In a calculated run-up to a bar launch that can't come soon enough, the guys behind the Rogue Gentlemen may have pushed the slow reveal into hot and numbing territory. For months, chefs John Maher and Aaron Hoskins have dripped hints about their project, a professor's study- meets-cocktail bar now rising in Jackson Ward. Hand-delivered cards and clues, a covert Twitter account and a what's-the-password website are building an identity well before the building will be ready.
"We want to be right smack in the middle," Hoskins says of Rogue's midcity position on a pristine First Street corner with views of condos and cherry trees. The building's insides are gutted to the 1910 brick for a bookish remake designed to be "masculine, eccentric, dark and moody, timeless," the concept boards say. Backing comes courtesy of Sandy and Allison Appelman, developers who bought the building and the concept — cocktails, fine food, neighborhood feel — and gave the rogues their opportunity.
The room will seat 16 at the bar, a dozen at tables, and more outside on a trellised patio next to a kitchen garden. It will open for breakfast and pastries, Sunday brunch, and nightly service except Tuesdays. From starters to cordials, the partners are obsessing over every detail of menu, service and execution, with an awareness that expectations are high and that competition is stiff.
Maher will manage the house and make cocktails with barman Eric Fortin, and Hoskins will run the kitchen. He says he'll put into practice what he's learned in the past year from Tim Bereika at Secco among other chefs who've helped and hectored him as needed.
Although the partners say they might open by summer, that last clue may be the hardest of all to deliver. Follow progress @roguegentlemen.
Neighborhoods across town are bracing for more food options in the second quarter of the year. Here's a partial list of what's on tap, with more in the offing:
Malcolm Mitchell, a former Food Network competitor, is running pop-ups this month and finalizing plans to open a restaurant tentatively called Taste at 516 N. Second St. near the Hippodrome. He's exploring additional options nearby with developer Ron Stallings.
Also on that street, Estes Bar B Que opens soon at 317 N. Second St., building upon Joshua Estes' fine-swine, food-truck empire.
In the same block, Andale's casual Mexican fare is coming to 325 N. Second St.
Max's on Broad, in a renovated ham shop, brings Belgian food and other items from owner Ted Santarella of Tarrant's Café. Formerly dubbed Max's Tavern in honor of his baby boy, the renovated two-story at 305 Brook Road is finishing construction.
Portrait House in former BlowToad at 2907 W. Cary St. is set to open next week. Watch this space for a preview next week.
The Daily Kitchen and Bar, still under construction at 2934 W. Cary St., promises a June opening. The menu will focus on sustainable local foods. All-day service starts with breakfast and pastries and continues through bar hours. Highlights are 12 tables on the patio, floor-to-ceiling windows and a big bar, co-owner Michelle Williams says.
Curry Craft Indian Restaurant & Wine Bar in the former Bonvenu spot at 2915 W. Cary St. opened last week.
Mellow Mushroom, a pizza and sandwich chain, announces via website that it will open May 6 at 3012 W. Cary St. in the former Plan 9 record landmark.
The Viceroy, taking over the fully gutted former Café Diem space at 600 N. Sheppard St., has a hoped-for opening in late May. Dave Bender (Caliente), a co-owner with Sean McClain (Bandito's Burrito Lounge) says the "brand-spanking new" casual space won't reinvent the wheel, but will serve traditional rustic and new American food.
Coriander Café, takeout Mediterranean fare at 704 Sheppard St., is due to open this month.
After a slow start, equipment is going in at En Su Boca at 1001 N. Boulevard. "We're so close," co-owner Patrick Stamper says of the project that had been planned for last year. "The bar is in, the artwork [from Ed Trask] is coming in, we're finalizing the menu and doing some tastings in San Francisco and then we are ready to go." The taqueria is expected to open in mid-May.
Pasta and house-made sausages, espresso and other Italian flavors, plus futuristic art painted by Rob Womack, are themes at Ed Vasaio's new spot Dinamo, which opened last week at 821 W. Cary St. A concise menu, seven tables and a crisp new feel includes a view of chef Brad Wein's kitchen and Mya Anitai running the front. Open weekdays for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Saturdays for dinner, closed Sundays.
Sugar Shack Donuts arrives at 1001 N. Lombardy St. in a few weeks.
Avalon unveils a new décor and menu at 2619 W. Main St., keeping chef Jen Mindell on board but adding new owners, Walied Sanie and James Baldwin. The 20-year-old business is open during renovations.
Michael's Pies & Pints is under construction in the former Racine space at 304 N. Robinson St. Nearby, Acme is bringing sushi and smoothies to a storefront next door to McCormack's Whisky Grill.
In the former Mulligan's sports bar at 1323 W. Main St., a new restaurant called Postbellum has just begun construction. Ryan Koontz of Station 2, a partner in the business, says they're hoping for a late June opening.
Cous Cous at 900 W. Franklin St. gets a new identity by summertime. Co-owner Al Copeland says a redesign is in progress.
Haiku Sushi and Lounge in the former Sensi at 2222 E. Cary St., is scheduled for a late May opening. Chef Hai Truong and Michael Hinerman are owners; Hinerman says the space will feature "fairly extensive changes with Hai's taste for decorative lighting effects in full force." The entrance will be moved, sushi bar added, and private dining room prepared for sake, wine and beer tastings. Ceviche will be a summer specialty.
Pizza 111 is coming to the Southern Railway Building.
Kitchen on Cary is beginning culinary training in the former Dora's Brazilian Grill at 1329 E. Cary St.
Luncheonette, perhaps the longest-stalled restaurant project in town, is furnished and decorated but not operating at 104 N. 18th St.; its Facebook page promised to open a year ago this month.
Urban Farmhouse is about to announce plans to open its third location in a residential building in north Church Hill. Watch this space for details.
Renovation is underway at the former Shenanigans at 4017 MacArthur Ave. It's owned by George Xyderis and operated by his son, and although details are scarce, neighbors admit "incessant hammering" promises even more competition along the very busy food corridor.
Also updating its grilled cheese repertoire with a new dining shelter is the Grey Hill Café at 4009 MacArthur, serving a pulled pork sandwich and other neighborhood favorites from a food truck.
Burger Bach plans to open its second branch in West Broad Village this summer.
Tazza Kitchen, a Mediterranean concept, replaces Café Caturra at 3332 Pump Road this summer; a new Café Caturra location comes to West Broad Street and Cox Road in the Colonnades West this fall.
Longtime local landmark the North Pole was sold at auction to Eat Restaurant Partners (Osaka, Blue Goat, Fat Dragon, Wild Ginger) last year; co-owner Chris Tsui says he's developing plans for the space.
Kudos to the city's food press corps for helping bring these projects to light, along with neighborhood blogs and Twitterers who can't wait to share new information with our dining public. And though it seems like a surfeit of dining options, it isn't an exhaustive list — and more new restaurants are in the works for later in the year.
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