rated test kitchen chef-owner juwan rice photo by izaiah johnson

Chef Juwan Rice will open Rated Test Kitchen in downtown St. Louis in spring 2023

Chef Juwan Rice, who made a name for himself in the kitchen at Bait and later with his catering and private dining project JRs Gourmet, will soon be plying his trade in his own brick-and-mortar location. The 2021 Sauce Ones To Watch alum announced today via social media that he will be opening Rated Test Kitchen this spring at 313 11th St. in downtown St. Louis, in the former home of Shift. Rice describes the new restaurant as a cafe by day and an elevated dinner club by night. 

“The idea behind this place is I kind of wanted it to be a culinary playground,” Rice said. “I wanted it to be unique and new, someplace where chefs and mixologists could come into the space and do collaborative dinners.” 

Each month a new group of collaborators, will put together a seven-course dinner menu, although specific dishes have yet to be determined. The reservations-only experience will have two seatings per night, Thursday through Sunday, with 20 to 30 seats available to provide for an intimate vibe. “We’re treating it more as a dinner party than a restaurant dinner service,” Rice said.

In a unique twist, guests are encouraged to give feedback on the food and the service, allowing tweaks for the next service. “We want everyone to come in as food critics,” Rice said. “We don’t want to have anyone write Yelp reviews or any of that type of stuff. We want the raw feedback right there.

“St. Louis is always a little bit behind the trends when it comes to our culinary scene, so we want to be innovative,” he continued. “We want to do the things the East and West Coasts are doing. We want to be super unique and vibrant and diverse.”

Rated's beverage program will feature craft cocktails and wine. Specifics about what that program will entail, along with the identity of who will be helming it, will be announced in the near future. The cafe will feature coffee drinks, and that menu is currently being developed.

Rice said the idea for Rated is to take the intimacy of a dinner series, something he did a lot of during the pandemic stay-at-home orders, but add more of a scheduled and structured approach. He also wants to help revitalize the dining scene downtown. Rice said that he hopes to open by late April if all goes according to plan. Since the space was formerly a restaurant, there isn’t much renovation needed. “We’re really just coming into the space and adding cosmetic uplifts,” Rice said. “We’re not knocking down walls. The footprint was pretty much already there.” 

Rice said the daytime cafe menu will change up some but will also have plenty of staples for breakfast and lunch to accommodate area workers and residents. “We want to keep it more grab-and-go instead of having a sit-down, coursed-out breakfast,” Rice said. He hopes to have an additional 12 seats on the sidewalk out front, which would put capacity right around 45 seats for the daytime operation.

Rice hopes to make some announcements about his team in the coming weeks, as well as the first round of collaborators.