Maybe our future includes a mole sauce made out of the glaze from the famous donuts once served at Joe’s Bakery.
Well, probably not. But the old Joe’s Bakery building at 616 W. Ninth St. is getting a new restaurant tenant that has a history of trying about anything. After all, it has been serving high-end food out of a gasoline station for the last three and a half years.
That’s right, the Basil Leaf Cafe has signed a deal to locate in the former bakery building near Ninth and Indiana streets that was a late-night college institution for decades. Basil Leaf chef and owner Brad Walters told me he hopes to have the restaurant open by June, although the timeline may get stretched to early July.
If you are not familiar with the Basil Leaf, you must drive some sort of miracle hover craft that allows you to ignore gasoline stations. Basil Leaf is located in the small kitchen space of the convenience store gas station at Sixth Street and Frontier Road in West Lawrence.
The restaurant is looking to become the third establishment to launch a successful eatery from the space. (Alex, I’ll have Gas Station Cuisine for $500: What are Tortas Jalisco and Biemer’s BBQ?)
Figuring out how to categorize Basil Leaf is a bit of a trick. The restaurant’s take out menu certainly has several standard Italian dishes on it, but it also is not unusual to find soups, house-made moles, risottos, dumplings and other things I frequently watch being made on the Food Network while I sit on my couch and partake in the fine cuisine of Doritos and Slim Jims.
In fact, Walters said you could find anything from Cajun to French to Korean to diner food on the menu.
“I try to play with all cuisine. Nothing is off limits,” Walters said. “I guess I would say it is seasonal Kansas cuisine with some world flavors in there.”
Currently, the best way to categorize Basil Leaf is to call it small. The restaurant’s current space has six tables that are “pretty cramped right now.” Even though the Joe’s Bakery building isn’t overly large, it will about double the space of the restaurant, and Walters expects business to triple.
The dining room of the new restaurant will have space for about 50 diners, and Walters said he’ll be working to create a more full-service in-house dining menu. But don’t worry Basil Leaf take-out fans. Walters said the carry out menu will remain.
But Walters is excited to see what the extra space can allow him to create. He said he expects to add more seafood, chicken, pork and steak dishes. Importantly, he said the space will allow him to have a full bar, including wine offerings.
“On our carryout menu, we’ll get something set in stone, but our in-house menu definitely will be seasonal and we’ll probably be doing some monthly wine dinners in there.” Walters said.
Walters said he hopes the restaurant will fall into the category of “super casual upscale.” (Wait a second. I didn’t know we could make up our own categories.)
“It will be fresh and prepared in-house, but as far as upscale pricing, I’m not going to focus on that. It will be good local cuisine and local comfort food.”
Walters didn’t mention anything about donuts, but he did say something about taking the building back to its roots in one way: He’s going to consider a late-night breakfast menu.
A stop at that building after a night on the town would create some nostalgia for some. (Alex, I’ll have Drunken, Late-Night College Memories for $1,000: What is donut glaze on my . . . )
File this under the category of a location to keep an eye on. (Or perhaps under the category of late-night, drunken donut memories.)
But it looks like there may be a new business coming to the former location of Joe’s Bakery — which for those of you who weren’t in town years ago, was a late-night institution that served many a student a donut after a night on the town.
Brad Ziegler, a local bar owner, recently purchased the vacant building near Ninth and Mississippi streets. But Ziegler told me the building definitely won’t become a bar.
“It probably will become some sort of restaurant,” Ziegler said.
He said he’s had about 20 inquiries since he bought the building in December, and all but one of them have been interested in using the building for some sort of restaurant. Most ideas have been centered on quick-service, in and out type of restaurants for the location, which is just off the edge of KU’s campus.
Ziegler doesn’t yet have a deal for the building, but hopes to have one signed in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, some work already has begun on the building.
“It definitely needed a good scrubbing,” Ziegler said. “We took out the duct work so it doesn’t smell like a donut shop forever.”
I’ll let you know if I hear more specifics.