch and weekend brunch.

The Scoop: The Sweet Divine catches fire, owners intend to rebuild

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016



Cupcake bakery The Sweet Divine caught fire in Soulard at 11 a.m. on yesterday, Oct. 17. Despite fire damage to the decorating room and smoke damage throughout the building, co-owners Jason and Jenna Siebert are determined to get back to work as soon as possible. An official cause for the fire has not been named yet.

“We’re meeting with the insurance adjuster and looking at a couple of commissary spaces today,” Jason Siebert said. “The community has been very supportive, and our biggest priority is getting back to work and maintaining a client base.”

The Sieberts purchased the building in 2013, and The Sweet Divine has been open at 1801 S. Ninth St. for the last three-and-a-half years. Since the shop is usually closed on Mondays, the Sieberts found out about the blaze from afar, and one of the bakery’s neighbors called in the fire. By the time the Sieberts arrived on the scene, Jason reported that the fire was out. “Thank God for the fire department,” he said.

The Sieberts aim to fulfill their contractual obligations, retain walk-up business (perhaps by way of their food truck) and reopen in the same location as soon as possible.

“We have every intention of rebuilding the bakery and keeping it in that location,” he said. “The Soulard neighborhood has been a great support.”

The Scoop: The Little Dipper to reopen inside The Fortune Teller Bar

Monday, October 17th, 2016



{The Little Dipper chef-owner Tanya Brown}


The Little Dipper, which closed in August, has found a new home inside The Fortune Teller Bar on Cherokee Street. As reported by St. Louis Magazine, Fortune Teller’s kitchen is closed and will reopen as The Little Dipper under chef-owner Tanya Brown on Nov. 5.

“Tanya became a friend of ours as mutual customers – her shop was just a block away from ours,” said Fortune Teller co-owner Matt Thenhaus. “It just seemed like everything we needed, the other business could provide.”

Little Dipper will have a counter inside the bar with separate food and drink tabs. Thenhaus said they were inspired by The Fifth Wheel setup inside 4 Hands Brewing‘s tasting room.

A handful of items from Fortune Teller’s old food menu – like pickled eggs, soft pretzels and occasional barbecue specials – will be available from the new counter, but the menu will primarily be The Little Dipper’s dominated by sandwiches, like its Italian beef namesake.

The Fortune Teller will maintain regular evening hours until The Little Dipper opens, and Thenhaus said they should have snacks and some simple daily specials until then. Brown did not return request for comment.

The Scoop: Baileys’ Range to open second location in the Shaw neighborhood

Friday, October 14th, 2016



Owner Dave Bailey announced today, Oct. 14, that he will open a second, smaller Baileys’ Range at 4175 Shaw Blvd. Construction will take nearly a full year, so Bailey is eyeing a late 2017 opening date.

“I wanted to be in the neighborhood. I wanted to try a different model of Range and the property itself just came available,” Bailey said. The building is a 1,700-square-foot former gas station and car repair shop, and the location will also feature an outdoor garden space as well as walk-up windows for placing carryout orders.

While the menu will largely remain the same as that of the original downtown location, Bailey and his team will also add several Shaw-specific items tailored to the feel of the neighborhood. “Downtown we do plenty of to-go business, but it’s not a main focus of what we do,” he said. “But over here, with proximity to the [Botanical] Gardens and the fact that it’s a very densely populated residential neighborhood instead of a business district, we’re going to have a greater emphasis on to-go.”

The new location will be led by Bailey’s core team of executive chefs and sous chefs, which will be the plan at each of Bailey’s new properties going forward.

-photo by Jonathan Pollack

The Scoop: Gluten-free A2 Cafe closes downtown

Thursday, October 13th, 2016



After less than a year in business, A2 Cafe has closed its doors downtown. Its last day of business was Monday, Oct. 10, as reported by the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Owner Audrey Faulstich posted notice of the closure online on Monday, Oct. 9. Faulstich said while she had a solid customer base, the cost of doing business downtown was too high. “We would have done well had I been in a suburb like Webster Groves where rent was a lot lower, and we didn’t do such a big build out,” she said.

Faulstich and Audra Angelique opened A2 Cafe in April with the goal of providing healthy alternatives to those with gluten and dairy intolerances. Faulstich took over operations after Angelique left the business in June.

Faulstich said she intends to pursue her doctorate in nursing practice. She hopes to work in health policy using what she has learned from her time in the restaurant industry. “I had no business background or really any restaurant experience. I learned how to be a leader. I gained business skills, marketing skills, cooking skills,” she said. “I feel a lot brighter.”



-photo by Michelle Volansky  

The Scoop: New Day Gluten Free to open Clayton cafe in December

Monday, October 10th, 2016




Just weeks after New Day Gluten Free closed its doors in Ellisville, owners Garrett and Kelly Beck have announced a new location at 7807 Clayton Road. As The Scoop reported in September, the Becks planned to find a new home for their dedicated gluten-free, peanut-free restaurant after nearly six years. Kelly Beck said she hopes to open doors in December.

Beck said the kitchen in the new space includes equipment they were missing at the Ellisville location, including a fryer. But former patrons should expect to see the usual pizza, pasta and sandwiches when New Day reopens. “We want to make sure people can get their favorites,” Beck said. “Then once we’re open for a little bit, we can try making some new things like our own chips.”

The 3,800-square-foot Clayton location will more than double New Day’s capacity with 50 seats in the new space. “This location gives us the gathering place I’d always envisioned,” Beck said. “The kitchen is bigger, and we’ll have more room for catering, plus a patio that can seat about 25.”

The Becks have added a new partner, and are working to get the necessary capital needed to complete the new space. “There’s very little we need to do,” Beck said. “The kitchen is great, and the front needs to be painted in our colors. It’s mostly just cleaning we need to do for gluten-free and peanut-free certifications.”

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