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Mar 18, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘Robust Wine Bar’

Longtime chef Joseph Hemp V steps down at Robust Wine Bar

Friday, January 19th, 2018



Chef Joseph Hemp V is leaving his post as executive chef of Robust Wine Bar and Snax Gastrobar. His last service will be Feb. 14.

Hemp began his tenure with Robust owners Stanley and Arlene Maminta Browne in 2012 as executive chef at the Robust Webster Groves location. He took over the kitchen at the downtown location in 2013, and then took the helm at sister restaurant Snax Gastrobar when it opened in September 2017.

“It just felt like the time,” Hemp said. “I love Stanley and Arlene. They’ve been a huge part of my life. But I’ve had the aching for something new.” Hemp doesn’t know exactly what that “something new” will be yet, and said he may even pursue opportunities outside of the restaurant industry.

“There’s part of me that’s ready to say ‘I’ve had a good run,’ and move on,” he said. “But I’ll always love cooking, every part of it. So maybe I’ll just take a step back from management and just enjoy cooking again. It’s a coin toss right now.”

Arlene Maminta Browne said Hemp will be sorely missed. “There’s not enough words to describe how amazing Joe is as a person and a partner,” said Maminta Browne. “He’s been so great for the organization and really grew us to another level. I’m going to miss him terribly.”

Maminta Brown said after Hemp’s departure, each restaurant will have its own head chef instead of one overall executive chef. Zach Dale, who is currently executive sous chef at Robust in Webster Groves, will become the executive chef at that location. Derek Northway, who came onboard at Snax last month after chef de cuisine Chris Ladley left for Nudo House, will run the kitchen there. Maminta Browne said the search is still ongoing for a head chef at Robust Downtown at The MX.

Hemp agreed with the new staffing arrangement. “I started when there was only one store. I worked out because I grew into the position,” he said. “I know the intricacies of everything, but to put that on somebody new is next to impossible. What works at Webster doesn’t work downtown, and what works downtown doesn’t work at Snax, so having one chef be able to spend their entire focus on one store – I think we’re going to end up with a greater product at the end.”

Photo courtesy of Robust Wine Bar

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
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• How to conquer the wine list

• Review: Snax Gastrobar


Sneak Peek: Snax Gastrobar in Lindenwood Park

Thursday, March 9th, 2017



Robust Wine Bar owners Stanley Browne and Arlene Maminta Browne open their first non-Robust project, Snax Gastrobar, tomorrow, March 10, at 3500 Watson Road. As The Scoop reported in December 2016, the new restaurant is opening in the space that most recently housed J. McArthur’s An American Kitchen.

Executive chef Joseph L. Hemp V, who oversees Robust’s kitchens downtown and in Webster Groves, and sous chef Chris Ladley, late of Quincy Street Bistro, have developed a menu Hemp describes as “global comfort food.” Dishes range from piquant Buffalo Balls (chicken and pork meatballs in a subtle Buffalo sauce), to simple roast chicken seared in cast iron. As one would expect from the folks behind Robust, there’s plenty of wine on hand (including a red and a white wine on tap), as well as cocktails and a wide selection of beers.

The restaurant seats around 65 inside with ample outdoor seating: 40 on the enclosed front patio and 25 on the open back patio. Snax will be open Tuesdsay to Thursday from 4 p.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.


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Photos by Michelle Volansky

Related Content
The Scoop: Snax Gastrobar to open in former J McArthur’s space

The Scoop: J McArthur’s to close, new concept from Robust owners to open

The Scoop: Ben McArthur leaves J. McArthur’s kitchen, Will Volny steps in


The Scoop: Snax Gastrobar to open in former J McArthur’s space

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

J McArthur’s An American Kitchen opened doors July 10 at 3500 Watson Road in the Lindenwood Park neighborhood.

{ The future home of Snax Gastrobar }


Arlene Maminta Browne and Stanley Browne have announced their first non-Robust Wine Bar concept: Snax Gastrobar, set to open in early March, as reported by St. Louis Magazine.

