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Mar 24, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Smith’

Stage Left Diner closes in Grand Center

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017



Stage Left Diner quietly closed its doors on Monday, July 31.

The diner, located at 541 N. Grand Blvd., debuted in September 2016, when owner Steve Smith and restaurant consultant Brad Beracha took over the space next-door to the Fabulous Fox Theatre from the former City Diner.

Beracha said the announcement was more abrupt than he liked, but necessary.

“The area is very event-driven and the off-season is very off, and we made a decision based on the sales and the short term to focus on other projects,” he said. “I’ve got my hands full with BaiKu and the City Foundry project opening in 2019. We have a lot of effort put into these projects, and a lot of exciting news is coming out within the next month or so.”

Beracha said there are currently no plans for the space, which is owned by Fox Associates.

In a press release, Smith, who also owns BaiKu Sushi Lounge and Triumph Grill, thanked the diner’s patrons for their support. “The challenges to grow the Stage Left Diner brand were too difficult to overcome, and the decision to close was made so that our focus could shift to our other restaurants,” he said.

Photo by Michelle Volanksy 

Rachel Wilson is an editorial intern at Sauce Magazine.

Related Content
First Look: Stage Left Diner in Grand Center

The Scoop: Stage Left Diner to take the spotlight in Midtown

The Scoop: City Foundry to open in Midtown 2018

First Look: Stage Left Diner in Grand Center

Friday, September 16th, 2016



Stage Left Diner is currently in dress rehearsals at 541 N. Grand Blvd. As The Scoop reported earlier this week, the former City Diner in Grand Center underwent a concept change after owner Steve Smith bought out the former owners.

Rev Hospitality president Brad Beracha frequently consults at Smith’s restaurants (including Triumph Grill and BaiKu Sushi Lounge), and he lent his expertise to the latest project. Beracha said he and the new management focused on improving the overall customer service experience and brightening up the space with a fresh coat of paint.

Arguably the most notable change is executive chef Ryan Cooper’s new menu, which includes classic diner dishes like smashed griddle burgers and lighter fare like a portobello sandwich. A forthcoming liquor license will see boozy milkshakes, but customers can also enjoy a full menu of espresso coffee drinks and or a pull of nitro cold brew coffee.

Stage Left Diner hosts its grand opening Sept. 24, and it is currently open Monday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to midnight. Here’s a First Look at the new face of a familiar diner in Grand Center.


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-photos by Michelle Volansky 



The Scoop: Stage Left Diner to take the spotlight in Midtown

Monday, September 12th, 2016



The former City Diner space at 541 N. Grand Blvd. has a fresh new name and look. Stage Left Diner (named for its next-door location to The Fabulous Fox Theatre) will host its grand opening Sept. 24, according to Brad Beracha, who serves as restaurant consultant on this project.

Beracha said Stage Left Diner owner Steve Smith has made several changes to the space in recent months, updating the interior design and improving the overall customer service experience. “The culture has changed drastically,” Beracha said. “It’s an intangible, but the energy and feel of the restaurant is much improved.”

Customers will also see changes on a new menu created by chef Ryan Cooper. Cooper previously served as chef de cuisine at Beracha’s now-shuttered Araka, and he’s spent the last two years working in kitchens at Smith’s Triumph Grill and BaiKu Sushi Lounge. While the menu still includes diner classics like meatloaf, burgers and a slew of breakfast options, lighter fare is also a focus of the new concept. “It’s still very large, just more health conscious,” Beracha said, noting items like a kale and apple salad, a portabello sandwich and crepes.

Recognizing that many of their customers will attend performances after dining, Beracha said the menu is also built for speed. “If we shave three or four minutes off a customer experience when they’re trying to get to a show, that’s valuable time,” he said.

It’s not only the theater crowd that Stage Left Diner is after, though. Beracha said he hopes new large developments like City Foundry and upcoming Hotel Agnad (slated to open in 2018 and 2017, respectively) will spur increased interest in Grand Center and Midtown. “We’d love for Midtown to be on the map (like) the Central West End and Clayton,” he said.

Stage Left Diner is currently open Monday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to midnight.


Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

Get caught up on all last week’s food news, from new locations of local favorites to the man behind a local institution. ICYMI, here’s the latest in the St. Louis restaurant scene:





1. Niche Food Group chef-owner Gerard Craft announced that he will open a second location of his Italian eatery Pastaria in Nashville in summer 2016. Click here for the Sauce Scoop on the James Beard Award winner’s first restaurant outside The Lou.

2. River City’s executive pastry chef Stephan Schubert won the America’s Division of the American Culinary Federation’s Global Chef Challenge. Click here to find out how he almost didn’t make it to the competition floor in the Sauce Scoop.




3. South County residents and movie buffs can grab a pint before catching a flick next year when Three Kings Public House opens its third location. Click here for the Sauce Scoop on its upcoming opening near Ronnie’s 20 Cine.

4. The latest in a slew of new food trucks, Slide Piece aims to fire up the engine and serve sliders in downtown St. Louis by Monday, Nov. 9, pending inspections. Find out what’s on the menu; click here for the Sauce Scoop.




