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Jan 21, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘TJ Vytactil’

Ones to Watch 2017: Zac Adcox of Blood & Sand

Sunday, January 1st, 2017



Title: General Manager, Blood & Sand
Age: 22
Why watch him: He’s a barely legal oenophile.

How to take over

Be young. Be bored with your scenery. After high school, move from Phoenix to Baltimore to live with your dad and stepmom. At night, sit around the kitchen table drinking wine with them because you have no friends.

Get a busboy job at a French bistro. Try foie gras for the first time paired with a glass of Sauternes. Freak out. Study wine every free moment you have, even though you’re still just a busboy. Get promoted to server and sell more wine than anyone in the restaurant.

While other kids your age are begging older siblings to buy them cases of Natural Light, loiter in liquor stores until employees notice you taking photos of wine labels. Approach friends, strangers – whoever will listen – with the picture of the next vintage and varietal you need to try and say, “Please buy this for me.” Do this for a year.

Consider it a big life event when a liquor store salesman lets you buy something without showing ID. Buy a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Take your girl to New York City for a fancy dinner. Realize no one is going to sell you wine, then bury your face in the wine book for a half-hour until a sommelier finally approaches the table.

Travel to St. Louis for the first time to take your certified sommelier exam. Celebrate your passing with dinner at Blood & Sand. Love the restaurant so much that you ask owner TJ Vytlacil if you can work there. Find out he just sold the place. Be persistent.

A few weeks later, move to St. Louis to work at Blood & Sand even though you’ve only been there once in your life. In three weeks, sell more bottles of wine than Vytlacil sold in the previous six months. Take over the front of house; run the wine program; be unstoppable.

Turn 22.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

The Scoop: New owner discusses vision for Blood & Sand

Friday, October 21st, 2016



In December 2015, Blood & Sand co-owners TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager announced they were putting the downtown restaurant up for sale in order to focus their attention on their software company, Brigade Society. On Thursday, Oct. 20, the duo announced that Tim Murphy, an early member, had purchased the business.

“Tim was the best fit and the best person,” said Frager. “We probably could have closed sooner and for more money if we wanted to just cash out, but we were willing to put our eggs in his basket because of the strength of Tim as a buyer and for his character. We’re excited to be able to leave it in such great hands.”

Murphy, who has a business background and managed restaurants in the 1990s, became a member at Blood & Sand only months after it opened in September 2011. While he first joined for the drink and cocktail program, he soon became enamored with its food menu, service and ambience as well.

“It’s one of St. Louis’ great jewels,” said Murphy. “I remember it went up for sale on Dec. 26, and that’s the day I started wanting to buy it. I thought, ‘It’s the only restaurant I’d consider buying. I have to make a run at this.’”

Enthusiastic and committed to Blood & Sand’s staff and concept, Murphy intends to keep the ethos of the fine-dining eatery, as well as its staff. Executive chef Chris Krzysik will helm the kitchen, where he has worked for last four years. Sean Coltrain will head the beverage program, and certified sommelier (and one of the youngest in the country at a mere 21) Zac Adcox will run front of house.

“The staff is amazingly good,” said Murphy. “It’s one of the best we’ve ever had. It’s a great place to come in and celebrate. Or if you come in to process having a bad day, the staff is kind enough to understand and let you do that as well.”

In addition to the atmosphere and people, Murphy intends to keep membership prices and volume consistent. “I want to be as full as we can be and still put out exceptional food and drinks,” he said. “I don’t need to be 100-percent packed. I’m not Applebee’s and don’t want to be.”

Members and guests can expect to see the same menu items with the addition of more adventurous dishes, potentially including wild game entrees and a pawpaw cheesecake. Diners can also expect to see a bit more playfulness and tweaks in plating.

For their part, the former owners report success in their restaurant point-of-sale business, and while they are sad to not be at Blood & Sand on a daily basis, they are pleased with the establishment’s direction.

“Our dream was the person who took over would build on the success and serve the community we created,” said Frager. “Tim’s going to be able to build upon that legacy. It’s exciting. He’s been with us from the beginning, and this couldn’t have worked out better.”

First Look: Death in the Afternoon

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Like the expat loungers of Hemingway’s Pamplona, the midday clientele at Death in the Afternoon, located at the corner of Citygarden at 808 Chestnut St., might well start losing themselves in carefree lunch rendezvous. Co-owners Adam Frager and TJ Vytlacil, who also own members-only downtown spot Blood & Sand, have been hard at work, and devotees have noticed: Though its official opening took place today, June 9, Death in the Afternoon was serving lunch to crowds (many of them Blood & Sand members), as early as last Thursday, June 5. Yet unlike its exclusive older sibling, Death in the Afternoon is open to the public Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Executive chef Nick Martinkovic, who joined Blood & Sand in January, is putting the finishing touches on the menu of soups, sandwiches and salads with Japanese and Mediterranean flair. Some entrees, like pork ramen and falafel, are still being tweaked in the kitchen but will roll out in the first month.