As The Scoop reported last month, the Brownes, who own both locations of Robust Wine Bar in Webster Groves and downtown St. Louis, announced in December that they would open a new restaurant in the space that once housed J McArthur’s An American Kitchen at 3500 Watson Road. J McArthur’s shuttered on Dec. 31 after a year-and-a-half in business.

While the term “gastropub” often indicates a substantial beer list, Arlene Maminta Browne said “gastrobar” is intended to reflect not only a large beer selection, but plenty of wines and classic cocktails as well. “We were in Chicago and talking about this concept,” she said. “And the name just came into my head.”

Browne said Robust executive chef Joseph L. Hemp V will oversee the development of an “upscale, humble food” menu. “He loves fine dining, but he has a real passion for this type of food,” she said, adding that no specific menu items have been decided upon yet. Hemp also has an ownership stake in the new restaurant.

Browne said there will be approximately 45 seats inside the space, 50 seats on the enclosed patio in front of the building and 25 seats on the back patio. Though the space does require some décor changes, Browne said no major renovations are needed. Initially, Snax will only be open for dinner, but lunch service is a possibility. Browne said it’s possible that other Snax locations may open up around town if the concept proves popular.

Photo by Michelle Volansky 

Related Content
The Scoop: J McArthur’s to close, new concept from Robust owners to open

The Scoop: Robust to close its Edwardsville location 

Best New Restaurants 2015: J McArthur’s An American Kitchen

The Scoop: Robust to close its Edwardsville location

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015




Robust is closing its location in Edwardsville. Owners Stanley and Arlene Browne announced today, June 23, that the wine bar, which they opened at 126 N. Main St., in August 2013 would shutter after service on June 28.

Stanley Browne said a variety of factors culminated in the decision, one they have contemplated since the beginning of this year. “It’s hard to manage from that far away. I felt like I didn’t have good control on that location,” Browne said. The Brownes live in St. Louis and their other two Robust locations take up residence downtown and in Webster Groves, respectively.

Browne also cited less-than-expected patronage at the Illinois location. “It did not hit the same traffic as the other two locations,” he said. “It was Erato wine bar before that, so we assumed it would be just fine.” All employees at Robust in Edwardsville have been offered positions at the other Robust locations.

The Brownes have sold the assets to the Edwardsville wine bar to an Edwarsdsville-based restaurateur, who will open a different concept in the space. Browne could not divulge the new owner’s name, nor specifics about that project.

As for their next steps, Browne said they are exploring other opportunities. He confirmed that they are looking to open another St. Louis-area location and they will focus on the catering arm of their business. “We’re going to keep growing and expanding,” he said.


Budget Crunch: 10 delicious dishes and sweet deals to try now

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

It’s time for Budget Crunch, wherein intrepid reporter Byron Kerman offers 10 tips on delicious menu items and sweet deals happening now. Got $10 and some change? Grab a friend and sample, split and stuff yourselves with these steals.




1. The talented team at Red Fox Baking has just announced another day of baking to its weekly schedule. That means more fresh Pecorino Romano-black peppercorn loaves, olive oil-semolina cakes with blood orange, lemon-grapefruit bars and more baguettes, batards, croissants, tarts, turnovers, galettes and cookies. Seek out Red Fox’s exalted carbohydrates at Grove East Provisions, Local Harvest Grocery and City Greens Market.

2. If you’re gonna watch a Cardinals spring training game, why not watch it on the obscenely huge 40-foot TV screen at FOX Sports Midwest Live! in Ballpark Village? And why not dine on the Businessman Spring Training Special while you cheer? The $10 burger-and-beer special is available at Fox Sports Midwest Live! as well as the Budweiser Brew House, Cardinals Nation and Bud Brewhouse (the games are shown on TVs at each participating restaurant). The promotion includes any burger and any pint of domestic beer on any of the restaurants’ menus. Go here for a complete list of eligible pre-season games in March and April





3. Lent is observed reverently and deliciously at Sister Cities Cajun & BBQ with a holy trinity of fish tacos. Tilapia is battered in flour, cornmeal and spices, fried and blessed with an unusual pico de gallo made with poblano and jalapeno peppers and garlic-roasted corn. The overstuffed tacos, which go for three for $9, are finished with a drizzle of remoulade and are available throughout Lent.

