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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Poremba’

The Scoop: Local restaurants participate, support A Day Without Immigrants protest

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

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{ from left, Nixta executive chef Tello Carreón and owner Ben Poremba } 

 

Across the country today, Feb. 16, people stayed home from work and school or did not shop or eat out in support of A Day Without Immigrants, a protest against current U.S. immigration policy. Participants meant to illustrate the importance of immigrants in American society.

Chefs around the country donated a portion of their revenues to support immigration organizations or closed their eateries entirely, like José Andrés in Washington D.C. and Rick Bayless in Chicago. Locally, a handful of area restaurants did the same.

Chef and restaurateur Ben Poremba decided to close Nixta, his new Mexican eatery, as reported by the Riverfront Times. Poremba said many of his staff had expressed a desire to take the day off to participate.

“I’m not trying to be a pioneer,” he said. “I just respected that some of the guys wanted a day to be heard without worrying about losing their job or having some consequences. I didn’t want to be on the fence.”

Cherokee Station Special Business District liaison Anne McCullough said most of the immigrant-owned businesses on Cherokee closed today. “More than 20 percent of the businesses and properties on Cherokee Street are immigrant-owned,” she said.

 

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{ Local Chef Kitchen chef-owner Rob Uyemura } 

 

Local Chef Kitchen chef-owner Rob Uyemura also shut the doors at his Ballwin Restaurant for the day. “In 25 years in the restaurant business, I’ve worked with a lot of immigrants,” said Uyemura, whose family immigrated to the U.S. “They get labeled as criminals and illegals, and that’s wrong.”

Other restaurants remain open, but are donating a portion of their proceeds to nonprofits. Demun Oyster Bar general manager Tom Halaska said his bar, as well as sister restaurants Sasha’s Wine Bars and Scarlett’s Wine Bar, will donate 50 percent of the day’s proceeds to the International Institute St. Louis.

Halaska said it was important to recognize the many immigrants who participate in the restaurant industry and in society. With immigration policy currently in the national spotlight, he said this was a good opportunity to celebrate immigrants.

“This is a way for us as a restaurant group to show respect and compassion for what’s going on in the country,” Halaska said.

 

Catherine Klene contributed to this report.

Nixta photo by Carmen Troesser

 

Extra Sauce: Top 10 Scoops of 2016

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

From big chef changes at Niche Food Group to new taco restaurants in Kirkwood and steakhouses in Sunset Hills, here’s the dining news you were most excited about this year.

Don’t miss out! Follow Sauce Magazine on Facebook and Twitter to get The Scoop on the latest St. Louis-area restaurant news.

 

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1. The Scoop: Kirkwood to see new taco restaurant

2. The Scoop: Owners of Sugarfire Smoke House to open burger joint this fall

3. The Scoop: Catrinas opens in Edwardsville

 

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4. The Scoop: Jimmy’s on the Park closes after more than two decades

5. The Scoop: Joey B’s fourth location to open in April

6. The Scoop: Twisted Tree to open in Sunset Hills

 

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7. The Scoop: Nate Hereford to exit Niche, Brasserie’s Nick Blue to take the helm

8. The Scoop: Old Standard Fried Chicken to close

9. The Scoop: Two Plumbers Brewery & Arcade to open in St. Charles

 

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10. The Scoop: Firecracker Pizza and Beer to open in The Grove

 

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Best New Restaurants: No. 5 – Nixta

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here, the places that dazzled us from the moment they opened: St. Louis’ 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016.

 

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{ from left, chef Tello Carreón and owner Ben Poremba}

Surrounded by hip Latin music and tropical plants at Nixta’s recent soft opening, we kept spontaneously exhaling and saying, “This feels like vacation.” Along with the bright, beachy colors and dim, candlelit atmosphere of Ben Poremba’s newest restaurant, the menu is strewn with flowers and fruit: ceviche served with a fragrant, viscid sphere of rose water espuma; pork belly al pastor topped with caramelized pineapple pico de gallo; a sea scallop in a pool of green, bergamot-infused aguachile sprinkled with tiny whole blooms.

This pretty chiaroscuro of rich meats and delicate seafoods, deep dark mole and bright vegetal spice, is thanks to executive chef Tello Carreón. He’s the reason Poremba wanted to open a Mexican restaurant.

They got to know each other in the kitchen of Poremba’s fine-dining restaurant Elaia, just down the street. “I like his cooking a lot and thought a modern take on Mexican food – his kind of food – would make a great restaurant,” Poremba said. Why look outside – why go to New York to research new ideas – when you have such talent inside your own St. Louis kitchens?

Carreón’s passion for creativity is reflected in unexpected dishes, like the tuna tostada with lime-white shoyu glaze, and in more traditional offerings he grew up eating. “What I’m trying to say is you don’t have to be stuck with the same ingredients,” Carreón said. Which is why he paired his grandma’s classic mole recipe with braised beef cheeks instead of the expected chicken.

