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Aug 04, 2015
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Posts Tagged ‘The Loop’

The Scoop: Meshuggah Café owner sells coffee shop after almost 20 years

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015



After nearly two decades, Meshuggah Café owner Patrick Liberto is selling his Loop cafe to a longtime regular, Jen Kaslow. Kaslow will take over July 18.

When Kaslow heard Liberto was looking to sell the University City cafe, located at 6269 Delmar Blvd., she said she impulsively made an offer, worried another owner might not continue Meshuggah’s menu of espresso-based coffee drinks and house-made eats. “The decision was more about: If Patrick left, what was going to happen with Meshuggah?” Kaslow said.

Although Kaslow does not have any formal culinary experience, Liberto said he is confident the former teacher is up to the job. Kaslow has trained alongside the current owner since mid-June. “She has a kind of energy,” he said. “There’s a certain freshness about her that reinvigorates the place … I didn’t want someone coming in and turning this into a cookie-cutter operation. I still wanted it to have this independent feel.”

Kaslow has a few aesthetic changes in mind, but the new owner assures customers that Meshuggah’s menu won’t change anytime soon. Around Aug. 3, the cafe will temporarily close due to construction outside the shop, and Kaslow said she will use this time to renovate the interior. In addition to incorporating artwork from local artists, she plans to add a large window seat and remove wood paneling to expose brick. Kaslow said she hopes to reopen in mid-August.

The Scoop: Two restaurants see changes on The Loop

Monday, June 29th, 2015



{Shrimp and grits at Cabana on the Loop}


Less than a year after opening, Cabana on the Loop is leaving its current home for a new, off-The-Loop location. Cabana will reopen July 15 at 8502 Olive St., in University City. Co-owner Wendell Bryant said the location was a better financial decision for their business. “I got a better deal on the lease, so we can be there for a longer time,” he said.

Cabana, which opened doors at 6100 Delmar Blvd., in October 2014, will feature the same Southern fare at breakfast, lunch and dinner.






As one restaurant leaves The Loop, another opens its doors. Gyro Grill officially opened June 10 at 6227 Delmar Blvd., which formerly housed Chubbies. The restaurant was originally located at 3801 Kingshighway Blvd. Owner Morad Jabar said he originally considered opening a second location but ultimately decided to relocate instead.

“(We) wanted to get the people who are looking for local names and businesses, not just franchises,” Jabar said. “We have people who have kept up with us through Facebook and followed us here from South City.”

Jabar opened Gyro Grill on Kingshighway five years ago, but closed its doors at the end of April to prepare for the new 1,000-square-foot location on The Loop. The menu features Jabar’s classic gyros and salads from the previous location, plus some new additions.

“The gyro itself is pretty much my swinging pendulum. I can go with a Middle Eastern or European gyro or make something more traditionally American,” Jabar said.



The Scoop: The Loop’s Corner 17 to expand restaurant into neighboring space

Thursday, June 11th, 2015




You’ve heard of big storefronts swallowing up little ones, but Corner 17 in the Delmar Loop is switching things around. Owner Ivan Wei has announced that he is expanding his popular Asian noodle concept into the space next door, formerly occupied by Qdoba.

Corner 17, noted for its windowed station in back where noodles are hand-made to order, closed June 1 to begin the renovations, which will be twofold. The expansion will add 100 seats, and a new express service cafe section will serve prepared menu items for diners on the go. “It’s just easier for Wash. U students and people working around there to get a quick and different variety of lunch,” Wei said.

The menus on both sides of the restaurant will differ, too, serving alternate styles of Chinese cuisine. Wei, who also operates Joy Luck Buffet in Maplewood, said this bifurcated approach allows the kitchen to offer customers a more versatile experience.

“(The express cafe side) serves American-style Chinese, (while) the other side serves traditional Chinese, which includes bubble tea, handmade noodles, dumplings,” Wei said. “We have so many Asian students from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan. … We want to share a traditional Chinese food idea to Western customers, too.”

Helen Lee, partner at design firm Tao & Lee, said the updated design is shooting for “two different atmospheres” for the respective sections of the restaurant. The express service cafe will be cheerier and naturally lit, while the dining room will offer a more solemn mood for leisurely paced, traditional dining.

Wei said the updated space will reopen in late August or early September. “The space (right now) is too small,” he said. “We just want to make it more of a comfortable dining area for people to enjoy traditional food.”

Corner 17 isn’t the first restaurant concept to give itself some extra elbow room on the Loop. In January, David Choi’s tiny Seoul Taco opened in the former Ginger Bistro space, splitting down the middle with an expanded Seoul Taco on one side and adding Seoul Q, a dine-in Korean barbecue concept and bar, on the other.

