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Feb 22, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘Catherine Klene’

6 STL-area chefs, restaurants earn James Beard nominations

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

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{ Vicia }

 

It’s that time of year again. The James Beard Foundation announced its list of semifinalists for its annual awards recognizing chefs and restaurants today, Feb. 15, and once again, St. Louis’ food scene was well represented with six nominations, including some first-timers.

Vicia was nominated for Best New Restaurant. “It’s a huge honor. It was something we hoped to achieve,” said co-owner Tara Gallina. “When we opened – you know, you always set goals for yourself – this was certainly a high goal, so nothing we would be heartbroken if we didn’t get. But we’ve been really pushing ourselves and our team.”

This is the latest in a slew of local and national honors for the Central West End restaurant, which opened in March 2017. Gallina said she’s aware of what this recognition can do for Vicia’s business, since James Beard nominations are something people look at for ideas while traveling.

“I’m the same way when I go to a new city,” she said. “It’s wonderful to be able to attract people from all over. These types of things are amazing for your business … and will also help attract amazing talent.”

Longtime St. Louis fine-dining standby Tony’s made the semifinalist list for Outstanding Service.

 

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{ Privado chef-owner Mike Randolph }

 

The foundation also singled out four area nominees for Best Chef: Midwest: Elaia executive chef Ben Grupe, Sardella executive chef Ashley Shelton, Privado chef-owner Mike Randolph and Lona’s Lil’ Eats chef-owner Lona Luo. This is the first such nomination for Grupe, Luo and Shelton and No. 3 for Randolph.

“It’s a great and humbling experience,” said Randolph, who was a semifinalist in 2016 and 2017. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t weird to see Privado on there instead of Público, because we’ve done such good work there. But Privado has been a really special project for me. You never know who’s going to be sitting at the table.” He added that it’s satisfying to see the unique weekend-only concept recognized. “It definitely puts a pep in our step.”

 

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{ at left, Lona Lil’ Eats chef owner Lona Luo } 

 

Luo said she found out about the honor when people starting congratulating her this morning.  The fast-casual Fox Park eatery specializes in fare from Xishuangbanna in China’s Yunnan province, where Luo grew up. She prides herself on making every sauce and marinade from scratch without MSG or preservatives. “If people are happy, their body is happy and it’s making me happy” she said.

Luo credits her front of house and kitchen staff, particularly chef Jason Hummel, with the success of her restaurant. “My team is absolutely awesome,” she said. “I really love them. Without them I cannot make that happen. … They are my right hands and my left hands.”

 

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{ Sardella executive chef Ashley Shelton }

 

This is the second time the James Beard Foundation recognized Shelton; in 2017, she was a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, which recognizes promising chefs younger than 30. Shelton, who was a 2016 One to Watch, said the nomination validated her growth in the kitchen. “I’m actually doing good at this,” she said. “It’s not just about being young anymore – it’s about being a talented chef.”

Shelton credited her Sardella team for helping her reach this point. “It’s awesome. I think it’s going to be a huge lift for everybody at Sardella,” she said. “It’s going to fuel them and push us to keep working even harder than we already are.”

Sardella owner Gerard Craft said Shelton earned the honor. “We’re super excited for her, and this is very well deserved,” he said. “She works her tail off everyday, and this is the result.”

 

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{ Elaia executive chef Ben Grupe }

 

Grupe said he appreciated the recognition of his team’s hard work. “It’s a great honor. It’s referred to as the Oscars of the culinary world, so just being nominated is a great achievement,” he said. “We’ll see where we fall when they make the next announcement in March.”

Elaia owner Ben Poremba said the honor further proves that Grupe is doing something special at the Botanical Heights fine dining restaurant.

“It wasn’t easy for me to leave my position and trust my restaurant to someone,” said Poremba, himself a three-time James Beard Best Chef: Midwest nominee. “But Ben came in and took it to new heights. I’m proud of him, proud of his work and proud of our restaurant group. It takes a lot of work, focus and resilience.”

Tony’s and Luo didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

The finalists for each category will be announced at 8:30 a.m. March 14, and the annual James Beard Awards will take place May 7 in Chicago.

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 11:20 a.m. Feb. 15 to include comments from Ben Grupe. it was updated again at 1:40 p.m. to include comments from Lona Luo. 

 

Ashley Shelton photo by Carmen Troesser, Ben Grupe photo courtesy of Grupe, Lona Luo photo by Elizabeth Maxson, Mike Randolph photo by Greg Rannells, Vicia photo by Michelle Volansky

Heather Hughes, Catherine Klene and Matt Sorrell contributed to this report. 

