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Dec 17, 2017
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘fast-casual’

The Scoop: Olive & Oak owners to open cafe in Webster Groves

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

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Webster Groves is getting another restaurant from the owners of Olive & Oak, and it’s right next door. As reported by St. Louis Magazine, the restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at 100 W. Lockwood Ave., in the former Webster Groves Bookstore space.

The team chose to stay in the same neighborhood for their second concept because, “the neighborhood needed it,” said co-owner Mark Hinkle. “They were asking for something like this, and I think we can give it to them in a fun way.”

The menu will keep with Olive & Oak’s classic American cuisine in a fast casual format. Expect cafe standards like coffee and pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches, all with Olive & Oak executive chef Jesse Mendica’s special spin.

Hinkle hopes the 2,200-square-foot space will open in the early summer.

First Look: LuLu Asian Kitchen in Olivette

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

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LuLu Seafood and Dim Sum has gone fast-casual with its first LuLu Asian Kitchen location, now open at 9626 Olive Blvd., in Olivette. As The Scoop reported in July, another LuLu Asian Kitchen location will soon open at 9737 Manchester Road in Rock Hill, with more locations in the works.

Popular staples from Lulu Seafood and Dim Sum will be rotating entrees at Lulu Asian Kitchen, along with more traditional Chinese dishes and some exclusive to the new concept, like the caramelized bourbon chicken, which makes use of the new kitchen’s grill.

Entrees can be ordered in different combinations as bowls, plates or platters, or folded into Asian burritos with rice and toppings. There are also soups, salads and lighter to-go options like spring rolls and sushi. Fountain drinks are joined by a handful of beer and wine offerings.

“The quality is the same as the main location. We just have more limited options and faster service,” said co-founder Julia Li.

Lulu Asian Kitchen is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. There will be a grand opening event on Wednesday, Dec. 14 from 3 to 9 p.m. with free food and drink. Here’s a first look at what to expect from Olivette’s new fast-casual spot:

 

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More about LuLu Asian Kitchen
• The Scoop: LuLu Asian Kitchen to open in Olivette and Rock Hill

What I Do: Julia Li of Lu Lu Fresh Express

• First Look: LuLu Chicnese and Dim Sum Truck

Photos by Michelle Volansky

 

Best New Restaurants: No. 6 – Porano Pasta

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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Porano Pasta is the fast-casual restaurant we have been waiting for. It took Gerard Craft, the chef mind behind Niche Food Group, to combine affordability and speed with such quality ingredients and consistently well-executed food.

Walk in and notice the restaurant’s towering ceilings and wall-sized illustrations of Italian and St. Louis landmarks. Sunshine pours in through floor-to-ceiling windows and upbeat pop music fills the air (Ace of Base, anyone?).

Queue up to build your bowl from a variety of starches, sauces, proteins and toppings. The possibilities are endless, but we’re loyal to a combination we call the Suzie Bowl (That’s Suzie Craft, marketing director of Niche Food Group.): a half-kale, half-farro base, anchovy dressing, spicy tofu, green olives, crispy garlic, herbs and a drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey. Spicy and sweet with briny bites, fresh crunch and pops of intense garlic and herbs – it’s been hard to order anything else since she suggested it on opening day.

While such healthy options are available, comfort combinations should also be indulged in, like a strozzapreti pasta bowl with Alfredo sauce, grilled chicken, herbs and toasted almonds. It’s a version of fettuccine Alfredo also known as our Achilles’ heel. Or go for executive chef Michael Petres’ new Detroit-style pizza: square focaccia-like dough with edge-to-edge cheese that bubbles at the brink into a salty, crackling border. Pair that with a Negroni slushie, and you’re in for a good night.

Niche Food Group took a national, fast-casual business model and made it work. Will it ever be a franchise? The possibilities, like their bowls, seem endless.

 

Related Content

Lunch Rush: Porano Pasta

• Hit List: 4 new must-try restaurants in February

• Sneak Peek: Porano Pasta on Washington Avenue

The Scoop: Gerard Craft to open fifth restaurant downtown 

Photo by Carmen Troesser

The Scoop: Chefs Kevin and Britt Pellegrino launch BK Catering

Friday, July 15th, 2016

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Husband-and-wife duo Kevin and Britt Pellegrino, both formerly of Five Bistro and Olive & Oak, are starting their own catering company, BK Catering, Feast Magazine reported. BK Catering will focus on smaller private events in clients’ homes.

