Duo has plan to convert Teller’s into gastropub with heavy emphasis on craft beers; Papa Murphy’s opens with special event for Boys and Girls Club today
In Lawrence, beer is art. If you don’t believe me, drive through certain neighborhoods and behold the beer-bottle pyramids erected on many a front porch.
Well, it looks like Lawrence beer lovers may soon have another way to express their love for the beverage: a gastropub.
A deal is in the works to convert the longtime, downtown, upscale restaurant Teller’s into a gastropub that focuses on Midwest food and an extensive list of libations, led by a large lineup of craft beers.
The idea for the new restaurant comes from T.K. Peterson, the former executive chef of The Oread, and Philip Wilson, the operating manager of Teller’s.
Peterson left his position at The Oread last week, and if all goes as planned, he’ll join Wilson at Teller’s next month.
“It is a concept that I’m passionate about,” Peterson told me. “We feel like Lawrence needs a new restaurant concept like this, but really why it comes down to this is the type of food I like to cook.”
What type of food will that be? I don’t know. My mind was still on the beer. (What can I say? I’m a dedicated patron of the arts.) Peterson said the plan is for the restaurant to work with the usual brewers and develop relationships with many small-batch breweries, and perhaps even have some special batch brews created just for the restaurant.
Notice that I have used the word “plan” quite a bit here. Some details are still being worked out on this deal, but Peterson and Wilson agreed to share a few details with me because the rumor mill had started to crank up about the future of Teller’s and whether it was set to close.
As it is currently envisioned, Teller’s, 746 Massachusetts St., is scheduled to close temporarily for a major renovation. Wilson said the closing likely would take place around July 1 and the business would reopen in its new form before the students arrive in late August.
As for whether the new restaurant will keep the Teller’s name, Peterson said that hadn’t been decided. “We don’t know on that yet, but it is hard to ignore the kind of name recognition Teller’s has, not only locally but really with alumni across the country.”
The project will be a bit of a homecoming for Peterson. He worked at Teller’s while attending the Culinary Institute at Johnson County. In total, Peterson has about 12 years on the Lawrence food scene, including stints at the former upscale French restaurant Bleu Jacket at The Eldridge and for the last 17 months as the executive chef at The Oread.
It sounds like this project will be one to watch in the coming months. I’ll update you as a I get more information.
On another restaurant note, those of you who want some pizza and don’t want to get out of the car to get it are in luck. As we previously reported, Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza is one of the tenants opening in the new retail building at 650 Congressional Drive, which is just west of the Famous Dave’s BBQ location at Sixth and Wakarusa.
Well, Papa Murphy’s is now open at the location. (Wireless Zone, a Verizon Wireless phone dealer, is also open at that site. Other tenants for the location will include Prime Martial Arts and Meritrust Credit Union.) But back to pizza. Papa Murphy’s is hosting a special event today, where 20 percent of all sales made at the shop will go to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence.
As for the part about having the pizza placed right in your car, the location has a drive-through, which is a new concept for Papa Murphy’s in Lawrence. But hopefully you realize the “Take ‘N’ Bake” in Papa Murphy’s name means you have to cook the pizza yourself.
I don’t know about your vehicle, but my old F-150 doesn’t have an oven (or a working cassette player or a rear view mirror or brakes), so you may still have to get out of your vehicle to enjoy the pizza.
Or maybe not. I’ll ponder on it a bit. It is a beautiful May day. Perhaps I’ll do some pondering with a piece of pizza and a healthy dose of art, if you know what I mean.
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 . . . )
Mexican restaurant Tapas closes as it loses lease on downtown building; Mexquisito expands into Eudora
The Trail of Margaritas — you may know it is as Massachusetts Street — now has one less waypoint.
Tapas, 724 Massachusetts St., has closed. Its last day in business was Saturday, general manager Dorothy Hopkins told me.
But fret not, all you folks who are worried about becoming dehydrated as you trek through downtown. Hopkins told me the restaurant is working hard to reopen in another location.
Hopkins said business was good at the restaurant, which had been open a little more than a year. But she said its building recently sold. Actually, I think it is under contract to be sold. Regardless, the new owners have other plans, and Tapas lost its lease.
Hopkins said the restaurant is in early discussions for another spot on Massachusetts Street, but it also is considering the Wakarusa Street corridor.
“I know some other restaurants are struggling in downtown, but our business has been excellent,” Hopkins said. “That is what is really sad about having to close.”
The potential move — which Hopkins said will take at least a month — has left the restaurant’s 26 employees in limbo.
As for what may be on tap for Tapas’ old building, I’ve heard another restaurant is the leading contender. I have a call into a person who I believe will be part of the new ownership group. If I hear back, I’ll let you know.
Perhaps there is a rule or something that when one Mexican restaurant goes out of business, another must open.