Related Content
• Sidney Street Cafe’s Kevin Nashan wins James Beard Award

• St. Louis food community reacts to James Beard wins

• James Beard Foundation names Kevin Nashan, Kevin Willmann Best Chef: Midwest finalists

What I Do: Josh Charles, a St. Louis freelance chef

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

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Four years ago, then-23-year-old Josh Charles was a Sauce One to Watch at Elaia and Olio. He went on to prove his mettle as executive chef at Element, then Blood & Sand. But when his son, Aiden, was born, Charles suddenly found his restaurant career at odds with family life – so he quit. Today, Charles works as a private chef, consults for restaurants like Das Bevo, does research and development at Metabolic Meals and markets his own brand online with eyes on a national TV show. Here, the gig-economy chef explains what he’s up to.

 

“I went through a funk like three months in: ‘What am I doing?’ I realized it’s because 10 years being in this culture, of being around people where you can be yourself … but it’s also serious, there’s results, objectives. There’s that push to service, there’s adrenaline. All that stuff went away, so I had to really find myself again.”

“I just put out a thing on social media, on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn saying, ‘Hey, I’m available for freelance positions: food photography, recipe development, R&D, cooking classes, private dinners – whatever you want.’ And Jason, the owner [of Metabolic Meals], reached out to me through LinkedIn … It’s right up my alley. I get to make recipes. I get to develop. I get to cook, and I don’t have to do all the management stuff. I don’t have to check the clipboard and make sure people are showing up on time.”

“I have no marketing background. I have no idea what I’m doing – I have no idea. Not only is social media branding, but every engagement you do is branding. So it starts with yourself and face-to-face interactions, but then social media amplifies that. In this day and age, it’s crazy how far my message can travel. … Ten years ago, I could have done the exact same thing I’m doing now, and no one would know my name.”

“I can eat silly amounts of food. I went to L.A. to visit my uncle recently and he’s in perfect shape year-round. He watched me eat six meals a day. … I have two lunches, two dinners, a late-night dessert, and I just try to experience as much as possible in the few short hours I’m in a city.”

“I do CrossFit primarily because to me, it’s just like PE for adults. I don’t have to think about it. … Ultimately, I’m actually pretty lazy. Whenever I’m left to my own devices working out, I’m like, ‘Oh, I could lift this, or I could just go home. I think I’ll go home.’”

“I was in marching band in high school. … Drumline culture is very similar to kitchen culture. There’s no filter in drumline, essentially. You’re the noisy obnoxious kids in the back. Those kids go cook in a kitchen.”

“I have many avenues for what I want to do, and one of them is open a pizza and pasta restaurant in Collinsville. That’s where I live, and the overall thing is I want to create a community. I want a family restaurant where my son can be there doing stuff, and no one is going to bat an eye because, ‘Oh, that’s his son, Aiden, and he’s just back there playing with dough because he’s 2 years old.’”

“These fragments of fine dining, they don’t disappear. I’ll be in the shower and think, ‘Huh, I wonder… I know exactly how that would taste.’”

“It’s literally ingrained into my DNA, that rush of service, getting it over with and then getting a round of drinks for the crew. … I do miss it, but the second I start to miss it, I just look at my life and what I’m doing, and this is still cool and still fun.”

Find Josh at chefjoshcharles.com, Facebook: Chef Josh Charles, Instagram: @chefjoshcharles

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.

 

Eat This: Gnocchi at Five Bistro

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

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On a menu that rotates almost daily, the gnocchi at Five Bistro appear often – and we’re eternally grateful they do. These delicate nuggets hold within their thin, shell-like exteriors airy potato that’s more fluff than mash. Whether served alongside an entree or snuggled in a rich ragu as the star of the first course, the only downside to these delightful dumplings is we’ll never get enough.

Photo by Carmen Troesser 

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Ones to Watch 2018: Evy Swoboda

Monday, January 1st, 2018

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Chef de cuisine, Pastaria
Age: 26
Why Watch Her: She’s the next big thing in the Niche Food Group empire.

Fresh-faced, 17-year-old Evy Swoboda arrived at The Lodge of Four Seasons at Lake of the Ozarks to accept a garde manger position on the word of a friend. There was just one problem: The chef had hired her, but human resources hadn’t.

Swoboda was undeterred. Armed with a resume boasting a two-year stint as Subway sandwich artist, she talked her way into the job and a career crash course.