-photo by Greg Rannells

The Scoop: The Good Pie to become Randolfi’s

Thursday, May 28th, 2015



{The Good Pie owner Mike Randolph}


The Good Pie is changing concepts and names. Owners Mike and Liz Randolph announced today, May 28, that their Neopolitan-style pizzeria located at 6665 Delmar Blvd., in The Loop, will soon become Randolfi’s, a trattoria serving up southern Italian fare. The Good Pie will close the end of June for interior design changes and reopen in early August.

Gnocchi, clams and pancetta, homemade bucatini and meatballs … these are just a few of the dishes Mike Randolph grew up eating with his Italian family, dishes he plans to offer at Randolfi’s. “I’ve always cooked that kind of food at home, but was timid to do it in a restaurant setting,” Randolph said. “We are six years into The Good Pie. It was time to evolve beyond that (pizza) concept.”

Randolph also wanted to pay homage to his late father and the paternal side of his family, particularly with the new name. When his Italian great-grandfather immigrated to the U.S. nearly a century ago, immigration officers changed his last name from Randolfi to Randolph.




{Margarita pizza at The Good Pie} 


The Good Pie pizzas lovers can still get their Neopolitan pizza fix. Randolfi’s menu will include four mainstay pizzas – Margarita, marinara, white fennel sausage and pepperoni – as well as one rotating pie. Additional items will include antipasti like meat and cheese plates and a white bean dip; three daily house-made pastas; a risotto; and a gnocchi dish. Larger wood-roasted entrees like chicken with pesto and a rib-eye for two will be served with oven-roasted sides like rapini or carrots. “It’s really simple food – what, to me, is soul food. It’s the stuff I love to eat,” he said.

The Good Pie’s barman Jeffrey Moll will lead the beverage program at Randolfi’s, where cocktails will center around Italian spirits. Look also for carafes and wines by the glass and a tightened “less esoteric” beer list than The Good Pie’s current offerings.

The redesigned interior will offer the charm of a southern Italian trattoria with warm hardwood floors, red-checkered tablecloths and old photos of the Randolfi family and its native village of Atina, Italy.

Randolph will host preview dinners of Randolfi’s fare during July at Half & Half, his breakfast and lunch eatery in Clayton.

-photos by Greg Rannells 


Sneak Peek: Público

Thursday, February 26th, 2015



Nearly one year ago, restaurateur Mike Randolph announced his plans to open South American gastropub Público at 6679 Delmar Blvd., just doors from his Neopolitan pizzeria The Good Pie in The Loop. The wait for the wood-fired cantina is nearly over; Público opens doors for dinner March 3.

The menu is divided into crudo (raw), botanas (snacks), tacos, arepas (corn pancakes), parrilla (grill items) and desserts. In the raw section, look for appetizers like oysters and tiradito, a Peruvian dish of raw fish similar to sashimi served with a spicy aji pepper sauce. Botanas range from El Tri, a trio of house-made dips and salsas served with corn flatbread, to jalapeno soup with smoked trout. Diners can expect tacos with fillings such as seared shrimp, smoked chorizo, carnitas and carne asada on stone-ground corn tortillas made in-house. A custom-built open-wood hearth that also has smoking capabilities will turn out everything from Argentinian-style steak to whole grilled snapper. Although menu items cap at $15, expect an elevated presentation reminiscent of Randolph’s former restaurants-within-a-restaurant, Little Country Gentleman and Medianoche.

On the beverage side, bar manager Nick Diogiovanni will put rum, tequila and mezcal center stage. A frozen drink machine will also churn out a rotation of boosy slushes like Fernet and Coke. The wine list will focus on South American and Spanish wines, along with cellar wines (that include an extensive riesling selection from Little Country Gentleman days).

SPACE Architects + Design renovated the former hair salon, which now offers seating for 60 guests at a bar, a wall of booths, a 10-seat community table and a few stools along the counter next to the open kitchen.

Here’s what to expect when Público unlocks doors March 3:


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-photos by Michelle Volansky

The Scoop: Cheese-ology in The Loop to close March 7

Monday, February 16th, 2015



Cheese-ology, the mac-n-cheese mecca in The Loop, is closing doors for good next month, as reported by St. Louis Magazine. Owner Bill Courtney said due to rising costs, the fast-casual eatery’s last day of service will be March 7.

