St. Louis second-generation restaurants double the fun.
WHETHER THEY’VE BEEN IN THE BUSINESS 40 years or three, restaurateurs think long and hard before they dive into opening an additional location. Take Joe Edwards, who opened Blueberry Hill in 1972. “I never thought I would open another restaurant,” says the owner of Eclipse, The New Moon Room, The Pin-Up Bowl and Flamingo Bowl. Yet here he is, barely two months away from the debut of The Peacock Loop Diner.
Edwards admits he loves conceptualizing new restaurants, mentally filling 3-D display cases with whimsical collectables and neon signs. So his concept naturally includes peacock and diner memorabilia and a neon peacock, “whose feathers will spread out with a sequencer. Real street sign art,” he says. Going in, Edwards knew he wanted to avoid overlapping with foods already served in the neighborhood. So his diner’s fare will be griddled instead of grilled, washed down with boozy milkshakes and flavored with Asian dishes. And the dessert specialty will be something not currently found in The Loop: pie.
The highly anticipated opening of Death in the Afternoon, which has been serving lunch since early June in downtown’s CityGarden, is also going its own route compared to its members-only sister restaurant, Blood & Sand. Proprieters Adam Frager and TJ Vytlacil dove in knowing full well that “opening any restaurant is an exercise in patience and focus,” in Frager’s words. For customers, it was worth the wait. The glass-enclosed space overlooking the city center’s sculpture park makes for a refreshing setting to indulge in the spot’s international array of popular street food, ranging from Japanese steamed buns and pork ramen to Italian sub sandwiches and house-made, all-beef hot dogs. Evenings and weekends, the restaurant doubles as an events venue.
Another anticipated opening is Dave Bailey’s second location of Rooster, cooking up crêpes and other breakfast and lunch fare on South Grand starting in August. The gut rehab of a midcentury modern bank gives the young Rooster more room to strut its stuff, with a much larger kitchen and on-site bakery. Bailey is hiring a staff of 80 to handle the influx of hungry neighbors.
Like Frager, Bailey is an old hand at unpredictability, patience and adjusting on the fly after opening The Chocolate Bar, Small Batch, Baileys’ Range and Bridge, plus planning for a barbecue venue in 2015. “A pipe exploded and the whole project just got set back at least a month? Let’s keep moving forward,” he says, describing recent setbacks. “I honestly can’t help but stay happy even when stuff like that happens because I know there is a great place on the other side—plus it makes for great stories!”
A spicier menu hits Soulard this month with the opening of a second Mission Taco Joint. Co-owner Adam Tilford says the concept and menu (including Mexican tortas, tacos and burritos) will be coming straight over from the current location in The Loop, leaving Tilford ample time to focus on the design of the new space. Sounds like a margarita is in order to celebrate, and Tilford has plenty to choose from at Mission or the other restaurants he co-owns with brother, Jason: Tortilleria Mexican Grill in the CWE and Milagro Modern Mexican in Webster Groves.
Steve Ewing of Steve’s Hot Dogs on The Hill is excited about his new location south of Tower Grove Park, next door to the reborn Tick Tock Tavern (involving another local restaurant icon—more on him next). Ewing’s 3-year-old hot dog joint is open for lunch only, and he promises that at the new venue, “No matter when you come in, you’ll be able to order your favorites.” Ewing, who’s better known to some as the lead singer for local band The Urge, shares that his new venue will also let him segue back into his first love, live music, with small duos and trios, rock and blues, and “killer bands” coming through on tour.
Over at the Tick Tock Tavern, fans of The Royale will be happy to know that Steven Fitzpatrick Smith is lending his 10 years of restaurant/bar expertise to the project as a business manager to Ewing, Thomas Crone, “a local creative force,” and Fred Hessel, “a man with great vision and skills.” “Definitely the partners make this work,” Smith says of the reborn Tavern, which served its last drink as a bar in 1994. Crone adds that bar foods like cured meats, pickled eggs and beer-based jams will complement the old-school space and—as at The Royale—so will signature cocktails named after landmarks like the local fire station, Engine House #14. He’s also pulling in local microbrews and wines recommended by Jake Hafner of The Civil Life. “It’ll be a team-based approach to building our drinks menu,” Crone says, “and we’ve luckily got some pretty smart people on that team.”
Photo credit: Christopher Gibbons