4. Sometimes you need just a bit-o-brunch to get Sunday rolling. Other times, you like doing some real calorie-inhaling damage. That’s where the all-you-care-to-eat Sunday brunch at St. Charles’ Bella Vino Wine Bar & Tapas comes in. Ten dollars gets you all the Eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy, French toast, bacon, house-made sausage, potato hash and omelets to order you can handle. A selection of bloody marys and coffee cocktails are available for an extra charge.





5. At Gus’ Pretzels, Twisted Tuesdays means a variety of discount offers on Tuesdays in March. The deals include two deli sandwiches for $6 (March 17) and four pretzel sandwiches for $10 (March 31). The 60 pretzel ends for $5 (March 24) and are great for surprising the whole gang at the office.

6. The clam chowder at Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. is positively swoon-worthy. The $5 a bowl they charge seems like a fair price, but perhaps any price would be justifiable for this velvety, addictive soup. It’s made with clam juice, fish stock, white wine, a blonde roux, diced potatoes, half-and-half as well as heavy cream, and, naturally, steamed clams. Tell ‘em Budget Crunch sent ya.




7. The Peacock Loop Diner has been sliding milkshakes down the counter for about six months now, and owner Joe Edwards is excited about the latest changes to the 24-hour diner’s menu. Budget-friendly choices now include a cheeseburger with fries ($4.50), fried pickles ($3.50), pancakes ($4.50) and French toast ($4.50) with topping options of berries and chocolate chips (for an extra dollar) and a larger, foot-long corn dog fried in house-made sweet batter ($5). New cocktails include the California Girl, made with two types of rum, pineapple juice, sweet and sour mix and grenadine ($8), and the Apple Pie Kick made with Rumchata, Fireball whiskey, vanilla ice cream, cinnamon and diced apples ($9).

8. Cinco de Vino is a monthly holiday at all three locations of Robust Wine Bar. Every fifth of the month, guests receive a whopping 40 percent off all bottles at the wine bar and in the cafe and 15 percent off everything in the wine shop.




9. If you happen to hang out at Kreis’ Steakhouse & Bar while waiting for a table, be sure to ask for the complimentary cheese and crackers and have a nice little pre-prandial scarf-down. The free app is a steakhouse tradition, we understand. The cheese is soft, spreadable Wisconsin cheddar served with Ritz crackers. Everybody’s eating it – why not you?

10. They do have potato chips at Pizzino in Clayton, but for the discriminating, they also have house-made walnut/blue cheese crostini chips to enjoy with your panini or salad. They’re a little different and a lot inexpensive, just $2 a serving. Call ahead to make sure they have them, since they don’t bake them daily.


The Scoop: Mid-American School of Wine to open in January

Monday, December 23rd, 2013



Come 2014, there will be a whole lot more swirling, sniffing and sipping in St. Louis when the Mid-American School of Wine opens in January. Classes will include one-day courses for the casual wine enthusiast, as well as industry sessions to help experts prepare for certification programs like Wine and Spirit Education Trust and Certified Specialist of Wine.

Jeff Callahan, Aaron Mandel, Craig Adams and Denise Mueller are experienced local wine authorities who co-founded the school to further expand and educate the wine culture in St. Louis. “This is a project I’ve always wanted to do in my spare time,” Mueller said, adding that she hopes the school will provide a starting block for aspiring wine professionals seeking advanced education.

The founders will teach the classes, which will take place at various Robust Wine Bar locations. Mueller said prices and class schedules will be announced online in January when the Mid-American School of Wine website goes live. Until then, more information can be found on the organization’s Facebook page.



The Scoop: Robust to open doors in Edwardsville Thursday

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013



Stanley and Arlene Browne, husband and wife owners of Robust, are just a couple days away from opening doors at the newest location for their wine bar, shop and cafe concept in downtown Edwardsville, Ill. Last May, they announced the expansion of the Robust brand for a third time, taking the location at 126 N. Main St., previously occupied by Erato on Main. Renovations now complete, Robust will open doors for dinner this Thursday, Aug. 22.

