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Jan 24, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Johnson’

Sugarfire Smoke House team will take over The Boathouse

Friday, December 15th, 2017

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 { Sugarfire Smoke House and Hi-Pointe owner Mike Johnson } 

The Boathouse at Forest Park will soon be under new management. As reported by St. Louis Magazine, the team behind Sugarfire Smoke House, Hi-Pointe Drive-In and Cyrano’s will take over the restaurant sometime in early 2018. The Boathouse has most recently been run by Catering St. Louis.

Sugarfire co-owner Mike Johnson said the new Boathouse menu hasn’t been set yet, but it won’t be another Sugarfire or Hi-Pointe location. He said menu items would most likely include affordable options like sandwiches, salads, grab-and-go items, kid-friendly fare and possibly picnic baskets, but it’s still very much a work in progress.

Johnson said they also have not decided what the service model will be, or what modifications, if any, would be done to the space. He did confirm, however, that the fleet of paddleboats would be getting a serious upgrade.

While it’s a done deal that Sugarfire will helm the space, Johnson said that the final details, including when the handover will take place, will be finalized next week.

“We’ve been looking at this space for quite a while,” Johnson said. “We’re going to make Forest Park proud. We’re taking this seriously.”

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Mr. Johnson’s Opus

• Best New Restaurants 2017: Hi-Pointe Drive-In

• Review: Hi-Pointe Drive-In

Sugarfire Smoke House to open in O’Fallon, Illinois

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

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Barbecue powerhouse Sugarfire Smoke House is making its way across the Mississippi to open a franchise at 1405 Green Mount Road in O’Fallon, Illinois by early 2018.

As reported by the Belleville News-Democrat, co-owners Mike Johnson and Christina Fitzgerald said plans are in place to break ground at the site this October.

Fitzgerald said they are excited to bring their food to Illinois since so many people travel to Missouri enjoy it already. “Sugarfire is a destination,” she said. “People travel from Illinois to get barbecue, so we’re excited to bring it to them.”

In addition to the O’Fallon franchise, Johnson and Fitzgerald plan to open at least four more Sugarfire restaurants before the end of the year in Farmington, Wentzville, Indianapolis and Tampa, Florida.

The restaurant will open its doors soon after construction of the freestanding building is complete. The look, feel and menu at the new establishment will be reminiscent of its predecessors. “We’re really excited to be in Illinois and be more accessible,” Fitzgerald said.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Caitlin Lally is an editorial intern at Sauce Magazine.

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Chef Nick Blue lands at Sugarfire Smoke House

Mr. Johnson’s Opus

• Review: Hi-Pointe Drive-In

 

The Scoop: Chef Nick Blue lands at Sugarfire Smoke House

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

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{ Chef Nick Blue } 

 

Former Sardella executive chef Nick Blue has left fine dining behind and is headed in a more casual direction. Last week, he began a new chapter at Sugarfire Smoke House.

“After Sardella, I got reached out to by so many great chefs and restaurant owners and it was really a great feeling,” Blue said.

As The Scoop reported in April, Blue left Sardella and Pastaria executive chef Ashely Shelton added the eatery to her list of duties at Niche Food Group. During his hiatus, Blue met Sugarfire owner Mike Johnson, and something clicked. Both had backgrounds in fine dining and worked for chef Charlie Trotter in Chicago during their careers.

“Mike’s a great guy,” Blue said. “He’s got a lot of things happening, and he has a lot of fun with what he does.

So, Blue decided to give the fast-casual barbecue world a try.

“I’ve never done anything this casual, I’ve never done anything barbecue related,” Blue said. “I’m only a week in, but I’ve never experienced a culture in a restaurant like this. Everybody has fun with what they do, with their co-workers. It’s been great.”

Blue said he’s not stepping into a specific position at Sugarfire, but is working in a variety of roles and learning the ropes at Sugarfire’s Olivette location. Once barbecue competition season starts in earnest, Blue said he’d likely be helping out at other Sugarfires.

“I’m doing everything,” he said. “I’m trying to learn everything I can at the restaurant to be an asset.” That includes learning the pit, helping out with specials working the line and working the floor.

“I’m kind of along for the ride,” he said. “I’m willing to do whatever they need. I want to prove myself to them as much as I can and see where it goes from there.”

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine.

Related Content
The Scoop: Pastaria’s Ashley Shelton is named Sardella exec chef

The Scoop: Nick Blue leaves post at Sardella

What I Do: Nick Blue of Sardella

First Look: Hi-Pointe Drive-In

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

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Hi-Pointe Drive-In opens today, Jan. 5, at 1033 McCausland Ave. As The Scoop reported last July, the minds behind Sugarfire Smoke House tore down the former Del Taco building for the colorful, new 3,000-square-foot burger and sandwich joint.