“I like to have dishes fresh and more alive than you typically find them. I want to elevate them a little more – bring them to life,” Carreón said. “I think I have the taste, the cuisine that people want to try.”

We think so too, jefe.

 

More about Nixta

• Sneak Peek: Nixta in Botanical Heights

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

The Scoop: Old Standard Fried Chicken to close

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Sneak Peek: Nixta in Botanical Heights

Friday, November 11th, 2016

Editor’s note: This post contains an image that may be NSFW.  

 

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Restaurateur Ben Poremba has added another establishment to his fold in Botanical Heights. Nixta hosts a soft opening tonight, Nov. 11, at 1621 Tower Grove Ave., under the direction of executive chef Tello Carreon.

As The Scoop reported in October, Poremba’s Bengelina Hospitality has turned the building that once housed its fried chicken restaurant into this Mexican-inspired eatery. Former patrons of Old Standard will hardly recognize the 42-seat space, which Poremba designed himself. Walls are painted in bright blue and coral; Mexican rugs drape windows and cover floors. Succulents rest on shelves and light fixtures dangle from climbing rope.

Carreon’s menu is inspired by his Mexican heritage with an emphasis on intense flavors, like the al pastor, featuring a thick-cut piece of pork belly topped with caramelized pineapple and a pineapple pico de gallo. The rotating menu is a mix of smaller and larger plates meant to be shared; look for Carreon’s mole negro with braised beef cheeks inspired by his grandmother’s recipe or a seafood cocktail filled with octopus, scallops, mussels, oysters and shrimp.

Bengelina Hospitality head bartender Drew Lucido oversaw development of the bar program in consultation with Layla Linehan, previously at Brasserie, Demun Oyster Bar and Monarch. The bar features a handful of house cocktails, a large selection of tequila, rum and mezcal, as well as fresh juices and a forthcoming list of house-made aguas frescas. A selection of mostly Mexican bottled and canned beers and 14 wines by the glass are also available.

Poremba said the space will function as Nixta until 10 p.m., when it will become a more relaxed, late-night spot called Bar Limón. A selection of dishes will be available on Bar Limón’s late-night menu, as well as scaled down $6 cocktails.

After this weekend’s soft opening, Nixta and Bar Limón will be open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect from Poremba and Carreon:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

-photos by Michelle Volansky

Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Monday, October 31st, 2016

From Ben Poremba’s newest restaurant to a fire at Waterloo’s newest brewery, here’s what went down in the St. Louis restaurant scene last week, in case you missed it…

 

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1. 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.

2. After nearly three years in business, Nathalie’s is closing doors at 4365 Lindell Blvd., in the Central West End. Owner Nathalie Pettus said the restaurant’s last day will be Saturday, Nov. 5.

 

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3. Cherokee Street has a new spot for cheap, late-night eats and just one more round. The B-Side hosted a soft opening on Friday, Oct. 21 at 2709 Cherokee St.

4. The former catering arm of Local Harvest Grocery is under new ownership, emerging as Seed Sprout Spoon. Erin Wiles and The Civil Life’s former chef Brendan Kirby quietly purchased the business in August, finishing up existing catering contracts before making the transition.

 

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5. Two months after closing doors at his Spanish tapas restaurant, owner Brendan Marsden opened doors at Mona’s, an American-Italian joint, on Oct. 19.

6. Just one month after opening, a fire broke out at Hopskeller Brewing Co. on Oct. 23. Owner Matt Schweizer said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, and no one was injured.

 

 

 

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

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

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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.

 

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{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.

 

Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

From the closure of a Botanical Heights restaurant to a Sneak Peek of a new breakfast spot in Crestwood, here’s what went down last week in the STL restaurant scene, in case you missed it.

 

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1. Nearly two years after first flipping on the fryers, Old Standard Fried Chicken will shutter its doors after brunch service on Sunday, July 31. Owner Ben Poremba announced the closure July 26.

2. Brentwood will have a new place to get its java jolt come Aug. 1 when Coma Coffee opens at 1034 S. Brentwood Blvd., in University Tower.

 

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3. A new tide has rolled in at Demun Oyster Bar. Fifteen-year kitchen veteran Dan Sammons began his tenure as executive chef July 25. Sammons brings a range of experience from corporate operations chef at McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood to working the kitchens at Berkeley, California’s eatery, Revival Bar & Kitchen.

4. Raise a glass to St. James Winery – it brought home the Missouri Governor’s Cup for the second year in a row. The winery was awarded the 2016 prize for its semi-dry white vignoles. St. James’ vignoles took the prize out of more than 308 wines submitted from other state vineyards.

 

From left, co-owners Billy Oziransky, Mary and John Bogacki

 

5. Don’t hit the snooze button if you live or work off Watson Road. Yolklore, the newest addition to the Crestwood food scene, hosts its grand opening this Sunday, July 31 at 8958 Watson Road. Co-owners Mary and John Bogacki and Billy Oziransky are dishing up slew of breakfast items, pastries, coffee and smoothies.

