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Posts Tagged ‘T.J. Vytlacil’

The Scoop: Death in the Afternoon closes

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016



Citygarden is minus a lunch spot (at least for now) as Death in the Afternoon served its last bowl of ramen on Wednesday, Nov. 23. As reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, owners TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager decided not to renew Death in the Afternoon’s lease in order to continue to grow their point of sale software company, Brigade Society, which publicly launched last year.

“We’re choosing to put all our energy into Brigade Society, and we’re doing well,” said Frager. “Knowing we’ll be traveling a lot in the immediate future, it would have been unfair to the staff, guests and Citygarden if we weren’t here to support the restaurant. We never wanted to be absentee owners.”

Unlike Blood & Sand, which Vytlacil and Frager sold earlier this fall, Death in the Afternoon’s building was leased, and the timeline was shorter. It took nearly nine months to close the sale of Blood & Sand.

“Selling a restaurant is a time-consuming process,” said Frager. “Citygarden has been fantastic and a pleasure to work with. When we started there was some skepticism about the location, but that’s never been an issue. We’ve always been profitable, so I hope we’ve proved that the location is not a hindrance but a benefit. We just didn’t have the luxury of time to put it up for sale.”

The restaurant had been open just more than two-and-a-half years, and Frager said will miss the diners and relationships.

“That was the hardest part of the decision,” he said. “Knowing how many friends have supported us in this. But it is out of respect for them that we closed. If there isn’t a strong leadership or ownership presence, then it’s hard to maintain the experience people had come to enjoy.”


Related Content
• The Scoop: New owner discusses vision for Blood & Sand

• The Scoop: Blood & Sand owners put downtown bar up for sale

The Scoop: Nick Martinkovic parts ways with Death in the Afternoon, Blood & Sand

The Scoop: Death in the Afternoon to extend hours for evening service

• Power Lunch: Death in the Afternoon


Photo by Jonathan Gayman

Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

From our new issue to new ramen shops, here’s everything that went down in the St. Louis food scene last week, in case you missed it…


1. We rang in the new year with our January issue featuring our annual Ones to Watch, six food and drink pros with promise.

2. South American food truck Que Sazon has a new team of chefs behind the window. Aaron Gray and Deana Saunders purchased the business from Fabian and Julie Ocampo Dec. 22.




3. After their much heralded relocation to St. Louis, Michael and Tara Gallina have announced a series of pop-up dinners in January and February 2016.

4. Blood & Sand co-owners TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager are putting their members-only bar on the market.




5. Clayton, get ready to slurp. Nami Ramen will open doors Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 46 N. Central Ave., in the former home of House of Wong.

6. Resolved to drink better, cheaper or less in 2016? We’ve got you covered.




7. Sauce restaurant critic Michael Renner has tasted his fair share of St. Louis cuisine. All year, he shared his thoughts on New and Notable restaurants, and last week, he shared his top five dishes of 2015.

8. Likewise, Matt Berkley works some odd hours as Sauce’s Nightlife critic, spending many a late night sipping craft cocktails around St. Louis on a hunt for the very best. Here, his top five cocktails of 2015.




The Scoop: Blood & Sand owners put downtown bar up for sale

Monday, December 28th, 2015



Want to own a private bar and dinner club? Blood & Sand co-owners TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager are putting their members-only bar on the market. The business partners have developed and tested a point-of-sale software program called Brigade POS and are ready to take the product to the open market. Vytlacil said this switch in focus means the duo can no longer dedicate the amount of time necessary to run Blood & Sand.

“We’ve been thinking far in advance,” Vytlacil said. “We wanted to be honest with our membership base.”

That honesty came via an email to Blood & Sand members Dec. 23. “Blood & Sand is not a concept that can function well long-term without ownership being invested in its day-to-day activities,” Vytlacil said in the email. “It would be unfair to our employees who pour their heart into the work they love, and to our members who rightfully expect a superior dining experience.”

While the business and the property are for sale, Vytlacil and Frager do not intend to sell and run. “We will want to be available to the new ownership if they want to help take it to the next level,” he said.

Vytlacil said that the sale of Blood & Sand would not affect its sister restaurant, Death in the Afternoon.



The Scoop: Nick Martinkovic parts ways with Death in the Afternoon, Blood & Sand

Friday, December 5th, 2014


{Nick Martinkovic}



Nick Martinkovic is no longer executive chef for Death in the Afternoon or its sister restaurant Blood & Sand. The change, which occurred in mid-November, sees colleague and chef David Rosenfeld leading the culinary team at both locations.

“We just felt that our vision of how to grow the restaurants in the future were similar but not exact,” explained Adam Frager, who co-owns both restaurants with business partner T.J. Vytlacil. “We realized it would be in both parties’ best interest to part ways at a time when we were at a point of strength and not ignore potential differences that may arise in the future … We are appreciative and grateful for his contributions. He has his own style that was really well received.”

Martinkovic said the separation was an amicable one. “It was a heartfelt separation with tears and everything. It’s better to end it that way than kind of butting heads,” he said.