The core menu at the new Robust will be the same as that at its sister restaurants downtown and in Webster Groves. Arlene Browne added there will be distinct specials at the Edwardsville location, and there are individual specials at the other locations, too. Similar to downtown Robust space, the Edwardsville outpost also will have a few larger plates on the menu.

Although Joseph L. Hemp is the executive chef for all Robust locations and its catering arm, on a day-to-day basis it will be general manager Brendan Hickman, formerly of Demun Oyster Bar and Salt, overseeing kitchen operations in Edwardsville. Other members of the Robust E-ville team include sous chef Ben Rudis and sommelier Byron Beiermann, a native of Edwardsville who joins the team having worked at the luxury St. Regis Aspen Resort in Colorado.

Former patrons of Erato on Main will notice numerous changes to the space. “It looks completely different,” remarked Browne, who called the interior design a “modern vintage” look with lots of dark wood, chandeliers, covered leather benches, gilded chairs and an immense mirror in an gilded antique frame that holds court in the wall across from the bar. The retail section has been created in the center space between the front and rear dining areas.

“I love the space! I love this location!” said an excited Browne. Robust was a vendor at a recent cycling event in Edwardsville. “I cannot get over the overwhelming support that we got from the community,” she said of the event. “People were so excited … introduced themselves to us. It’s an amazing and supporting community. I feel so welcome and can’t wait to serve all our new customers.”

Robust will have only dinner service during its first Thursday, Friday and Saturday of business. Beginning the following weekend, it will expand its hours to include lunch. Sunday hours are still to be determined.



Readers’ Choice 2013: At The Bar

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The 2013 Readers’ Choice results are in. You voted for your top places to eat, drink, shop and enjoy all things food in St. Louis. Winners ran the gamut from classics like Sidney Street Cafe and Pappy’s Smokehouse to up-and-comers like Sump Coffee and Sauce on the Side. Below, your favorite picks at the bar.

When you want a drink and not just any old drink will do, you head to the places that never let you down. Here, your favorite spots for sipping a well-crafted cocktail, uber-fresh beer and the nectar of the gods.

The cocktails here are truly top shelf: Taste

The best beer is poured at this brewery: Schlafly

Whether I’m drinking red or white, this wine bar always pours the perfect glass: Robust Wine Bar

-Photo by Carmen Troesser

The Scoop: Robust to open location No. 3 in Edwardsville

Friday, May 24th, 2013

{Robust owners Stanley Browne and his wife Arlene}

Robust is on a pace for rapid growth. The wine bar announced that it is expanding yet again, this time with a location in Edwardsville, Ill. In 2008, Robust opened its flagship wine bar, shop and cafe in Webster Groves. This past winter, it opened a second location downtown at 635 Washington Ave. The newest Robust will make its home at 126 N. Main St., in the space currently occupied by Erato on Main.

“With the growth and stability of our brand and offerings we are excited to take this next step towards the future of Robust,” said owner Stanley Browne. “We have spent the last few years priming ourselves for continued expansion and Edwardsville is exactly the kind of community in which we feel our concept will flourish.”

Robust joins a growing list of other St. Louis-owned restaurants that have recently expanded into Edwardsville, including Mike Shannon’s Grill and Sugo’s Spaghetteria. When asked what attracted him to Edwardsville, Browne explained that its small-community feel mirrored that in Webster Groves. As for choosing the Erato on Main space, “It’s an existing restaurant and wine bar. It seemed like a natural fit for us,” he responded. “It’s 3,100 square feet – about the size of the Webster Groves location.

Browne stated that the Edwardsville location would offer some items on its small plates menu that were distinct from those at its other two locations but that, “We’re trying to keep the core menu the same.” While Joseph L. Hemp will continue as executive chef for all three Robust locations and for Robust Catering, Brendan Hickham will manage day-to-day operations in Edwardsville. Hickham, who currently works at the downtown Robust location, will be both general manager at the new location and will oversee kitchen operations there. Hickham’s prior back-of-the-house experience includes working as chef de cuisine at Salt, and more recently as executive chef at Demun Oyster Bar.