“We had a wonderful five years,” Courtney said. “Business is strong, but following the drought of two summers ago that hit the dairy producing regions … the dairy prices have slowly increased.” Courtney noted that prices for recipe essentials like whole milk, butter and cheese have nearly doubled since Cheese-ology opened doors at 6602 Delmar Blvd., in 2010. “I just paid the highest price I’ve ever paid for blue cheese today,” he said.

After factoring in increases in labor and rent, Courtney said he opted to close rather than lower the quality of his ingredients or raise his prices. “It is the right business decision. It’s really great to say this restaurant has been a success,” he said. “On paper, we’re great. Our food is wonderful. We’re not being forced out of business … We’re at a good stopping point.”

Courtney, a chemist by trade, said he plans to shelve his cast-iron skillet and return to the lab. But don’t count him out of the restaurant industry for good. “I’ll never say never,” he said.

-photo by Jonathan S. Pollack

Sneak Peek: Seoul Taco and Seoul Q

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

“This city has never seen anything like this.” Seoul Taco co-owner David Choi was talking about the barbecue grills fitting inside tables at his upcoming Korean barbecue and hotpot restaurant, Seoul Q, but the statement holds true for everything Choi has done at 6665 Delmar Blvd., in University City. The space is the new home for Choi’s relocated Seoul Taco, and its sister restaurant, Seoul Q. While they share a space, Seoul Taco will open later this week, and Seoul Q is slated to open at the end of December.

Upon entering, diners encounter a host stand in front of a partition made from colorfully painted boomboxes. Step right for Korean-Mexican fusion; step left for Korean barbecue and hotpots. The decor is as much a cultural mashup as Seoul Taco’s fusion fare is. A sculpture made from a 1942 Ford Metro van is mounted on the wall next to murals of Korean martial arts fighters wearing Mexican luchador masks.

Seoul Taco is still counter service, but there’s plenty more elbowroom at 76-seat space compared to its former 18-person confines down the street at 571 Mehlville Ave. The menu at Seoul Taco remains the same, but patrons can expect daily specials like Korean barbecue tortas and nachos. And now that it has a liquor license, patrons can wash down their tacos and burritos with 4 Hands brews on tap.

On the other side of the boomboxes, full-service Seoul Q is just as boisterous, but with a more industrial feel. Eight cylindrical exhaust hoods extend over those DIY barbecue grills in the center of poured concrete tables, and a dark wood scape runs the length of one wall, a signature touch of Smartmouth Designs, the Chicago-based interior design company that worked on the space.

The Seoul Q menu is divided into appetizers, soups and hotpots and barbecue. Patrons ordering the latter choose between various cuts of beef and pork to grill at the table. The meat comes with rice, six sides, vegetables and a choice of soup. A barbecue order generally serves two to three people. Meanwhile, meat and seafood hotpots are kept warm at induction stovetops set into some tables. Beverages include bottled craft beer and cocktails featuring soju, a Korean spirit.

Here’s a look at what to expect at Seoul Taco and Seoul Q when both restaurants open:


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-photos by Michelle Volansky


The Scoop: Breakfast is focus at soon-to-open Cabana on The Loop

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014


{From left, Cabana in The Loop owners Latoshia “Hope” Morrow, Wendell Bryant and head chef and general manager Nicole Griffin}


Cabana on The Loop is about to unlock doors as soon as this Saturday, Oct. 4, at 6100 Delmar Blvd., in The Loop. Situated at the corner of Rosedale Avenue in the space most recently occupied by Horseshoe House, Cabana on The Loop will offer American cuisine rooted in Southern cookery. The eatery will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily – the latter by reservation only – but the focus will be on morning fare.

The restaurant is a project by husband-and-wife team Wendell Bryant and Latoshia “Hope” Morrow. “We always wanted a family restaurant,” Bryant said. Cabana on The Loop will indeed be a family affair; Bryant’s cousin Nicole Griffin will take on the dual role of directing kitchen operations and managing the restaurant. A graduate of L’Ecole Culinaire, Griffin helped open Southern-inspired SoHo in The Grove in 2012. After a culinary stint in Phoenix, she returned to St. Louis to manage the downtown location of Rib Shack and run her own private catering company.



{The cereal bar at Cabana in The Loop will feature 20 cereals displayed in dispensers around the bar.}


At Cabana in The Loop, Griffin will return to a down-home cooking style similar to that from her yearlong tenure at SoHo, including shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy and chicken and waffles. Look also for a number of omelets, such as the Soul Food Omelet that features collard greens and smothered turkey. Morning mainstays like pancakes are on the menu, as is build-your-own French toast. If diving into a bowl of cereal is your wake-me-up meal, Cabana in The Loop will open your eyes with its cereal bar, featuring 20 varieties behind the bar. Customers can add toppings such as chocolate chips, M&Ms or pecans. “It’s something different that The Loop doesn’t have,” Griffin said.



