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The Scoop: Robust to open location No. 3 in Edwardsville

May 24th 12:05pm, 2013

{Robust owners Stanley Browne and his wife Arlene}

Robust is on a pace for rapid growth. The wine bar announced that it is expanding yet again, this time with a location in Edwardsville, Ill. In 2008, Robust opened its flagship wine bar, shop and cafe in Webster Groves. This past winter, it opened a second location downtown at 635 Washington Ave. The newest Robust will make its home at 126 N. Main St., in the space currently occupied by Erato on Main.

“With the growth and stability of our brand and offerings we are excited to take this next step towards the future of Robust,” said owner Stanley Browne. “We have spent the last few years priming ourselves for continued expansion and Edwardsville is exactly the kind of community in which we feel our concept will flourish.”

Robust joins a growing list of other St. Louis-owned restaurants that have recently expanded into Edwardsville, including Mike Shannon’s Grill and Sugo’s Spaghetteria. When asked what attracted him to Edwardsville, Browne explained that its small-community feel mirrored that in Webster Groves. As for choosing the Erato on Main space, “It’s an existing restaurant and wine bar. It seemed like a natural fit for us,” he responded. “It’s 3,100 square feet – about the size of the Webster Groves location.

Browne stated that the Edwardsville location would offer some items on its small plates menu that were distinct from those at its other two locations but that, “We’re trying to keep the core menu the same.” While Joseph L. Hemp will continue as executive chef for all three Robust locations and for Robust Catering, Brendan Hickham will manage day-to-day operations in Edwardsville. Hickham, who currently works at the downtown Robust location, will be both general manager at the new location and will oversee kitchen operations there. Hickham’s prior back-of-the-house experience includes working as chef de cuisine at Salt, and more recently as executive chef at Demun Oyster Bar.

Also joining the Robust culinary team is Margaret Kelly. Kelly has worked at Cardwell’s in Clayton and at Cardwell’s at The Plaza. She was also a partner with the now defunct restaurant Terrene. Most recently, she was part of the product and menu development team for St. Louis-based chocolatier Bissinger’s. Kelly is also a co-host of syndicated TV show Twice Baked and co-hosted radio broadcast Food Talk with her twin sister Bridget Kelly. Chef Kelly will hold a leadership position in the kitchens at both the Webster Groves and downtown Robust locations.

Robust will assume control of the space in Edwardsville on June 1. Browne expects renovations to the dining area and the kitchen to take 30 to 45 days. Look for doors to open in mid-July.

By Ligaya Figueras

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