6. St. Louis Craft Beer Week kicked off Friday, July 29, and there is an abundance of beer-related events around the city that boast what we brew best. Celebrate the five- anniversaries of four STL breweries with the Class of 2011 Collaboration Beers.

 

The Scoop: Old Standard Fried Chicken to close

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

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Nearly two years after first flipping on the fryers, Old Standard Fried Chicken will shutter its doors after brunch service on Sunday, July 31. Owner Ben Poremba announced the closure today, July 26.

“It is a business decision,” Poremba said. “It wasn’t doing what we wanted it to do or fitting in with our general strategy.”

Poremba opened the fried chicken restaurant in Botanical Heights across the street from his two flagship restaurants, Elaia and Olio, in October 2014. Sauce reviewed the restaurant in March 2015.

Poremba, who also owns Parigi and co-owns La Patisserie Chouquette, said the space at 1621 Tower Grove Ave., will not sit idle long. He will announce a new concept, as well as any personnel changes or transitions, in the next week or so.

It’s been a busy year for Poremba. He opened his Italian concept, Parigi, in Clayton in February, and in June, he handed the executive chef role at Elaia and Olio to Ben Grupe in order to shift his focus from chef to restaurateur.

 

-photo by Michelle Volansky 

 

 

Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

It’s been a busy week in the St. Louis food scene. Here’s what went down last week, in case you missed it…

 

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1. Chef-owner Ben Poremba announced on June 7  that he has passed the toque at Elaia and Olio to Ben Grupe, who took over as executive chef of the Botanical Heights restaurants on June 1.

2. Tropical Liqueurs has found a new home for its grown-up boozy slushies at 4104 Manchester Ave., in The Grove, and the owners hope to have the lease signed shortly.

 

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3. Trading breakfast for cocktails and light eats, Koplar Properties has opened Scapegoat Tavern & Courtyard at 52 Maryland Plaza.

4. The newest entrant in the Edwardsville food scene has taken up residence at 126 N. Main St. Foundry Public House opens Tuesday, June 14, in the former Robust Wine Bar space.

 

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5. Tucked into a University City neighborhood, PerJax Americana Kitchen opened at 7401 Pershing Ave., in late May. PerJax’s Cajun- and Creole-inspired menu offers starters, salads, entrees and sandwiches with nods to both the surf and the turf.

6. Restaurateurs and brothers Derek and Lucas Gamlin announced that they will open a third establishment in the Central West End. While the name and exact concept are still being finalized, a lease has been signed for the space in the lower level of The Residences at the Forest Park Hotel, located at 4910 W. Pine Blvd.

 

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7. Ballwin will get a taste of Eastern Europe when St. Louis Kolache opens at 14786 Manchester Road in early- to mid-July.

8. Take craft beer and a casual setting, put it in a chop house, and you have Cork & Barrel Chop House and Spirits. With the building at 7337 Mexico Road in St. Peters under construction, general manager Greg Tournillon hopes to open Cork & Barrel sometime this fall.

 

The Scoop: Ben Grupe named executive chef at Elaia and Olio

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

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{Ben Grupe, Elaia and Olio’s new executive chef}

 

Chef-owner Ben Poremba announced today, June 7, that he has passed the toque at Elaia and Olio to Ben Grupe, who took over as executive chef of the Botanical Heights restaurants on June 1. Poremba said he needed to shift his role from one of chef to one of restaurateur, and so he tapped Grupe, whom he knew professionally but began speaking with in earnest in the last few months.

“I have five restaurants and a 4-year-old and a newborn,” said Poremba, whose company Bengelina Hospitality Group also owns Old Standard Fried Chicken, La Patisserie Chouquette and recently opened Parigi. “My workload needed to change, but I wanted to make sure the new chef would uphold our standards, continue what I started and improve on it.”

Most recently, Grupe helmed the kitchen at Meadowbrook Country Club before he struck out on his own, hosting monthly pop-up dinners out of the space that formerly housed Stellina. His five-course meals focused on regional ingredients and flavors. He also serves as the team captain for the American Culinary Federation Culinary Olympic Team, which competes in October.

 

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{Olio}

Poremba said Elaia and Olio’s menus will change regularly, as they did under Poremba, incorporating more and more of Grupe’s dishes. “He’s not making my food,” Poremba said. “He is introducing new techniques and ideas and making it his own. He’s paying attention to the progression and nuances of the meal.”

Don’t expect to find Poremba kicking back on his front porch in a rocking chair. Although the transition will allow him to spend more time with his family, he said he also looks forward to being more present in his other restaurants and focusing on other projects. “I’m looking forward to being seen in my other restaurants and going where I’m needed most,” Poremba said.

Grupe was not immediately available for comment.

 

-Olio photo by Carmen Troesser

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