“I didn’t even know how to cut a pineapple,” she said. “I just faked it until I made it, basically. Read a lot, pretended I knew a bit more than I did until I knew what I was doing.”

Confidence, dedication and a whole lot of practice eventually led her to the grill station at 44 Stone Public House in Columbia, Missouri, and then to Pastaria shortly after it opened in 2013. The eager line cook rocketed up the chain of command, landing at chef de cuisine under executive chef Ashley Shelton.

“She can read my mind,” Shelton said. “I can give her a look and she understands, ‘You need me on pizza.’ She understands, ‘That burned.’”

There’s no doubt Swoboda can cook. She creates daily pizza specials and recently took over the entire menu of the popular Clayton restaurant. However, it’s Swoboda’s deft leadership on the line that sets her apart.

“I can be a little more hammer, and she’s a little more honey,” Shelton said. “She has a way with the line cooks that is very friendly. … She can get her point across without having to yell or be stern.”

It’s a quality Niche Food Group owner Gerard Craft has noticed, and the reason he wanted Swoboda to help open Pastaria’s Nashville location. “That’s one thing a lot of people overlook,” Craft said. “They might be really good cooks, but they might be terrible, terrible managers. I think she handles herself really well. She’s really well organized. She’s a really good teacher.”

Swoboda’s rapid ascent at Niche Food Group won’t stop if she has anything to say about it. “I want to continue helping open other Pastarias and hopefully get my own one day,” she said. “I definitely want one of the restaurants.”

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

 

What I Do: Heidi Hamamura at Guerrilla Street Food

Monday, January 1st, 2018

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Heidi Hamamura’s culinary education started when she absorbed her father, chef Naomi Hamamura’s, knowledge of sushi, Japanese and French fare in their kitchen after school. Since then, she has made a career out of exploring new cuisines: Italian with Jamey Trochtop at Stellina, Malaysian and Chinese with Bernie Lee at Hiro Asian Kitchen and modernist fine dining with Ben Grupe at Elaia. Now she’s diving into Filipino fare as executive chef of Guerrilla Street Food’s upcoming location on The Loop.

 

“The most I’ve had was five jobs at one time. It was intense, but I kept myself busy. … It’s like if someone likes yoga – loves it. It’s like going to different yoga classes all the time. Me going to different restaurants all the time and working was just fun. It was less like work.”

“My dad always told me you have to enjoy what you’re doing, and if you don’t, then I won’t back you up in life. If you love McDonald’s and you want to work at McDonald’s and you love everything about the company, then I will support you 100 percent. But if you work at McDonald’s and you bitch about life and complain all the time and do nothing about it, I’m not going to help you.”

“[My son] cooks already with my dad, too. … He likes to help cook his meals. He drags a chair over and wants to help hold the pan and sprinkle the salt on. He’s already there. My mom’s like, ‘No, you’re supposed to be a doctor!’”

“Since I didn’t go to culinary school, I promised [Trochtop] I wouldn’t leave if he taught me something new every day – a new word, anything. Even after work, I’d come back for my third shift and help him roll pasta until two in the morning. We’d grab a beer and roll pasta together because I wanted to learn.”

“Ben Grupe was one of the chefs that really inspired me. That’s the kind of cooking that I want to learn, that I love. It might be a small dish, but there is so much flavor in that, and creativity. It’s like art – you don’t want to eat it.”

“If we could find someone to open a [Japanese street food bar] in St. Louis, it would make so much money. … If the right investor comes or if I win the lottery, that would be really fun to do.”

“Making sushi is by far the most fun for me. … It’s the interaction and the different kinds of ways you can create and make sushi and display it. It’s like an art form. There are so many different ways you can beef up sushi or display an array of sashimi with different vegetables that go with certain fish or different spices. … I can eat sushi every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

“I remember the first time my dad took me out [to the lake]. … We were sitting on the boat drinking beers, and I had my fishing pole in the water and the sunset is going down and I said, ‘Whoever the hell created fishing is a genius. This is the best feeling ever.’”

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Guerrilla Street Food will open a location in The Delmar Loop

• The Story of Hama

• Sauce Magazine: January 2018

Best New Restaurants: No. 7 – Polite Society

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

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A meal at Polite Society makes you feel like you’re hanging out in some sitcom Brooklynites’ open-concept living room, not snagging a seat at a slick new restaurant. Owners Jonathan Schoen and Brian Schmitz spent more than a year renovating the former home of Ricardo’s in Lafayette Square into their dream business – a concept they’d been working on for much longer than that.