The menu will satisfy both traditionalists and trend-seekers: Classic griddled burgers and fries are offered alongside a taco burger seasoned with Cool Ranch Doritos and Chili Cheese Fritos, and creative sandwiches like The Abaconing, an indulgent take on a BLT, made with fried tomatoes and collard greens.

Milkshakes are available in a few classic flavors as well as Dreamsicle, butterscotch and a seasonal Strange Donuts collaboration shake. Add booze to any of those, or order a boozy slushie, wine or one of the 8 beers on tap. Excel sodas are also available.

Hi-Pointe Drive-In will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Here’s what to expect when you walk in:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

-photos by Michelle Volansky

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

Friday, July 15th, 2016

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The owners of Sugarfire Smoke House are opening another restaurant – but barbecue isn’t on the menu. As reported by St. Louis Magazine, The Hi-Pointe Drive In will serve griddled burgers on potato buns, fries and shakes in a new space at 1033 McCausland Ave., after tearing down the former Del Taco building at that address.

Sugarfire co-owner Mike Johnson has wanted to open a burger joint for years. “Probably even before Sugarfire first opened,” he said. “We’ve been working on it for a long time.”

The building will be made up of shipping containers, to be designed by Tom Cohen. “It’s going to be unreal,” Johnson said. “You won’t believe you’re in St. Louis.”

The fast-casual Hi-Pointe Drive In is slated to open in November.

The Scoop: Sugarfire’s Mike Johnson takes third in Bacon World Championship

Monday, November 9th, 2015

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Sugarfire Smoke House chef and co-owner Mike Johnson took third place in the bacon category at the World Food Championships in Kissimmee, Florida on Saturday, Nov. 7.

Johnson competed against 50 chefs hailing from around the world in a three-round bacon-off. Johnson’s first entry was a bacon taco featuring a shell fashioned from smoked bacon and filled with bacon fat-poached lobster and corn relish. Next up was a dumpling dish with pork belly in a bacon consommé with dumplings made from dehydrated and powdered bacon mixed with flour. Finally, Johnson served a bacon-encrusted red snapper smoked on a cedar plank.

Johnson won $1,500 for his creative bacon dishes. He came in fifth place at the same event in 2014 and plans to return next year and bring home the top prize. “It’s about street cred at this point,” said Johnson. “I’m working for the title of Bacon World Champion.”

 

 

The Scoop: Pappy’s Mike Emerson spearheads national barbecue festival in St. Louis

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

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Naysayers may claim the barbecue craze is on its way out, but Mike Emerson, co-owner of Pappy’s Smokehouse, begs to differ. Emerson recently announced the debut of Q in the Lou, a national barbecue festival Sept. 25 to 27 at Soldiers’ Memorial. The free event, which celebrates St. Louis’ role in what Emerson called the “barbecue triangle” of St. Louis, Kansas City and Memphis, will feature food available for purchase and demonstrations by a number of national barbecue gurus.

“I’m extremely excited. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Emerson said. “I have some of the best barbecuers in the world coming in.”

Event spokesperson Mack Bradley said the goal of Q in the Lou is to bring together barbecue pros from across the nation. The festival will see barbecue luminaries from states as far flung as Texas, Tennessee and New York. Participants hailing from the St. Louis area include Emerson, Mike Johnson of Sugarfire Smoke House and Tom Schmidt of Salt & Smoke. Holding up Tennessee’s end will be Memphis in May festival grand champions John David Wheeler of Memphis BBQ Co. and Brad and Brooke Orrison of The Shed Barbeque and Blues Joint. Bradley said the full roster of participating chefs and vendors is still being finalized, though 10 chefs are already on the schedule.

“There’s been a rising tide of great barbecue places in St. Louis for several years now,” Bradley said. “There are good barbecue events around town, but they’re all pretty local. We have yet to do something on a national scale and take our place in Mike Emerson’s barbecue triangle.”

Bradley said he hoped high foot traffic downtown in September – in the midst of the Cardinals and Rams seasons – will result in a good turnout. “I’ve never been involved with something that people were so instantly excited about,” he said. “The line we got from everybody was, ‘Why didn’t we do this before?’”

Emerson is a busy man these days. Last month, he quietly unveiled a truncated Pappy’s menu at Head’s Store in St. Albans with Annie Gunn’s proprietor Thom Sehnert. The partnership crystallized earlier this year. “I had stopped by Annie Gunn’s one day, and Thom and I just started talking,” Emerson said. “It was really a simple handshake agreement to give it a try, and it’s worked out well.”

A smoker onsite at Head’s Store is manned by a Pappy’s pit boss Friday to Sunday and servers a smaller selection of barbecue dishes, including ribs, pulled pork sandwiches and three side options. Emerson said he expects the lineup to expand soon. Unlike Pappy’s, beer and wine is served. Taking inspiration from Annie Gunn’s, Sehnert added a list of sandwiches and burgers to the menu, too. “He is a St. Louis icon, and I consider it an honor to collaborate with him,” Emerson said.