 {Cabana in The Loop’s shrimp and grits are plated with crisp turkey bacon.}

Lunch items include a few salads with house-made dressings, appetizers like honey-glazed onions, and a variety of chicken wings, sandwiches, burgers and wraps. When dinner service is added, that menu will change weekly. Cabana in The Loop will not serve alcohol. The new eatery’s initial hours of operation will 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Its tropical name comes not from the cuisine, Bryant said, but from a longing for an unfulfilled island getaway. “We wanted to take a vacation for so long, but we can’t do it,” he said, adding that besides opening a restaurant, the couple is expecting their third child in November.


-photos by Michelle Volanksy






The Scoop: Racanelli’s New York Pizzeria to open fifth location in The Loop

Thursday, September 25th, 2014


{Racanelli’s owner John Racanelli}


A slice of the Big Apple is coming to the Delmar Loop thanks to John Racanelli, owner of Racanelli’s New York Pizzeria, who will open his fifth storefront at 6314 Delmar Blvd., in November.

Racanelli learned the art of pizza-making growing up in an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx. “I learned to make pizza the old-fashioned way,” he said. “We make everything from scratch using the best products.” His brothers, Vito and Sam Racanelli, were also inspired by their food-oriented Italian upbringing, opening Onesto Pizza & Trattoria in South City and later Mad Tomato in Clayton, which is still owned and operated by Vito Racanelli.

The first Racanelli’s Pizzeria storefront was opened two decades ago in University City, which was later transformed into Market Pub House in 2010 and is still owned by John Racanelli.

The menu will remain consistent with the offerings found at the Kirkwood, Webster Groves, Central West End and St. Peters locations. While slices of hand-tossed, New York-style pizzas are the house specialty (Racanelli’s personal favorite: sausage, mushroom and jalapeno with extra cheese, cooked well-done), other crowd-pleasers include parmigiana heroes topped with a generous ladle of fresh tomato sauce, sandwiches on house-baked focaccia and house-made calzones and strombolis.

Construction crews began work on the new storefront in mid-September in the space that formerly housed the vintage designer clothing shop, Timeless Authentic Garments. Racanelli expects two dozen seats inside and an additional 10 to 15 seats outside. The new location will also offer dine-in, carryout and delivery.


The Scoop: Local sushi star Naomi Hamamura joins the culinary team at United Provisions

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


With the opening of United Provisions just weeks away, there’s news that another talented face from the local culinary scene is joining the team at the highly anticipated international grocery store at 6241 Delmar Blvd., in University City.

Naomi “Hama” Hamamura, previously executive chef at the Wasabi location downtown, has been hired as the chef at The Dining District, the prepared foods and dining section inside the grocery store. United Provisions partner Ben Poremba said he hired Hamamura two weeks ago. “He’s the best,” said Poremba, who also owns Elaia and Olio and co-owns La Patisserie Chouquette. “I called him up. He liked the idea of a new place … something a little different from what he’s done so far.”

While Hamamura will be in a new location, he’ll still be the focus of attention as he prepares sushi, ceviche and other raw far at the 16-seat raw bar at United Provisions. The Dining District’s other stations include a grill, a plancha and a deli with cured meats and cheese, according to St. Louis Magazine. Executive chef Jay Stringer will overseeing the entire dining and prepared foods operation. A veteran of the Chicago dining scene, Stringer has worked in the kitchen at Olio since it opened almost two years ago.

Lunch hours at The Dining District will be counter service with dine-in or carryout options, while dinner will be full service at this restaurant within a grocery store. There will also be a coffee shop serving up drip Northwest Coffee and pastries from La Patisserie Chouquette. Poremba said United Provisions is expected to open Aug. 11.

While Hamamura’s career began in Japan, the chef has made a mark on the local food scene since arriving to the U.S. in 1979, including working at now-closed Japanese steakhouse Robata of Japan and Ritz Carlton – St. Louis, and owning and operating the now defunct Sansui and Sansui West. In 2010, when Hamamura sold Sansui West to Wasabi, he stayed on as its corporate chef. After a stint at Prasino, Hamamura returned to Wasabi, where he worked until July 14.

-photo by Greg Rannells

Editor’s Note: This piece originally misstated Naomi Hamamura’s responsibilities at The Dining District. It has been corrected.

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