Martinkovic has made local food headlines since he arrived here in early 2013 from New York City (where he worked at popular pizzeria Roberta’s) to open Central Table Food Hall. He left that post nearly one year ago to take the helm at Blood & Sand. Martinkovic said he is in the process of starting his own venture focused on healthy, in-home cooking classes. “Most likely it will take me outside of St. Louis,” he said. “I’ve loved my time here. All the other chefs I’ve met – I’ll miss everyone like crazy.”

One of those chefs will be David Rosenfeld, whom Martinkovic tapped to come with him from Roberta’s to open Central Table and then join him at Blood & Sand. Rosenfeld said he felt the chef transition was fairly seamless. “The food at Blood & Sand, since I came on in January, has had a lot of my influences, especially since Death in the Afternoon opened, since Nick was over there,” Rosenfeld said.

Rosenfeld hopes to make the menu at Death in the Afternoon a little more static. “It’s confusing for diners how much the menu changes,” he said. “We’ve gotten great reviews for our pastrami sandwiches and for a lot of other things. For a lunch diner, they want consistency. They read about it; they want to eat that. It should be on the menu when they are there.”

Rosenfeld is also gearing up for collaboration with Mike Sinclair and Chris Gaglio, founders of Upper 90 Brewing Co., whose brewing operation is located in Death in the Afternoon’s basement. Earlier this week, The Scoop reported that Death in the Afternoon will add beer tastings and a truncated evening menu in February 2015. Frager said Rosenfeld will be working with Sinclair and Gaglio to craft dishes around specific beers. Upper 90 will commence brewing operations next week with its first beers slated to be released Feb. 1

The Scoop: Death in the Afternoon to extend hours for evening service

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014




Death in the Afternoon, the estimable lunchtime haunt that quickly won over critics and the public when it opened in June, is extending its hours to include beer tastings and a truncated evening menu beginning in February.

“The idea is to keep it fairly approachable, easy and convenient,“ said co-owner Adam Frager. “We’re going to have enough on the menu for people to grab dinner.” He explained that the initial plan is to offer Death in the Afternoon favorites like the cheeseburger (pictured), pastrami sandwich and charcuterie, while offering a small cocktail menu, glass wine list and array of 10 local beers, including several from Upper 90 Brewing, the craft beer startup being constructed in the restaurant’s basement. Frager said it’s possible that new items will be added exclusively to the evening menu, though no definite plans have been made.

“(Executive chef Dave Rosenfeld and Upper 90 co-owner Mike Sinclair) have already had discussions about a menu that will complement the beer … a deeper collaboration than just pairing food with beer,” he said.

Evening service will extend from 3 p.m., when lunch service ends, to 9:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday. Weekends will still be reserved for private events and brunch.

Originally designed as a lunch oasis for the downtown working crowd, Frager and co-owner T.J. Vytlacil had hoped to keep Death in the Afternoon open in some capacity during the evening once the restaurant found its footing. In conjunction with the kitchen staff, Vytlacil and Frager have made sure the Blood & Sand sibling evolved even in its first months. Frager cited the restaurant’s basement, converted into a prep kitchen, house-made charcuterie room and, of course, the Upper 90 brewing room. “We turned a raw space into a usable space,” he said.

Mike Sinclair said the debut beer lineup is still in the works, though he expects to produce a Kölsch, Irish red ale and Mexican lager in the first few months of production.


-photo by Carmen Troesser


The Scoop: Central Table’s Nick Martinkovic headed to Blood & Sand

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

163539_505103386194005_902311188_n{Nick Martinkovic}


Blood & Sand will soon see a change in its kitchen brigade. Chris Bork is leaving his post as executive chef at the membership bar and restaurant downtown. Replacing Bork will be Nick Martinkovic, currently exec chef at Central Table. Accompanying Martinkovic from the expansive food hall in the Central West End is his sous chef David Rosenfeld. Martinkovic and Rosenfeld will remain at Central Table through Dec. 31 and officially assume responsibilities at Blood & Sand Jan. 5. Bork has not announced his future plans.

Martinkovic explained that his conversations with Blood & Sand co-owners T.J. Vytlacil and Adam Frager about the position began only two weeks ago. “It all happened fairly quickly once the ball got rolling,” he said.

Martinkovic left the kitchen at Roberta’s in Brooklyn, NY, nearly a year ago to move to St. Louis and open Central Table. “I didn’t think I would dig St. Louis as much as I do,” he said, calling the culinary community nice and tight-knit, and noting his amazement at how area chefs treat one another. “People want to help you,” he said, recalling one example of someone who offered assistance sourcing ingredients. “It’s something I’ve really never experienced.” Martinkovic also said the active St. Louis dining scene had a “cool vibe.”

Martinkovic called his tenure at Central Table an amazing experience, as he learned to manage “so many moving parts and components” of an operation that included multiple service models, kitchen stations and 10,000 square feet of dining space. According to Martinkovic, the company has not yet started interviews for his replacement.

Martinkovic said he looks forward to taking the helm at Blood & Sand, but noted that he will be “sensitive” when making changes to the menu. “I’m not going to walk in and change everything,” he said, adding that he will meet with Bork to discuss menu items patrons have come to enjoy and expect.