“We wanted to do something different and try to work on our own thing,” Britt Pellegrino said. “We’re trying to do something on a smaller scale, a little more specialized, (and) I think it is nice for us and for the guest.”

The Pellegrinos also want to do in-home cooking classes for small groups. “I’ve gone to one of those parties and it’s nice to have somebody come in, it’s like girls night out (and) everyone has wine and we teach them something fun,” Britt Pellegrino said.

While they’re still pulling parts of the company together — they don’t have a website yet — Kevin and Britt have done several events together already. Additionally, Kevin is working at Claverach Farm in Eureka, Britt is a private chef for two families and they are catering together whenever they can.

Eventually, the two hope to open a fast-casual Filipino spot—Britt’s family is Filipino. Even when the restaurant opens, catering will remain a part. Until then, track down Kevin and Britt through email at bkcateringstl@gmail.com or give them a call at 314-435-1068.

-Photo by Carmen Troesser

Sneak Peek: Mayana Mexican Kitchen in Clayton

Friday, July 1st, 2016

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Fans of Hacienda Mexican Restaurant in Rock Hill can get a quick bite when its sister restaurant opens Mayana Mexican Kitchen at 7810 Forsyth Blvd., in Clayton on Friday, July 8. As The Scoop reported in January, Hacienda co-owners Alex Rodriguez de Torres and John Rodriguez announced the build-your-own concept (then called Wet Burrito) as a way to accommodate the busy Clayton lunch rush.

Racks of tortilla dough waiting to be pressed greet guests upon entering the bright 1,500-square-foot casual eatery. Flour tortillas are made to order and serve as the base for customizable burritos, tacos or quesadillas. Other base options include tortilla-free burrito bowls, salads or a flaky piece of fry bread. Each dish can be customized with meats like citrus-marinated chicken, fajita steak and carnitas, as well as rice, beans, cheese, sauces and salsas.

Managing partner Brian Michaels said he expects the Clayton location to be the first of many Mayana Mexican Kitchens, and plans to open additional locations across the country. “We’re ready,” said Michaels. “(Hacienda has) already restructured to go national.”

Mayana Mexican Kitchen will be open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect when you step inside:

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky 

The Scoop: Healthy eats spot, Wicked Greenz, to open in Clayton

Friday, May 6th, 2016

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Folks on the go in Clayton will have a new healthy option when Wicked Greenz opens. As reported by St. Louis Magazine, Chris Sedlak, Matt Ratz and chef Justin Haifley are targeting a July open date for the flagship location at 16 N. Central Ave. Wicked Greenz will serve lunch and dinner, focusing on healthy dishes served quickly.

“The people who want to eat healthy have a hard time because they can’t get food that’s fast and consistent,” said Sedlak. “Most of the stuff in the category didn’t have robust flavors or was something you would crave. Thanks to Justin’s talents, we’ve found a way to do that.”

Haifley said he has served as chef for 17 restaurant openings across the country, including his most recent position helming the kitchen at St. Louis’ The Tavern Kitchen & Bar. At Wicked Greenz, Haifley has developed a menu of salads, soups and “grips” (salads wrapped in tortillas). The salads and grips can be ordered with proteins like beef, shrimp, salmon and chicken and are served with dressings. Dishes can be customized, and Haifley lists suggested protein and dressing pairings.

The owners’ unanimous favorite menu item is the Mexicali, a mix of black beans, avocado, red onion, sweet corn, cilantro, pico de gallo, pepper jack cheese, crispy tortilla strips and avocado-lime crema. Haifley suggested pairing it with charred tomato vinaigrette with adobo grilled chicken or blackened shrimp.

Other offerings will take an Asian turn, such as a salad composed of edamame, green onion, bell pepper, almonds, cilantro, wontons and bean sprouts with sesame-soy vinaigrette. Fresh fruit and vegetables will come together in the Sunburst – strawberries, grapes, green apple, toasted almonds, quinoa, parsley, cucumber, broccoli, kale and avocado.