The folks who have Mexquisito, 712 Massachusetts St., have expanded into Eudora. The new restaurant opened on Friday, occupying a spot near 10th and Locust streets — kind of catty-corner from the Casey’s — in a spot formerly occupied by . . . a Mexican restaurant.
I had occasion to check it out this weekend, and it brings some of the same — what I would call, slightly upscale — Mexican dishes that it serves at Mexquisito in downtown. You’ll have to decide whether my description is accurate. All I know is that when you order salsa, you get both the red and the green type, which provides the answer to a riddle: What do you get when you combine red and green? Another margarita.
Maybe my blood is running blue these days, but I have more country club news. Last week, we reported on news of management changes at Alvamar Country Club. Today, we have news about what a former local country club executive is up to.
Brent Boyle, who at various times over the last decade has worked as food and beverage director at Lawrence Country Club and also was club manager at Alvamar Country Club, has opened an Italian restaurant in Baldwin City.
Antonucci’s is at 519 Ames Street, which is across the street from the Kwik Shop. (All directions in Baldwin City originate from the Kwik Shop.)
Boyle said the restaurant focuses on classic Italian dishes. The restaurant has a culinary school-trained chef — Tad Ingles — who has prepared a menu that focuses on dishes made from scratch. That includes, homemade meatballs, a peppers and sausage dish that incoporates restaurant-made sausage, and made-from-scratch pizzas.
Boyle, who also owns the Baldwin Diner, said he was looking to create a bit more of a destination style restaurant in Baldwin City.
“I got to looking around and realized there really wasn’t a restaurant to take a date in Baldwin City,” Boyle said. The restaurant held its grand opening in late January, and Boyle said the restaurant is starting to attract Lawrence and Ottawa customers who want to take a bit of an evening drive.
“The new Highway 59 at 70 miles an hour really makes it pretty easy for people to get down here to Baldwin,” Boyle said.
Freebirds Burrito set to open Jan. 31 in downtown Lawrence; company looking for co-tenant for building
There’s a search underway for a new nesting partner. No, the search isn’t for me. (It was a long vacation, but my wife didn’t tire of me so much that she kicked me out of the nest.)
I’m talking about a different bird: Freebirds Burrito. As we reported in July, restaurant chain Freebirds World Burrito has signed a deal to locate in a portion of the former Maurices building at 739 Massachusetts St. in downtown, and now is looking for a co-tenant for the space.
We reported this summer that the restaurant was set to open by the end of October, and then Freebirds seemed to become about as grounded as the KU football team’s passing game did this fall.
Well, work is clearly underway now, and a spokeswoman with Freebirds told me the restaurant is scheduled to open near the end of January, and I’ve since seen where the company’s website is listing Jan. 31 as the store’s grand opening date.
Caitlin Noble — director of marketing for Kansas City-based FBMidwest Development, which is the franchisee for Freebirds in the Midwest — confirmed Freebirds will take about two-thirds of the former Maurices building. The other third will be left for another tenant. Noble said another tenant hasn’t yet been found. No word yet on whether Freebirds is open to another restaurant locating in the spot, or whether they will hold out for a more traditional retailer. My understanding is that Freebirds is in control of the space because it has leased the entire building and will sublease the remaining space.
For those of you who have forgotten what the heck a Freebird is, it is more than just a really long Lynyrd Skynyrd song that disc jockeys play when they need to take a bathroom break.
But it is a little funky like Skynyrd. According to the company’s website, the chain got started in 1987 by a couple of “ex-hippies” in Santa Barbara, Calif. The company then expanded into College Station, Texas, where the restaurant became a hit with Texas A&M students, which is odd since I’m almost certain the restaurant doesn’t serve eggs benedict. Benedict, as in Benedict Arnold. Famous traitor. Texas A&M and its Big 12 betrayal. (This is not good: The first column of 2013, and I’m already having to explain jokes.)
What the restaurant does serve is a large mix of burritos, tacos, nachos and other similar dishes. Freebirds promotes that it is uses hormone-free, grass-fed beef and free-range chicken, which the website says goes back to the company’s hippie roots.
Here’s another thing that may go back to the restaurant’s hippie founders: Pot brownies. I’ve asked several hippies if those were popular back in the day, and they said they couldn’t remember. I took that as a sign that they were very popular. But before you grab your tie-dye and start forming a line at Freebirds, you should know that these pot brownies are named such because they are served in a black pot. (The tie-dye would still be fun, though.)
When Freebirds opens in Lawrence, it will be the company’s second Kansas location. Its first Kansas location opened in 2012 along Metcalf Avenue in Mission. It also has restaurants in Westport and Lee’s Summit in the Kansas City area.
Milton’s may not be coming back to downtown Lawrence, but a full-fledged breakfast restaurant is slated for its spot at 920 Massachusetts St.