Polite Society’s three rooms are reminiscent of a shotgun-style brownstone with exposed brick, refinished hardwood and enough open, salvaged shelving to inspire a run on Restoration Hardware. Dishes are familiar, yet presented with unexpected touches – an herbaceous olive oil dip with aggressively caramelized Brussels sprouts or a lacquered halibut so delicate it melted into the accompanying miso-spiked jasmine congee.

Wine from the extensive cellar flows; the congenial staff offers friendly, professional assistance and is quick with a recommendation. The space can be loud as friends linger over drinks, chatting with neighboring tables. As with any good dinner party, there’s no sense of urgency to depart. Order another bottle and pass it around as you enjoy good company and Polite Society.

Photo by Jonathan Gayman

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Review: Polite Society

• Best New Restaurants: Top 3 Dishes of 2017

• Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

Best New Restaurants: No. 3 – Grace Meat & Three

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

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At Grace Meat & Three, Rick and Elisa Lewis answer to no one but themselves. “Grace is about our freedom and our liberation, honestly,” Rick Lewis said.

He is a familiar bearded face in the St. Louis restaurant scene. Diners have experienced Lewis’ take on comfort food since he left fine dining to take the helm of Quincy Street Bistro, his in-laws’ pub and grill in South City, in 2012. His birds at Southern led the flock during the fried chicken fury of 2015.

“We went back and forth with what we wanted to do and probably the best option would be to keep it in the wheelhouse of what I enjoy cooking,” he said.

 

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Yes, Grace Meat & Three serves the classic southern fare St. Louis has come to expect from Lewis: fried green tomatoes, griddled bologna sandwiches and, of course, fried chicken. But he never settles – even lowbrow ingredients are crucial to Lewis’ success.

“You have to have Velveeta in your mac and cheese in order to make it creamy,” he said. “We’ve got $9-a-pound Gouda in there, and then we’ve got hunks of Velveeta – name brand, none of that fake stuff. It must be Velveeta, it must be Duke’s mayonnaise, and it must be Busch beer.”

Devotees will notice subtle changes to well-known dishes and unexpected additions. Burgers are a combo of house-ground brisket and bottom round; the carnival-sized turkey leg is shockingly tender from overnight brining; a hummus starter is spiced up with harissa; the seasonal salad is tossed with a charred onion vinaigrette, a name that doesn’t do justice to its complex depth.

“I feel like 90 percent of the time, no one notices but ourselves,” Lewis said. “What you do notice is people coming in … and going, ‘Man, the food just keeps getting better.’”

Photos by Carmen Troesser

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Amazing Grace: Meet the team at St. Louis’ Grace Meat & Three

• First Look: Grace Meat & Three in The Grove

• Rick Lewis to open new restaurant in The Grove

 

Best New Restaurants: No. 2 – Privado

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

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Reservations only. Open just two seatings on Friday and Saturday. Sixteen diners, max. A 12- to 15-course tasting menu that changes nightly.

But don’t get the wrong idea. Privado is high-concept dining performed to a Bruce Springsteen soundtrack by a Midwestern chef who is genuinely having fun – and guests are having a blast, too. This is fine dining according to Mike Randolph.

“I really wanted to prove to myself as much as anyone else that we could – in this particular market, two nights a week – change the way the people thing about a ‘fine dining’ experience,” Randolph said.

Yes, there are a handful of seats at the bar, where those who still pine for Randolfi’s can walk in and select from a tight menu of pasta and snacks. Randolph even hosts occasional weeknight pop-ups to stretch his creative muscles (curry, anyone?). But to truly experience Privado, book a reservation online and prepare for a three-hour multisensory meal.

When you arrive, you feel like you’re in on a secret – sneaking into a restaurant for a private meal on the chef’s day off. Swing by the open kitchen before service and chat with Randolph and his team (no starched chef whites here, just a couple of guys in baseball caps and aprons) while you sip an aperitif and snack on an amuse bouche served at the pass. That’s the whole point: to create a relaxed, organic interaction between diner and kitchen. “We want people to feel disarmed, like they can come in and be themselves,” Randolph said.

 

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As First Aid Kit’s cover of “America” cues up, settle in to the first course – perhaps Missouri paddlefish caviar atop a crema cloud – and feel free to audibly marvel. Everyone else is, and it gets louder as the wine pairings flow to a steady playlist of rock, bluegrass, soul and jazz.