 

 

The Scoop: Sugarfire to open fifth location in Valley Park

Monday, April 27th, 2015

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Expanding like wild fire, Sugarfire Smoke House will open its fifth location at 932 Meramec Station Road in Valley Park in early summer. As reported by St. Louis Magazine, this location will replace the former Dickey’s BBQ Pit at the intersection of Interstate 44 and Highway 141.

“This location will actually open before the downtown location,” said Mike Johnson, co-owner and chef of Sugarfire Smoke House. “It’s appealing because it is so close to a major highway.”

The Valley Park restaurant is the second Sugarfire to be owned by a franchisee, Matt Martin. The first franchised location opened in O’Fallon in 2014, and Johnson said the arrangement is working out well.

“The franchisee has great business sense,” he said. “We train the chefs, and he’s got the numbers on lockdown. It’s a great match.”

The Valley Park location will feature the same menu and cafeteria-style service as the other locations and will seat 150 diners inside and 35 outside.

 

 

The Scoop: Sugarfire Smoke House to open downtown next to upcoming blues museum

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

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Few things make a better match than barbecue and the blues, and downtown St. Louis is about to get both. Sugarfire Smoke House inked a deal with Spinnaker St. Louis yesterday, March 10, for a new location in the rapidly expanding Mercantile Exchange building downtown.

“Barbecue and blues sort of go together. They both have Southern roots,” said Amos Harris, principal at Spinnaker and developer of the National Blues Museum, which is set to open next spring. The museum will celebrate, in all its forms, the influential African-American musical genre, which informed rock ’n’ roll and other styles of modern music.

The new Sugarfire location will open in September, according to Harris, and will be located adjacent to the museum at 605 Washington Ave. Dual entrances will allow access from both the street and museum during business hours. The new location will be the fourth for Sugarfire which is co-owned by Mike Johnson, David Molina and Charlie Downs. Other locations include spots in Olivette, St. Charles and O’Fallon, Missouri. Johnson did not return requests for comment.

Sugarfire’s new digs are the latest among several other highly anticipated dining establishments in the MX space, including Gerard Craft’s Porano Pasta + Gelato, set to open this summer, and Tazé Mediterranean Street Food, which will open doors in April. Existing MX tenants include Robust and Pi Pizzeria. Harris said the brisk expansion was part of his ambition to put downtown St. Louis back on the map.

“We want the MX to be the ‘They’re there,’” Harris said. “It means when you come to St. Louis, the memory you take with you is that stretch of Washington Ave.”

-photo by Jonathan Gayman

 

 

The Scoop: SugarfirePie to open in Olivette

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

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{Carolyn Downs of soon-to-open Sugarfire Pie}

Desserts are taking center stage at Sugarfire Smoke House’s latest venture set to open this October in Olivette – a sweets-centric storefront showcasing the pies and treats of co-owner and long-time pastry chef Carolyn Downs. As initially reported by Feast Magazine, Sugarfire Pie will be located in the former space of L’Ecole Culinare Academy at 9200 Olive Blvd., which happens to be a mere two doors down from the original Sugarfire Smoke House.

Sugarfire co-owner Mike Johnson said Sugarfire Pie is a solution to the cramped conditions and growing demands Downs has faced while baking in the Olivette kitchen. “We have such little space, and we’re cooking there 24 hours a day,” said Johnson, who estimates that Downs bakes roughly 500 pies a week and a few hundred cookies each day.

Downs, who also owns and bakes at the dessert-driven Cyrano’s in Webster Groves, plans to capitalize on the new space by adding to her repertoire of decadent creations. Alongside her infamous crack pie (a pie we love so much that it made our list of 10 Pies to Try) and chocolate chip cookies studded with flakes of smoked sea salt, Downs plans to churn out soft serve chocolate and vanilla custard that will be topped with everything from crumbled slices of pie and cake to Sugarfire’s own house-made bacon dipped in chocolate.

Downs’ lineup of pies will come in all shapes and sizes, including pop tarts, hand pies, gooey butter pies and whoopie pies. She also plans to offer Cyrano’s bread pudding, a cake of the week and a variety of cookies.

Inside Sugarfire Pie, an open kitchen will allow guests to watch as Downs and her team mix, roll and bake their creations. Johnson estimates about 16 seats and said the shop will be decked out in a 1950s motif with an eclectic spirit similar to Sugarfire Smoke House. Expect to see retro TV sets, tile mosaics and plenty of vintage mid-century décor.

Sugarfire Pie will be open daily for dine-in or carryout service and will offer online ordering. Specific hours have yet to be determined.

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