Also joining the Robust culinary team is Margaret Kelly. Kelly has worked at Cardwell’s in Clayton and at Cardwell’s at The Plaza. She was also a partner with the now defunct restaurant Terrene. Most recently, she was part of the product and menu development team for St. Louis-based chocolatier Bissinger’s. Kelly is also a co-host of syndicated TV show Twice Baked and co-hosted radio broadcast Food Talk with her twin sister Bridget Kelly. Chef Kelly will hold a leadership position in the kitchens at both the Webster Groves and downtown Robust locations.

Robust will assume control of the space in Edwardsville on June 1. Browne expects renovations to the dining area and the kitchen to take 30 to 45 days. Look for doors to open in mid-July.

Holiday Drinking: What to drink all week long

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

The holidays are great, but let’s face it: ’Tis the season for stress-induced drinking. How best to take the edge off this holiday season? We went to wine experts Lauren Blake of Robust Wine Bar and her fiancé, Daniels Parseliti of Little Country Gentleman, to find out how they drink their way through the most spirited time of the year.

To balance Mom’s dried-out turkey

LB: Terres Dorées by Jean-Paul Brun. I shouldn’t make a blanket statement like, “Anyone who poo-poos Beaujolais is excluding themselves from an endless and inexpensive supply of truly stunning wine,” but I just did. With big, juicy red fruit and notes of earth and spice, your turkey will thank you.

DP: Weingut-Vollenweider Wolfer Goldgrube Riesling Kabinett. The palate is explosive, with copious stone fruit, green apple and torrents of mineral. At 8.5-percent alcohol, it drastically postpones the “Mom, I’ll never forgive you for X” arguments/breakdowns.

To get you through the company holiday party and still have a job on Monday

LB: Look no further than Becker Estate Pinot Noir, which clocks in at 12.5-percent ABV. It doesn’t cry out for food, but it pairs well with just about anything – from caviar to cocktail franks.

To drown out Grandma’s voice as you light the menorah

LB: Capcanes La Flor del Flor de Primavera. This is the only choice for either of us when it comes to kosher wines.

DP: A bottle of kosher slivovitz (plum brandy). I used to drink shots of it at the bar of a Czech restaurant in Astoria, Queens, while sitting next to pro hockey players with old school mullets (not hipster-fashion mullets). If the alcohol doesn’t drown out Grandma, the burning will.

To drink your way through Christmas DAY

DP: Cerdon Renardat-Fâche Bugey offers just a touch of sweetness, just a kiss of tannin, just a bit of bubble. It goes with almost anything, has moderate alcohol and you never want to stop drinking it.

To go with that Christmas ham

LB: A Christmas ham is the perfect medium to understand what riesling is truly capable of. The hint of residual sugar on the front of the palate, followed in cadence by laser-like acid are the ideal accessories for the fat and salt of a perfectly prepared piggy. I’d go with a Spätlese or an Auslese by JJ Prüm from 2005.

To make your in-laws actually like you

LB: Nothing screams taste like showing up with a 15-year-old Barolo. By bringing a more mature wine, you’re giving your in-laws the option to pop the bottle now or lay it down for a while. The first wine Dan ever shared with me, while I was vacationing in St. Louis with no plans of moving, was a 1996 Francesco Rinaldi & Figli Barolo. Our wedding date is April 27. The Barolo worked.

To stuff Terrible Uncle Harry’s stocking

LB: A Poloroid of Dan and I drinking Romanée-Conti La Tâche, flipping that mother-**cker the bird.

DP: A bottle of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau that’s been sitting on my radiator for the last five years. Like a mouthful of rusty nails soaked in white vinegar.

To make your makeshift New Year’s plans a little more festive

LN: Château Bonnet Blanc from Entre-Deux-Mers. It’s cheap and chug-able. At a restaurant in Aspen where I worked, this was our go-to, no-glass-necessary wine.

DP: What a depressing holiday. But at least there’s Larmandier-Bernier Extra Brut Rosé de Saignée. This force of nature is like a fire hose blast of liquefied rocks in your face. Way, way better than jumping off that bridge into the rocky river below. Or a PBR in my left hand, a bottle of Springbank 10-year-old Scotch in my right.

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