When complete, diners can grab a bite at one of 60 to 70 seats inside or can take in some fresh air at one of a dozen outdoor seats. Meals will be available from a grab-and-go section and via delivery, as well.

Sedlak, Ratz and Haifley are currently in negotiations for four additional locations in the St. Louis area. With planned expansion, all the dressings and soups will be made in a commissary kitchen, which is under construction in University City.

Hit List: 4 new must-try restaurants in February

Monday, February 1st, 2016

 

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1. Porano Pasta: 634 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.833.6414, poranopasta.com

After nearly a year of anticipation, James Beard Award-winning chef Gerard Craft opened doors at Porano Pasta, his first fast-casual venture and fifth restaurant. Step up to the counter in the bright, two-story space and mix and match from a plethora of bases like organic farro or house-made semolina pasta, 11 sauces from sugo to pumpkin seed and lime pesto, proteins including tender beef meatballs and slow-roasted pork or vegetables and toppings like crispy garlic and Pecorino Romano cheese. In additional to bowls, pick up an order of custom Companion foccacia bread with rotating toppings or a deep-fried Panzo – dough stuffed with anything from marinara and gooey mozzarella to meatballs and harissa, depending on the day’s special. And be sure to save room for a salted caramel gelato pop or a boozy frozen Negroni for dessert.

 

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2. Nami Ramen: 46 N. Central Ave., Clayton, 314.833.6264, namiramen.com

Ramen has made its way to Clayton with stylish, fast-casual Nami Ramen. Co-owner Jason Jan was a passionate ramen home cook before spending two months researching in Yokohama, Japan. Now Nami offers 10 styles of ramen in a cool, 50-seat space. Grab a seat at the bar overlooking the kitchen and snack on pan-fried gyoza filled with ground pork and vegetables or a tender pork belly steamed bun with house-made sweet soy glaze. Nami’s savory, satisfying signature tonkotsu ramen features tender char sui pork, wood-ear mushrooms and a marinated egg with a creamy yolk. Don’t fear the spice warning on the jigoku ramen either. Miso broth topped with ground pork and corn is amped up with a paste of tomatoes, chiles and shallots. This bowl is more flavorful than fiery, and it makes a tasty introduction to the classic Japanese comfort food.

 

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3. Moya Grill: 567A Melville Ave., University City, 314.833.6621, moyastl.com

The owners of South Grand’s Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant are adding to the fast-casual trend with their new concept, Moya Grill in University City. The small, contemporary space in The Loop offers a variety of wot (stew) and tibs (grilled) dishes with chicken, beef and a good number of vegetarian options. Start with the crispy sambusas – both the lentil and beef versions are worth a try. Meat lovers should order the beef tibs and appreciate the deep heat of the house berbere spice blend. For a veg-friendly option, the mixed vegetable wot features a satisfying, boldly spiced mix of cabbage, potato and carrot. Opt for the traditional, tangy injera instead of rice and enjoy the chance to eat with your hands, tearing off pieces of the spongy flatbread and wrapping each bite of tibs and wot.

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 4. Midtown Sushi & Ramen: 3647 Forest Park Ave., St. Louis, 314.328.2452, midtown-sushi.com 

Sushi rises again in Midtown. After the short-lived Flying Rolls shuttered last year, Midtown Sushi & Ramen took its place, offering everything from sushi rolls to ramen bowls. Start your meal with an appetizer of spicy kare-age, bite-sized pieces of fried chicken doused in a sweet-spicy house sauce and sprinkled with sesame. Share a sushi roll or two, like the well-composed Dragon Roll, featuring crab salad, cucumber and avocado topped with eel, eel sauce and threads of fried sweet potato, a light departure from the usual tempura crumbs. Complete your meal with a bowl of hakata ramen, featuring a custardy egg and smoked pork belly (thanks to neighbor Dixon’s Smokehouse) all swimming in a rich pork broth with all the ramen fixings.

