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Jan 23, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘Adam Frager’

The Scoop: Death in the Afternoon closes

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016



Citygarden is minus a lunch spot (at least for now) as Death in the Afternoon served its last bowl of ramen on Wednesday, Nov. 23. As reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, owners TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager decided not to renew Death in the Afternoon’s lease in order to continue to grow their point of sale software company, Brigade Society, which publicly launched last year.

“We’re choosing to put all our energy into Brigade Society, and we’re doing well,” said Frager. “Knowing we’ll be traveling a lot in the immediate future, it would have been unfair to the staff, guests and Citygarden if we weren’t here to support the restaurant. We never wanted to be absentee owners.”

Unlike Blood & Sand, which Vytlacil and Frager sold earlier this fall, Death in the Afternoon’s building was leased, and the timeline was shorter. It took nearly nine months to close the sale of Blood & Sand.

“Selling a restaurant is a time-consuming process,” said Frager. “Citygarden has been fantastic and a pleasure to work with. When we started there was some skepticism about the location, but that’s never been an issue. We’ve always been profitable, so I hope we’ve proved that the location is not a hindrance but a benefit. We just didn’t have the luxury of time to put it up for sale.”

The restaurant had been open just more than two-and-a-half years, and Frager said will miss the diners and relationships.

“That was the hardest part of the decision,” he said. “Knowing how many friends have supported us in this. But it is out of respect for them that we closed. If there isn’t a strong leadership or ownership presence, then it’s hard to maintain the experience people had come to enjoy.”


Related Content
• The Scoop: New owner discusses vision for Blood & Sand

• The Scoop: Blood & Sand owners put downtown bar up for sale

The Scoop: Nick Martinkovic parts ways with Death in the Afternoon, Blood & Sand

The Scoop: Death in the Afternoon to extend hours for evening service

• Power Lunch: Death in the Afternoon


Photo by Jonathan Gayman

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.”

Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

From our new issue to new ramen shops, here’s everything that went down in the St. Louis food scene last week, in case you missed it…


1. We rang in the new year with our January issue featuring our annual Ones to Watch, six food and drink pros with promise.

2. South American food truck Que Sazon has a new team of chefs behind the window. Aaron Gray and Deana Saunders purchased the business from Fabian and Julie Ocampo Dec. 22.




3. After their much heralded relocation to St. Louis, Michael and Tara Gallina have announced a series of pop-up dinners in January and February 2016.

4. Blood & Sand co-owners TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager are putting their members-only bar on the market.




5. Clayton, get ready to slurp. Nami Ramen will open doors Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 46 N. Central Ave., in the former home of House of Wong.

6. Resolved to drink better, cheaper or less in 2016? We’ve got you covered.




7. Sauce restaurant critic Michael Renner has tasted his fair share of St. Louis cuisine. All year, he shared his thoughts on New and Notable restaurants, and last week, he shared his top five dishes of 2015.

8. Likewise, Matt Berkley works some odd hours as Sauce’s Nightlife critic, spending many a late night sipping craft cocktails around St. Louis on a hunt for the very best. Here, his top five cocktails of 2015.




The Scoop: Blood & Sand owners put downtown bar up for sale

Monday, December 28th, 2015



Want to own a private bar and dinner club? Blood & Sand co-owners TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager are putting their members-only bar on the market. The business partners have developed and tested a point-of-sale software program called Brigade POS and are ready to take the product to the open market. Vytlacil said this switch in focus means the duo can no longer dedicate the amount of time necessary to run Blood & Sand.

“We’ve been thinking far in advance,” Vytlacil said. “We wanted to be honest with our membership base.”

That honesty came via an email to Blood & Sand members Dec. 23. “Blood & Sand is not a concept that can function well long-term without ownership being invested in its day-to-day activities,” Vytlacil said in the email. “It would be unfair to our employees who pour their heart into the work they love, and to our members who rightfully expect a superior dining experience.”

While the business and the property are for sale, Vytlacil and Frager do not intend to sell and run. “We will want to be available to the new ownership if they want to help take it to the next level,” he said.

Vytlacil said that the sale of Blood & Sand would not affect its sister restaurant, Death in the Afternoon.



The Scoop: Nick Martinkovic parts ways with Death in the Afternoon, Blood & Sand

Friday, December 5th, 2014


{Nick Martinkovic}



Nick Martinkovic is no longer executive chef for Death in the Afternoon or its sister restaurant Blood & Sand. The change, which occurred in mid-November, sees colleague and chef David Rosenfeld leading the culinary team at both locations.

“We just felt that our vision of how to grow the restaurants in the future were similar but not exact,” explained Adam Frager, who co-owns both restaurants with business partner T.J. Vytlacil. “We realized it would be in both parties’ best interest to part ways at a time when we were at a point of strength and not ignore potential differences that may arise in the future … We are appreciative and grateful for his contributions. He has his own style that was really well received.”