The meal features two- to three-bite dishes you’ll stretch into seven or eight nibbles just to study their complexity and savor the moment. Observe the crisp skin atop a meaty cube of pork belly and how it provides textural contrast to the unctuous liver (yes, liver) ice cream. Swoon over a raviolo stuffed with braised turnips and buried under a snowbank of white truffle shavings, presented on its own hand-carved spoon.

Swipe the perfect cylinder of mind-blowing Taleggio cheese wrapped in dried pear through vibrant sorrel ice cream. Wonder why on earth you never thought to pair earthy porcini mushrooms with rich dark chocolate ganache before now. Savor the last bite as Roy Orbison croons “It’s Over” and collect your thoughts between sips of Madeira and French-pressed coffee. You’ll never experience that meal again – and neither will anyone else.

Photos by Carmen Troesser

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• First Look: Privado in The Loop

• Mike Randolph will open Privado in former Randolfi’s space

• Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

First Look: Louie on DeMun Avenue

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

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St. Louis restaurant veteran Matt McGuire is almost ready to open doors at Louie as soon as Tuesday, Dec. 5.

As The Scoop reported in November 2016, the former King Louie’s owner announced he was taking over part of 706 Demun Ave., in Clayton, the space that used to house Jimmy’s on the Park. The 2,800-square-foot space  underwent a significant makeover and now features custom wallpaper, a 21-seat bar and shelving units constructed from old post boxes. Louie’s focal point is a massive wood-fired oven at the back of the restaurant, where house pizzas are fired each night.

McGuire tapped head chef Sean Turner and chef de cuisine Josh Poletti to helm the tight, Italian-inspired menu. Dishes will rotate frequently, featuring small plates, pizzas, a house pasta or two and a few meatier mains. Turner and Poletti developed simple dishes relying on quality produce and careful execution, like charred broccolini with a Calabrian vinaigrette.

 

McGuire’s passion for wine is evident in the bar program, where around 55 Italian varietals are available by the bottle and a dozen or so by the glass. Local bartender Samm McCullough designed the aperitif-focused cocktail menu featuring classics like a Negroni, a spritz and an Old Pal. One tap pours Bells Amber Ale, and easy-drinking bottles and cans round out the beer selection.

Louie’s will start with dinner service Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 5 to 11 p.m. Here’s a first look at what to expect from DeMun’s newest restaurant when it opens next week.

 

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Photos by Michelle Volansky 

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Matt McGuire to open Louie in former Jimmy’s on the Park space

• What I Do: Matt McGuire

• Jimmy’s on the Park closes after more than two decades

First Look: Frankly on Cherokee

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

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Bill and Jamie Cawthon have put the finishing touches on the brick-and-mortar iteration of their popular food truck, Frankly Sausages. Frankly on Cherokee is set to open at 2744 Cherokee St., tomorrow, Nov. 17.

The husband-and-wife team launched the truck in December 2015, specializing in artisan sausages and fries. As The Scoop reported in July, they announced plans to open a restaurant and expand the concept.

The former home of Calypso Cafe has been transformed into a 38-seat counter-service eatery with an open kitchen. While they order, patrons can watch chef Bill Cawthon and his team break down whole animals from Grand Army Farms, Such & Such Farms and others for house-ground, handmade sausages.

Large menu boards are divided into classic sausages like German, Polish and beer bratwursts, and more nontraditional options like a Thanksgiving-inspired turkey and an alligator sausage. A board of rotating sharable plates feature salads and off-cuts dishes like chicken liver crostini. Frankly Sausages fries will also be available at the new space, and on Fridays and Saturdays, Cawthon will break out the raclette wheel for funky, gooey cheese fries.

The Cawthons recruited pastry chef Michelle Hedman, formerly of Sarah’s on Central, to helm their dessert program. Look for seasonal options like a maple-pecan cheesecake, apple pie and caramelitas, caramel and chocolate oat bars.

Instead of a full bar program, they tapped friend and barman Phil Haltom to craft single-serve batch cocktails for on-site consumption. Classics like a Manhattan, a bubbly Gin and Tonic and a carbonated Negroni are available in 6.2-ounce glass bottles. Local draft beer and wine will also be available in the coming weeks.

Frankly fans need not fear the loss of their favorite meal on wheels. The Cawthons said the new space will serve as a commissary kitchen, and the truck will actually increase business after the restaurant opens.

The brick-and-mortar will be open 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Here’s a First Look at what to expect when doors open tomorrow:

 

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Photos by Michelle Volansky 

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Frankly Sausages announces details, location on Cherokee Street

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