-Porano photo by Greg Rannells, all others by Michelle Volansky 

Sneak Peek: Porano Pasta on Washington Avenue

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

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After nearly a year of anticipation, chef-owner Gerard Craft will open Porano Pasta, his new fast-casual concept, Tuesday, Jan. 26. As The Scoop reported last February, this is the James Beard Award winner’s fifth restaurant, and it is located in a massive two-story space at 634 Washington Ave., downtown in the Mercantile Exchange. Executive chef Michael Petres, former executive chef at Pastaria, will oversee day-to-day operations.

Customers will step up to the counter and build their own bowls from a selection of bases, sauces, proteins or vegetables and toppings. They can start with house-made organic semolina pasta, organic farro, romaine and kale lettuce or Italian rice, then add one of 11 house-made sauces including everything from a classic pomodoro to pumpkin seed and lime pesto.

Porano features hormone- and antibiotic-free meat such as slow-roasted pork, beef meatballs and grilled chicken. Veg-friendly offerings like spicy tofu or seasonable vegetables (currently butternut squash or Brussels sprouts) are also available. In additional to bowls, Craft and Petres have created a daily focaccia dish using Companion bread and Panzos, fried dough pockets stuffed with rotating fillings.

The large beverage menu includes a frozen Negroni and a nonalcoholic strawberry-lime slush inspired by Italian granitas. White and red house Scarpetta wines on tap are available, as well as bottled and canned brews, a house draft beer brewed by The Civil Life and several Excel sodas.

In addition to quick, custom meals, Craft said he wants to focus on how he can source locally and responsibly as a fast-casual concept. “We want to rework the way the fast-food industry thinks about the supply chain,” Craft said. To that end, Porano recently purchased whole hogs to break down in-house and use for its porchetta, Sunday sugo sauce and specials. Craft aims to source from many of his current vendors that supply other Niche Food Group restaurants, including Todd Geisert Farms, Newman Farms, Double Star Farm and Berger Bluff farms.

Porano will be open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., though it will operate on limited hours to start. Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect when doors open Tuesday at Porano Pasta:

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky 

The Scoop: Hacienda to open fast-casual spot in Clayton

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

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Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, the 45-year-old Rock Hill institution, is stepping into the world of fast-casual this spring. Hacienda co-owner Alex Rodriguez de Torres announced plans to open Wet Burrito in Clayton at 7810 Forsyth Blvd. The restaurant will aim to serve the busy lunch crowd with a menu that will focus on fast, fresh, made-to-order fare. The 1,500-square-foot space will seat 17, plus a few seats on the sidewalk when it opens in April 2016.

Patrons will be able to choose from options like tacos, burritos, burrito bowls or the restaurant’s namesake, a wet burrito smothered in sauce. Customers can choose from a variety of proteins and toppings like house-made guacamole and mild, medium or hot salsas.

Rodriguez de Torres said Wet Burrito will strive to serve each customer in less than three minutes. “People love to customize,” said Rodriguez de Torres. “It gives us the opportunity to provide that, even better than we already do at Hacienda.”

Wet Burrito will be open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 

 

The Scoop: MOD Pizza to enter St. Louis pizza scene

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

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Expanding like pizza dough, Seattle-based pizza company MOD Pizza plans to open a total of five store in the St. Louis area next year. Ellisville, Kirkwood, St. Charles, Wentzville and Cottleville residents will all have a new place to get their pizza fix when the fast-casual DIY pizza concept opens in 2016.

Founded by husband-wife team Scott and Ally Svenson, MOD Pizza had 31 stores in January 2015 and will close the year with 98 locations across the country.

“You get to custom-make your own pizza or order one of our classic pizzas,” said Scott Svenson. “It’s an 11-inch, thin-crust pizza with unlimited toppings for one price. From start to finish, the process takes about seven to eight minutes.”

Choose from red, white or barbecue sauces, a bevy of veggies including artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula, meats ranging from pepperoni to chorizo and finishing sauces like Buffalo or balsamic-fig glaze. Then watch it all bake up in a quick three to four minutes in the oven.

Typical locations seat between 60 and 80 diners and are open from 10:30 a.m. until 10 or 11 p.m.

 

Editor’s Note: This Scoop was updated at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 2 to correct Scott Svenson’s name.

 

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