Martinkovic said the separation was an amicable one. “It was a heartfelt separation with tears and everything. It’s better to end it that way than kind of butting heads,” he said.

Martinkovic has made local food headlines since he arrived here in early 2013 from New York City (where he worked at popular pizzeria Roberta’s) to open Central Table Food Hall. He left that post nearly one year ago to take the helm at Blood & Sand. Martinkovic said he is in the process of starting his own venture focused on healthy, in-home cooking classes. “Most likely it will take me outside of St. Louis,” he said. “I’ve loved my time here. All the other chefs I’ve met – I’ll miss everyone like crazy.”

One of those chefs will be David Rosenfeld, whom Martinkovic tapped to come with him from Roberta’s to open Central Table and then join him at Blood & Sand. Rosenfeld said he felt the chef transition was fairly seamless. “The food at Blood & Sand, since I came on in January, has had a lot of my influences, especially since Death in the Afternoon opened, since Nick was over there,” Rosenfeld said.

Rosenfeld hopes to make the menu at Death in the Afternoon a little more static. “It’s confusing for diners how much the menu changes,” he said. “We’ve gotten great reviews for our pastrami sandwiches and for a lot of other things. For a lunch diner, they want consistency. They read about it; they want to eat that. It should be on the menu when they are there.”

Rosenfeld is also gearing up for collaboration with Mike Sinclair and Chris Gaglio, founders of Upper 90 Brewing Co., whose brewing operation is located in Death in the Afternoon’s basement. Earlier this week, The Scoop reported that Death in the Afternoon will add beer tastings and a truncated evening menu in February 2015. Frager said Rosenfeld will be working with Sinclair and Gaglio to craft dishes around specific beers. Upper 90 will commence brewing operations next week with its first beers slated to be released Feb. 1

The Scoop: Death in the Afternoon to extend hours for evening service

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014




Death in the Afternoon, the estimable lunchtime haunt that quickly won over critics and the public when it opened in June, is extending its hours to include beer tastings and a truncated evening menu beginning in February.

“The idea is to keep it fairly approachable, easy and convenient,“ said co-owner Adam Frager. “We’re going to have enough on the menu for people to grab dinner.” He explained that the initial plan is to offer Death in the Afternoon favorites like the cheeseburger (pictured), pastrami sandwich and charcuterie, while offering a small cocktail menu, glass wine list and array of 10 local beers, including several from Upper 90 Brewing, the craft beer startup being constructed in the restaurant’s basement. Frager said it’s possible that new items will be added exclusively to the evening menu, though no definite plans have been made.

“(Executive chef Dave Rosenfeld and Upper 90 co-owner Mike Sinclair) have already had discussions about a menu that will complement the beer … a deeper collaboration than just pairing food with beer,” he said.

Evening service will extend from 3 p.m., when lunch service ends, to 9:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday. Weekends will still be reserved for private events and brunch.

Originally designed as a lunch oasis for the downtown working crowd, Frager and co-owner T.J. Vytlacil had hoped to keep Death in the Afternoon open in some capacity during the evening once the restaurant found its footing. In conjunction with the kitchen staff, Vytlacil and Frager have made sure the Blood & Sand sibling evolved even in its first months. Frager cited the restaurant’s basement, converted into a prep kitchen, house-made charcuterie room and, of course, the Upper 90 brewing room. “We turned a raw space into a usable space,” he said.

Mike Sinclair said the debut beer lineup is still in the works, though he expects to produce a Kölsch, Irish red ale and Mexican lager in the first few months of production.


-photo by Carmen Troesser


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

The Scoop: Blood & Sand owners to open restaurant at Citygarden

Monday, February 3rd, 2014



Blood & Sand owners Adam Frager and TJ Vytlacil have another project in the works. The business partners are going to open a restaurant called Death in the Afternoon at 808 Chestnut St., in Citygarden, as reported by the Post-Dispatch’s Ian Froeb. The restaurant is expected to open in mid-to-late April.

Lunch will be the main focus at Death in the Afternoon, and the restaurant’s unique setting at the Citygarden sculpture park appealed to Frager and Vytlacil as a special events space. Unlike members-only Blood & Sand, Death in the Afternoon will be open to the public.

“We thought downtown would benefit from an outstanding lunch destination that was very approachable in its food and price point with creative preparation, done with love and attention, and it in a timely manner,” Frager said. Its lunchtime focus means Death in the Afternoon will not compete with its sister restaurant, Blood & Sand.

Frager described the menu as “delicious, approachable food … stuff everyone loves, but slightly new, done differently, with new ingredients.” Hot dogs, burgers, pastrami sandwiches and house-made charcuterie are some items patrons can expect. “It’s not going to be an expensive place. Not $20 lunch items,” Frager said. “It’ll be very affordable for virtually everybody and offer a tremendous amount of value.” Helming the kitchen will be chef Nick Martinkovic who joined Blood & Sand in January.