5. When Absolutli Goosed shuttered its doors last month, its owners took just two weeks to turn their space at 3196 S. Grand Blvd., into Brickyard Tavern. Click here for the Sauce First Look at this new bar and grill on South Grand.

6. Dueling pianos will return to Maplewood with the opening of The Live Juke Joint Dueling Piano Bar. Click here to find out when in the Sauce Scoop.




7. Steven Fitzpatrick Smith explained how he created and sustained a local institution that invites public debate between established neighbors, college hipsters on a dime and maybe even your mom. Click here to find what he does 10 years later at The Royale.

8. A Glen Carbon building that has been a grocery store, a brothel and a down-and-dirty saloon over the years. Pending inspections, it will see its next life as The Cabin at Judy Creek. Click here for the Sauce Scoop






What I Do: Steven Fitzpatrick Smith of The Royale

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015



Some bars lure in customers with trivia nights and live music. The Royale brings in thirsty patrons with public forums on local ballot initiatives and live debates between aldermanic candidates. (The killer cocktail list doesn’t hurt, either.) Credit goes to owner Steven Fitzpatrick Smith, who took over the space 10 years ago. Smith explained how he created and sustained a local institution that invites public debate between established neighbors, college hipsters on a dime and maybe even your mom.

You describe The Royale as a “public house.” What does that mean?
It’s a place where you can meet with your neighbors, and it’s an extension of civilized behavior. That’s something that gets me feeling very good about where I live: knowing that I can sit down with my neighbors and have conversations with them.

The building that houses The Royale has been a bar since before Prohibition. What was your vision when you took over in 2005?
I wanted a place that was respectable enough that more people could go to it than just a particular niche of the market. I wanted anybody to feel relatively comfortable here. I’ll see some kids that come in to drink, and then the next thing you know, they come in with their parents, and they’re like, “Look, this is where I hang out. It’s respectable. I’m not a ne’er-do-well.”

Why do you host public forums and debates?
These are the kinds of things that I would go to. … I like (watching debates) at the library, but if I can get a drink and maybe a bite to eat, and I can convince three of my friends to go with me, that’s much more likely to happen at a bar than in the basement of a library. I enjoy watching the baseball games as much as anybody, but I still think there are other things we can talk about.

You also host events themed around history, like your Cuban Missile Crisis Party.
I love history. When I do (this party), a lot of people learn about the Cuban Missile Crisis. And they got to dress up like it was 1962 and they got to have all that fun, but then they learned about something. I had some great teachers when I was younger, so I (see that as) an extension of what I can do here. Not necessarily as intense; I’m not testing anybody. You can just come in, enjoy the drinks and check out who else is here.

Do you see these events as a public service?
I’m trying to get people to think a little bit more. You want to think more about how to make things better and you have to talk about that with your neighbors. … Better-educated votes lead to a better situation for everybody. We may not agree on everything – that’s certainly not the case. I’m not looking to necessarily sell them on one particular thing. … We all have our own views. Ultimately, if more information is out there, the better informed we are, the better decisions we make, the better city we’ll have.

You are part-owner of Tick Tock Tavern and involved in local real estate and culinary tours. After 10 years, how involved are you in day-to-day operations?
I’m the operator. I close out receipts. … I fixed the basement doors, and I’m going to go on the roof later and patch part of it. If anybody needs to be thrown out of here, I’m the guy. There’s nothing better than to be thrown out by the actual owner of the place. You’ve got to make it look easy. It’s actually a lot of work, but it’s the small touches. I rewired a bunch of lamps last night (to hang at the bar), and I don’t know if anyone is going to notice, but I love it.

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

The Scoop: Café Pintxos at Hotel Ignacio to become sushi lounge BaiKu

Friday, July 25th, 2014


Japanese flavors are coming to Midtown. Sushi lounge BaiKu is slated to open in the former Café Pintxos space at Hotel Ignacio at 3407 Olive St., in early September.

When Café Pintxos opened in 2011, it operated as a soup-salad-sandwich cafe by day and a Spanish tapas bar by night. Neither concept quite caught on, and Café Pintxos has been quiet for some months.

Steve Smith, a partner in Hotel Ignacio and the owner of a trio of businesses in the complex - Triumph Grill, Moto Museum and Moto Europa – looked to reinvigorate the space. Smith tapped as his consultant Brad Beracha, owner of the now-defunct Japanese restaurant Miso on Meramec and Araka. The plan: Japan. “There’s not a lot of sushi for Midtown in this area by Grand (Boulevard),” Beracha said.

BaiKu, which means “motorcycle” in Japanese, will specialize in sushi. It will offer basic rolls, as well as five to seven specialty rolls. “It’s not a big roll menu,” Beracha said. “I want it to be small and done great.” The restaurant will also offer eight to 10 Japanese-inspired appetizers, such as ginger-scallion-sake wings and lobster shumai (steamed dumplings). The dinner menu will be rounded out with a couple Japanese entrees. During lunch hours, BaiKu will also offer Asian noodles with an eye on ramen. Other mid-day meal options will include bahn mi and a few stir-fry items.