The somewhat inchoate bar program is still being set up, too, though 10 draft beers and six wines by the glass are expected to be available this week. Brewers Mike Sinclair and Chris Gaglio will operate Upper 90 Brewing Company in the restaurant’s basement prep area, a separate venture that will brew small batches for Death in the Afternoon. No cocktail menu is planned, though spirits are available behind the bar.

Blood & Sand members may still be surprised at Death in the Afternoon’s adjusted concept – sleek, uncloistered, nonexclusive and, for now, staunchly devoted to lunch (though brunch service is on the horizon). The name, borrowed from an early title of Hemingway’s and, later, a cocktail he invented, actually is inspired by the vistas from the dining room floor. Frager said Citygarden’s foliage, on full display through the floor-to-ceiling glass, reminded him of the gardens at Papa H’s Key West, Florida, estate – not to mention the duo’s first venture was named for a cocktail, too.

Here’s a first look at what you’ll find downtown at Death in the Afternoon:


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-photos by Garrett Faulkner

The Scoop: Blood & Sand owners to open restaurant at Citygarden

Monday, February 3rd, 2014



Blood & Sand owners Adam Frager and TJ Vytlacil have another project in the works. The business partners are going to open a restaurant called Death in the Afternoon at 808 Chestnut St., in Citygarden, as reported by the Post-Dispatch’s Ian Froeb. The restaurant is expected to open in mid-to-late April.

Lunch will be the main focus at Death in the Afternoon, and the restaurant’s unique setting at the Citygarden sculpture park appealed to Frager and Vytlacil as a special events space. Unlike members-only Blood & Sand, Death in the Afternoon will be open to the public.

“We thought downtown would benefit from an outstanding lunch destination that was very approachable in its food and price point with creative preparation, done with love and attention, and it in a timely manner,” Frager said. Its lunchtime focus means Death in the Afternoon will not compete with its sister restaurant, Blood & Sand.

Frager described the menu as “delicious, approachable food … stuff everyone loves, but slightly new, done differently, with new ingredients.” Hot dogs, burgers, pastrami sandwiches and house-made charcuterie are some items patrons can expect. “It’s not going to be an expensive place. Not $20 lunch items,” Frager said. “It’ll be very affordable for virtually everybody and offer a tremendous amount of value.” Helming the kitchen will be chef Nick Martinkovic who joined Blood & Sand in January.

While handcrafted cocktails are a draw at Blood & Sand, Frager said the beverage focus at Death in the Afternoon will be creative nonalcoholic drinks. He, Vtylacil and Blood & Sand bartender Jayne Pellegrino will develop that menu, which will be rounded out with local draft beers and a small, boutique wine list.

Two restaurants – Terrace View and Joe’s Chili Bowl – have come and gone in the space Death in the Afternoon will soon call home. Restaurateur Jim Fiala operated the Terrace View for two years, while Joe’s Chili Bowl was open for just 18 months before closing in October 2013. Frager said he doesn’t think the space or location will pose a challenge.

“People said the same thing about our space at Blood & Sand. It’s in an alley; there’s no visibility. But what we look for in a space is uniqueness. I don’t think there is any space that is cursed or handicapped. Some might take more time and money to develop. But if you are rooted in fundamentals – founded in excellence in quality, food, atmosphere, service, genuineness, transparency – if you excel in those realms, you can be successful. Obviously, the more remote you are, the better you have to be to overcome those. I see nothing but overwhelming positives about the space. It’s one of the most unique spaces in the country, not to mention St. Louis. It’s such a great canvas to start with.”

While Frager and Vytlacil will not be making structural changes to the space (apart from constructing a prep kitchen and charcuterie area in a lower level), they are giving the “canvas” a facelift. Interior design changes will include new accents, lighting and furniture.

-photo courtesy of Citygarden


Tweet Beat: This week’s best tweets from STL foodies

Friday, September 10th, 2010

080610_twittericonWelcome to Tweet Beat, a new online column in which we run down the list of our favorite tweets from foodies around the city. Some funny, some strange and a few just delicious, here’s what you missed on Twitter this week:

Are you following us on Twitter? Come on, get Saucy @saucemagazine

Little boy in Park Avenue agog at all the gooey butter cake choices. I feel ya, kid.

@stlhops Can get your logo on a black one piece spandex suit – maybe with boots and a cape? I want to fight crimes against beer. #stl

Dreamt that Tony Bourdain was conjuring Abe Lincoln’s ghost at my house. Abe’s ghost had an agent who wasn’t cooperating.

I had a dream about an all-you-can-eat tater tot contest. Unfortunately, I woke up before it started.

Chef Kevin making chow chow at about 2am. This is what we do on Friday nights http://twitpic.com/2m8bb1

Vodka, #bacon, Brinner, pot belly dandies, and being awesome – great start to the day!

Through pure happenstance staged a taste off between Ted at @tastebyniche and TJ at @francostl. Both NW coffee cocktails were amazing!

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