While handcrafted cocktails are a draw at Blood & Sand, Frager said the beverage focus at Death in the Afternoon will be creative nonalcoholic drinks. He, Vtylacil and Blood & Sand bartender Jayne Pellegrino will develop that menu, which will be rounded out with local draft beers and a small, boutique wine list.

Two restaurants – Terrace View and Joe’s Chili Bowl – have come and gone in the space Death in the Afternoon will soon call home. Restaurateur Jim Fiala operated the Terrace View for two years, while Joe’s Chili Bowl was open for just 18 months before closing in October 2013. Frager said he doesn’t think the space or location will pose a challenge.

“People said the same thing about our space at Blood & Sand. It’s in an alley; there’s no visibility. But what we look for in a space is uniqueness. I don’t think there is any space that is cursed or handicapped. Some might take more time and money to develop. But if you are rooted in fundamentals – founded in excellence in quality, food, atmosphere, service, genuineness, transparency – if you excel in those realms, you can be successful. Obviously, the more remote you are, the better you have to be to overcome those. I see nothing but overwhelming positives about the space. It’s one of the most unique spaces in the country, not to mention St. Louis. It’s such a great canvas to start with.”

While Frager and Vytlacil will not be making structural changes to the space (apart from constructing a prep kitchen and charcuterie area in a lower level), they are giving the “canvas” a facelift. Interior design changes will include new accents, lighting and furniture.

-photo courtesy of Citygarden


The Scoop: Central Table’s Nick Martinkovic headed to Blood & Sand

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

163539_505103386194005_902311188_n{Nick Martinkovic}


Blood & Sand will soon see a change in its kitchen brigade. Chris Bork is leaving his post as executive chef at the membership bar and restaurant downtown. Replacing Bork will be Nick Martinkovic, currently exec chef at Central Table. Accompanying Martinkovic from the expansive food hall in the Central West End is his sous chef David Rosenfeld. Martinkovic and Rosenfeld will remain at Central Table through Dec. 31 and officially assume responsibilities at Blood & Sand Jan. 5. Bork has not announced his future plans.

Martinkovic explained that his conversations with Blood & Sand co-owners T.J. Vytlacil and Adam Frager about the position began only two weeks ago. “It all happened fairly quickly once the ball got rolling,” he said.

Martinkovic left the kitchen at Roberta’s in Brooklyn, NY, nearly a year ago to move to St. Louis and open Central Table. “I didn’t think I would dig St. Louis as much as I do,” he said, calling the culinary community nice and tight-knit, and noting his amazement at how area chefs treat one another. “People want to help you,” he said, recalling one example of someone who offered assistance sourcing ingredients. “It’s something I’ve really never experienced.” Martinkovic also said the active St. Louis dining scene had a “cool vibe.”

Martinkovic called his tenure at Central Table an amazing experience, as he learned to manage “so many moving parts and components” of an operation that included multiple service models, kitchen stations and 10,000 square feet of dining space. According to Martinkovic, the company has not yet started interviews for his replacement.

Martinkovic said he looks forward to taking the helm at Blood & Sand, but noted that he will be “sensitive” when making changes to the menu. “I’m not going to walk in and change everything,” he said, adding that he will meet with Bork to discuss menu items patrons have come to enjoy and expect.

-Photo by Michelle Volansky



A sneak peek of the menu at Blood & Sand

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

091511_tjWill a members-only restaurant and bar concept work in St. Louis? All eyes will be on Blood & Sand this Saturday when doors are unlocked for the grand opening. While some might brush off the idea of paying to get into the downtown venue, those who do shell out the $15 monthly membership fee for TJ Vytlacil (pictured) and Adam Frager’s new spot will be happy to know that what awaits inside is pretty darn affordable.

For the bar menu, executive chef Chris Bork has created a thoughtful selection of nine nibbles (How ‘bout some truffled tater tots?) that run between $2 (for curried nuts) and $6 (for scallop ceviche or country ham). Prices on the dinner menu start at $4 for soup, with most small plates ranging between $8 and $10. Of those, English muffin and lox with house-made mascarpone cheese is on our must-try list, as is the broccoli and goat cheese agnolotti (crescent-shaped ravioli) in a pecan broth. While entrées max at $30 for prime rib, you can also fill up on a $12 burger made with grass-fed beef, onion jam, pea shoots and Missouri cheese, served with a side of fries. For dessert, Prosecco jelly with peaches and mint caught our eye, as did French toast with bananas and Nutella.

On the drink side, Vytlacil revealed that most of the 150 wines available are priced under $50 per bottle while cocktails range from $7 to $12. Blood & Sand has three cocktail menus: A Blood & Sand menu featuring variations of this cocktail classically made using Scotch, orange juice, sweet vermouth and cherry brandy; a beer cocktail menu (Blood & Sand will only be using canned and bottled beer; nothing on draft.); and a specialty cocktail list featuring a dozen or so original creations by Vytlacil. The doors open at Blood & Sand this Saturday at 1500 St. Charles Ave., at 5 p.m.

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