Details emerge on new East Lawrence bistro; signs of a fish house coming to downtown; news of upcoming street parties

photo by: Nick Krug

Crews work outside Bon Bon, the soon-to-be East Lawrence bistro at the southeast corner of Eighth and Pennsylvania, pictured on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016.

As you may guess from my sophistication, I’m a frequent world traveler. At least a couple of nights per week, I watch reruns of “House Hunters International” on HGTV. So, I’m probably the target audience of a planned East Lawrence bistro that will feature a rotating menu of world cuisine.

As we have reported for some time now, the owners of Lawrence’s popular restaurant The Burger Stand plan to open a bistro in East Lawrence’s Warehouse Arts District. Well, the couple has now provided me some details about the new venture, which will be at Eighth and Pennsylvania in the refurbished stone building that sits near the corner. The restaurant will be called Bon Bon, and it is promising to have a menu unlike any other in Lawrence.

“We’re doing something different, but we think Lawrence likes different,” said Simon Bates, who owns the business along with his, wife Codi Bates.

photo by: Nick Krug

Crews work outside Bon Bon, the soon-to-be East Lawrence bistro at the southeast corner of Eighth and Pennsylvania, pictured on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016.

How different? Well, one month the restaurant may have a heavy dose of Austrian and German food, while the next month — or maybe even the next week — the restaurant may have a lot of French dishes. (There is a history lesson in there somewhere.)

Or maybe there is a simpler way to illustrate how the restaurant will be different. One of the restaurant’s appetizers is likely to be something called a takoyaki. Think of it as an octopus fritter topped with Japanese mayo, a Japanese barbecue sauce, pickled ginger, and other ingredients that I don’t know how to spell. (I missed the Japanese episode of HGTV because I have no idea how you get an octopus in a fritter.)

Bates said he had a takoyaki out of a street cart in Japan and immediately determined it was one of the five best dishes he had ever had. That’s how much of the menu at Bon Bon is being determined. Bates is making dishes that he really likes to eat, and the menu will change frequently because he wants to make dishes that correspond to the season of their ingredients.

“I have traveled a little bit and learned about food that I like but is not really available in Lawrence,” Bates said.

The restaurant has a garden across the street that has produced a lot of cabbage for sauerkraut, so German food will be among the first features of the menu when the bistro opens this fall. Also look for dishes with homemade pickles, heirloom vegetables, squash and some Korean eggplant that all come from the garden.

photo by: Nick Krug

Bon Bon Gardens, pictured on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, sits at the southwest corner of Eighth and Pennsylvania streets.

The menu will include some standard items that will be available all year. That includes a large selection of salad bowls, including Mediterranean, Thai and Japanese varieties, several grab and go breakfast items, wraps, sandwiches and other dishes good for a quick lunch. Also look for dishes that feature fried chicken with a multitude of sauces and steamed buns.

“We’re really proud of our buns,” Bates said.

The restaurant will have a liquor license and does plan to stay open into the evening with beer, wine and liquor selections.

The vibe of the restaurant will be casual and also small. The old stone building — which until recently was a duplex but historically was a storage facility for gunpowder when the area really was a warehouse district — is so small that it doesn’t have a kitchen. Instead, Bates has installed a complete kitchen in a large truck that will sit permanently on the site and be connected to the building. The remodeling work also has involved building a large patio for the building. It will be equipped with a canopy, fans, heaters and other such devices to make it as much of an all-weather patio as possible. The building itself has room for about 40 diners. Bates said he’s pleased with how the project has gone thus far, although it has taken several months to develop.

“It is such a neat building,” Bates said. “It has taken some time because we’re trying to put as much detailed work into the building as we can.”

Look for the restaurant to open by the end of the month, Bates said.

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In other news and notes from around town:

• You know what they say oysters on the half shell lead to: oyster juice on your tie. I’m not sure I want to know what you were thinking. Regardless, Lawrence diners may soon have a chance to learn more about oysters.

I don’t have a lot of details yet, but plans have been filed at City Hall for a restaurant called Mass Street Fish House & Oyster Bar to locate inside the former home of Biggs on Mass at 719 Massachusetts Street.

I’m working on getting in touch with the operator of the new venture to learn more. I’ll let you know when I do.

*UPDATE: I have heard from the owners via e-mail today. The restaurant’s name actually will be Mass Street Fish House and Raw Bar. Four restaurant professionals that worked for the popular downtown eatery Teller’s and then Merchants Pub & Plate are opening the business. Ayrick Madeira will be the operator, Laura Klein the general manager, Ryan Gaines the front of house manager, and Galen Zachritz executive chef.
If you are not familiar with the raw bar concept, it is one where fresh shellfish are shucked to order and served. The group told me the the menu will feature a “rotating blend of boutique oysters, fresh fish entrees” and other options. It sounds like the barbecue smoker will remain in the building, and will be used to create some meat dishes, as well.
The restaurant also will feature a standard bar that includes barrel-aged cocktails, craft beer and wine.*

The building has been empty since July when Bigg’s on Mass closed. The Bigg’s BBQ on south Iowa and the Bigg’s Burgers in west Lawrence remain open. My understanding is the downtown spot — which for years housed a portion Buffalo Bob’s Smokehouse — drew heavy interest from a number of restaurant operators.

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• Mark your calendars for another downtown street party. The Lawrence Arts Center has filed plans to close the 900 block of New Hampshire Street from 9 a.m. to midnight on Sept. 30 for a party tied to the Final Friday art walk that will be happening in downtown. In addition to the closure, the Arts Center is seeking a permit to have beer and alcohol on the portion of the public street that will be closed.

• There will be a rare street party event that happens outside of downtown. The longtime bar Louise’s West has filed for a permit to close Seventh Street between Michigan and Arkansas streets from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 24. The event is to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the bar. The bar has filed for a permit to serve alcohol on the closed portion of the street in conjunction with the celebration.

• A housekeeping item: Town Talk will be off next week. I do not expect to experiment with oysters or close down any streets for a party. But I may work on figuring out how to stuff an octopus into a fritter. I plan to return the following week, assuming the octopus cooperates.