And it will have a strong Milton’s connection.
Manda Jolly, a former general manager for Milton’s, has inked a deal to open The Roost in early 2013.
Jolly said the restaurant and its menu won’t be a replica of Milton’s — which closed last month — but it will be a place to get a traditional breakfast, and some of the menu items will be very recognizable to fans of Milton’s.
“I understand that there were things that people grew to love and need from there,” said Jolly.
(I’m working to get her to write my doctor a note to prove to him that I indeed do need sausage gravy.)
Jolly said The Roost will focus on breakfast, lunch, pastries and something she calls “inspired cocktails.” (That sounds a bit redundant to me. Almost every cocktail I’ve had has inspired me to have another.)
Jolly is opening the restaurant with three other partners — she is not yet releasing those names — but she said one of the partners has opened and managed several bars in Lawrence. She said The Roost will be more committed to having cocktails and spirits be a part of the restaurant than Milton’s was, which had a liquor license on and off during its existence. But at the moment, Jolly said the restaurant won’t have regular evening hours. (Don’t fret, I’ve heard cocktails at lunch can be very inspiring and darn right transformational at breakfast.) Instead, The Roost will be available for rent for evening events, and Jolly said the restaurant also will host a few special evenings per year.
The former Milton’s space will get a major makeover to accommodate The Roost. Jolly said the name for the restaurant comes from her family’s farm just outside of Speed, Kan., which is near Phillipsburg, which is near Stockton, which is near . . . (In Western Kansas, we could play this game all day, but it always ends the same. It is east of Denver.) The family farm’s name is The Roost, and Jolly said the restaurant space is going to take on a little bit more of that type of feel with some old barn wood incorporated into the design and more natural elements such as exposing some stone walls.
When all of it comes together, is still a bit uncertain. Jolly at this point is only committing to “early 2013” as an opening date.
“I don’t want to give up on January yet, but it won’t be early January,” Jolly said.
Jolly started at Milton’s as a hostess on the day the restaurant opened in 1997. Jolly worked there pretty much for the next 11 years, rising to the rank of general manager. When she left the restaurant four years ago, she tried to buy Milton’s then, but the deal never quite happened. The idea, though, never did fully leave her.
“I love mornings,” Jolly said. “I’m used to that. Milton’s served as a major hub of the community for a long time. It always has been the best job I ever had.”
Some restaurants hang dollar bills from their walls, while others hang windows from their ceilings.
What? You haven’t heard of that? It is the thing at downtown Lawrence’s newest restaurant, Loopy’s, which is on the ground floor of the 901 Building at Ninth and New Hampshire.
If you remember, we reported back in September that a trio of restaurant and marketing executives had teamed up to sign a deal to locate a new restaurant/wine bar in a corner of the multi-story apartment and office building.
Well, the business is having its soft opening today and expects to roll out its full menu and bar later this week. But what it already has in great supply are windows. There are dozens and dozens of windows suspended from the ceiling and hanging from the walls of the restaurant.
Billy Pilgrim, a Lawrence marketing executive and one of the co-owners of the business, said the design fits in well with the restaurant’s goal of becoming a Lawrence original. “I don’t think there is anything quite like it in Lawrence,” Pilgrim said.
For one thing, it may be the only restaurant in town that has about a hundred people living directly above it. Pilgrim thinks a restaurant that intersects with where people live is going to have a bit of a different feel than an ordinary restaurant and bar.
As for the food, that’s being handled by the other two partners in the business: David Lewis, the founder of the recently closed Milton’s restaurant; and longtime Lawrence chef Sula Teller, who also happens to be married to Pilgrim.
The menu has breakfast — which will be served from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. — lunch/dinner, and late-night options.
On the breakfast side, you’ll be able to get everything from “daily porridge” — no word on whether you have to share a table with a bear — to lots of take-out items like granola, breads and pastries to slightly more complex items like a frittata or apple frangipani, which are stuffed apples with roasted nuts, toast and butter. The place also will offer a full-line of coffees, including espressos and lattes.
Lunch and dinner items include a large dose of flatbreads and pizzas. The menu includes about a dozen pizza items, including classics such as sausage and pepperoni to ones such as sweet potato and speck ham. The menu also includes salads and soups.
The happy hour and late-night menu will include the pizzas, but also will have a variety of fruit and cheese trays, gourmet olives, and plates of smoked salmon and trout. Of course the hour wouldn’t be all that happy unless some adult beverages also were offered. The restaurant will have a well-stocked wine cellar, and the menu I’ve seen lists about 35 craft beers coming from as close as Free State Brewery to as far away as places such as California, Colorado, Canada and Belgium.
As I mentioned, the restaurant is rolling out its offerings in phases. Pilgrim told me many of the menu items are available today, but the full-line of offerings won’t be available until later this week.