-Photo by Michelle Volansky



Drinks by three St. Louis Bartenders named among 101 best new cocktails of 2012

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Congratulations to three area bartenders whose drinks were selected by bartending legend Gaz Regan to be among the 101 Best New Cocktails of 2012. Ted Kilgore of Taste by Niche, TJ Vytlacil of Blood & Sand and Joel Clark of Sanctuaria each submitted drink recipes that impressed Regan enough to make the final cut.

While the cocktails themselves have yet to be announced, the list of the bartenders who concocted these tasty beverages is posted on the Ardent Spirits website that Regan hosts. Each of the winning drink recipes will be published in Gaz Regan’s 101 Best New Cocktails 2012, which should be available in mid- to late June. Regan has written a bevy of beloved cocktail books including The Bartender’s Bible, The Joy of Mixology and The Bartender’s Gin Compendium.

A sneak peek of the menu at Blood & Sand

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

091511_tjWill a members-only restaurant and bar concept work in St. Louis? All eyes will be on Blood & Sand this Saturday when doors are unlocked for the grand opening. While some might brush off the idea of paying to get into the downtown venue, those who do shell out the $15 monthly membership fee for TJ Vytlacil (pictured) and Adam Frager’s new spot will be happy to know that what awaits inside is pretty darn affordable.

For the bar menu, executive chef Chris Bork has created a thoughtful selection of nine nibbles (How ‘bout some truffled tater tots?) that run between $2 (for curried nuts) and $6 (for scallop ceviche or country ham). Prices on the dinner menu start at $4 for soup, with most small plates ranging between $8 and $10. Of those, English muffin and lox with house-made mascarpone cheese is on our must-try list, as is the broccoli and goat cheese agnolotti (crescent-shaped ravioli) in a pecan broth. While entrées max at $30 for prime rib, you can also fill up on a $12 burger made with grass-fed beef, onion jam, pea shoots and Missouri cheese, served with a side of fries. For dessert, Prosecco jelly with peaches and mint caught our eye, as did French toast with bananas and Nutella.

On the drink side, Vytlacil revealed that most of the 150 wines available are priced under $50 per bottle while cocktails range from $7 to $12. Blood & Sand has three cocktail menus: A Blood & Sand menu featuring variations of this cocktail classically made using Scotch, orange juice, sweet vermouth and cherry brandy; a beer cocktail menu (Blood & Sand will only be using canned and bottled beer; nothing on draft.); and a specialty cocktail list featuring a dozen or so original creations by Vytlacil. The doors open at Blood & Sand this Saturday at 1500 St. Charles Ave., at 5 p.m.

The Scoop: Blood & Sand bolsters bar staff

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

090711_lucasBlood & Sand owners TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager continue to bolster their staff in preparation for next week’s launch of their members-only bar and restaurant downtown. In July, the duo hired chef Chris Bork, who was at The Mud House at the time, to man the kitchen. Today comes news of the latest hire: bartender Lucas Ramsey, who has been behind the bar for the last few years at Eclipse at the Moonrise Hotel in The Loop. Sauce readers named Ramsey their favorite bartender in this year’s Readers’ Choice poll.

Vytlacil expressed his enthusiasm for bringing Ramsey aboard, noting that he and Ramsey had worked together at The Flamingo Bowl downtown. At that time, Vytlacil was bartending and Ramsey was a door man. Both Vytlacil and Ramsey recalled the evening when Vytlacil prepared a Blood & Sand for Ramsey. “It was my first introduction to actual cocktails,” said Ramsey, who has since gone on to become a prominent player in the area’s craft cocktail scene and worked his way up the ranks at Eclipse to his current position as bar manager. Replacing Ramsey at Eclipse will be the restaurant’s lead bartender, Seth Wahlman. For more on the unique concept behind Blood & Sand, click here.

— Photo by Carmen Troesser

STL bartenders head to Windy City’s premier cocktail lounge

Monday, July 18th, 2011

071811_tjLooking to take a quick road trip? If you’re a cocktailian, we suggest you head north on Interstate 55 to Chicago this weekend where bartenders TJ Vytlacil, Adam Frager and Chad George will be shaking it up, St. Louis style, at The Drawing Room. Vytlacil and Frager, who are opening Blood & Sand – a new members-only restaurant and cocktail bar – in early September, along with George, will be serving up a menu of six cocktails from their own repertoire (the majority of which will appear on Blood & Sand’s opening menu) and four that originated in the subterranean walls of The Drawing Room. George currently serves as bar manager at Demun Oyster Bar where Vytlacil bartends, while Frager can be found behind the bar at Pi in the Central West End.

So, how did the opportunity arise for this talented trio to shake and stir at Chicago’s premiere cocktail lounge? As George explained, “Charles Joly, bar manager at The Drawing Room and possibly the most decorated bartender in the country, called TJ and asked if he could assemble a team to run The Drawing Room bar while he and his bar team are in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail.” Tales of the Cocktail, a national cocktail festival held in New Orleans, kicks off this Wednesday and will run through the weekend.

Congrats to these local guys behind the stick!

— Photo by Brian Fagnani

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