BaiKu’s beverage program will focus on sake and wines that pair well with sushi, which will be offered as a special during happy hours. Look also for a small cocktail menu and Japanese brews on the beer list.

Helming the sushi bar will be chef Soung Min Lee, who worked at Miso until it shuttered, and then held the position of executive sushi chef at Central Table Food Hall since it opened last year. Beracha said Lee departed from Central Table a month ago. While the sushi-making action will take place behind the bar at BaiKu, all hot food will be prepared next door in the Triumph kitchen, where chef Josh Norris leads the culinary crew.

Beracha said sushi was a perfect fit for the space’s small bar, and he also hoped that the lighter fare of Japanese cuisine would appeal to ticketholders attending performances in Grand Center. “It’s not heavy,” he said. “When you go to a show, you’re not wanting to take a nap.”

The entire space – bar, dining area, lobby lounge area and patio – will undergo a remodel. Besides new furnishings, look for pieces of a disassembled motorcycle to be a focal point along one of the walls.



The Scoop: Resurrected Tick Tock Tavern to team with new Steve’s Hot Dogs location

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014


{Steve Ewing}


This summer, Tower Grove East will see the expansion of one St. Louis favorite and the revival of another. Steve Ewing, owner of Steve’s Hot Dogs at 2131 Marconi Ave., on The Hill, recently announced a second location is in the works at 3459 Magnolia Ave. The site is also home to the newly reconceived Tick Tock Tavern, which last served customers in 1994 before owner Charlotte Horvath retired. Now in the final stages of the licensing process, the two restaurants will share a building, a kitchen and a future together in the emerging South City borough.

“It’s a great combination,” Ewing said. “I’ve known (Tick Tock owners Thomas Crone and Steve Smith) most of my life. Both of them are well-known names in the community. It’s just a great group of guys. Putting all of our resources together, (all) of us can come out with some great products in a great neighborhood.”

Ewing, also frontman for the band The Urge, started Steve’s Hot Dogs as a food truck in 2008 to wide acclaim. Its first brick-and-mortar location opened in 2011. Serving lunch Monday through Saturday, the restaurant’s no-nonsense menu is more than a dozen dogs strong, kept up by Ewing and grill managers Phil Pitkin and Corey Horan. The three will split management responsibilities for both the original and the new location, which will seat 30.

The new incarnation of Tick Tock, which was popular with St. Louisans for decades, is co-owned by Crone, Smith (who also owns The Royale) and community developer Fred Hessel. “Fred and I had talked about maybe doing a project together,” Crone said. “We all visited one day, walked into the space, and it really clicked for us. There’s a yearning in the neighborhood for a family restaurant component. It really serves everyone’s needs.”

Tick Tock Tavern will seat 49 diners inside and another 20 on a shared patio. Crone added that much of the tavern’s interior has been preserved for nearly two decades. It will be gently renovated, but most of the original decor will remain intact. “(Tick Tock) had a really odd and charming look,” he said. “But it was a regular South City corner bar. We’re keeping the same feel.”

Subterranean Homemade Food owner Robin Wheeler will prepare lineup of light back-bar fare (Pickled eggs, beer-brined pickles, jam, jelly and jerky are all on the docket at the moment.). Behind the bar, expect a selection of eight wines, four local beers on tap (and even more in bottles) and around 10 simple but essential cocktails. Crone said he hopes the two restaurants will open at the same time in mid-summer.

-photo by Greg Rannells

Griffin puts history in his mixes

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

032310_royaleWhat started as a gig managing the door at The Royale has now progressed to a position as one of the more historically accurate cocktail-makers in the city. He’s been a cab driver, a punk rocker, the owner of a record label and a runaway in Ireland. But what Royale bartender Robert Griffin has no experience in is bartending.

Now, this isn’t to say that he has no experience in mixing drinks (his midcentury modern cabinet’s bottle overflow extends into the pantry – and on top of the piano – and is used regularly) or that his professionalism is lacking (quite the opposite, with his patient smile and genuine consideration for his customers), but only that his perspective on the contents of a true cocktail differs uniquely from that of any seasoned barman or the overused “mixologist.”

Six months ago Griffin pitched the idea of a throwback cocktail night to Royale owner Steve Smith, and now the rest is history … cocktail history, that is.

Cocktail Museum Sundays have been taking place on, you guessed it, Sunday nights since that day, each week providing a historically accurate menu with complicated, rare and colorful drinks from the past for everyone from the car mechanic to the cosmopolitan. Using books published both pre- and post-Prohibition, Griffin composes an ornate, elaborate and often anecdotal list of anywhere from three to eight drinks that can take just as many minutes to muddle, shake and strain.

From fizzes to sours, juleps to toddies, flips to punches, Griffin tackles them all with natural ease and grace. So while the title of bartender may be applicable, a more accurate one could perhaps be “booze historian.”

Finally, a few quick facts about Griffin:

Favorite mixer – cognac
Favorite additive – bitters
Favorite liquor to mix – gin
Favorite garnish – fire

– S.C. Truckey

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