Wine Dive + Kitchen, a Best Award of Excellence–winning restaurant group with locations in Wichita and Manhattan, Kan., opened a new location in early September in Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas. At the same time, the Wichita restaurant was renovated to include a wine cellar, a private dining space and a new bar.
“We’ve always had Lawrence in our sights,” says sommelier and co-owner Brad Steven. “I went to school there, and it’s very close to Kansas City … we wanted to get a little farther north to reach new customers.”
The Massachusetts Street location they found was a lucky steal, according to Steven. The pedestrian-friendly area is rife with innovative small independent shops, restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Steven was also drawn to Lawrence because of how forward-thinking the surrounding businesses are, with a “Kansas City influence.” He said he’s more likely to find unique, “natural” wines like pét-nats and skin-contact orange bottlings, and he believes the city has a thriving consumer base for them.
“We felt with our model, we could slide in there and have something for everyone,” says Steven. “We could still sell all the cool geeky stuff we love. But we could also have those higher Napa Cabernets for when the parents come and visit their kids in school and want to buy a nice bottle.”
The new spot features a wine list of more than 350 bottles, each of which will be featured in depth on Wine Dive’s new iPad system, which Steven says helps immensely with the approachability of his program. Each wine on the by-the-glass list can either be served as a full glass or as a taste, and the bottle list is organized by aroma and body rather than region to give customers the language to find what they want. The food menu will offer a vibrant mix of elevated regional American dishes, like fried deviled eggs topped with crisped prosciutto, blackberry serrano crusted braised bacon and Key West coconut shrimp.
Steven tried to align the opening of this restaurant with the slow period before the KU basketball season. Something he couldn’t predict, however, was the sudden winning streak of the university football team—notoriously down on their luck. “We decided we’d open up during football season; we weren’t going to be very busy—no people are super-excited about football,” remarked Steven. “Then all of a sudden they're winning, we need to staff up and be ready to be busy!”—J.L.
Longtime Barking Frog Chef Starts His Next Chapter in Washington State
Seattle-area diners were surprised to learn in June that chef Bobby Moore was leaving his post at Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner Barking Frog in Woodinville after 20 years. But Moore had already planned his next steps: taking over at Bellevue’s Bis on Main and inhabiting a shuttered bar two doors down for a seafood-focused cocktail lounge dubbed Bar Moore.
Longtime Bis on Main owner Joe Vilardi officially handed the toque to Moore on Oct. 2. “People were worried their neighborhood restaurant was going to fade away, but when they found out I was taking over, they were excited,” said Moore, noting that he’s going to be careful not to change everything at once. “The key word is ‘evolve.’ We need to evolve and build on this. We’ll honor traditions and things built there but put our own twist on things.” For example, Bis on Main’s popular crispy garlic chicken has been tweaked to focus on seasonal and local ingredients. And new menu items, such as Penn Cove mussels with spicy coppa and coconut curry sauce, will bring Moore’s influence to the menu.
Moore is also keeping the existing staff, including the chef, and collaborating on the changes. Simple things like paint, upholstery and window coverings will change, as well as plate design and service. “We’re going to breathe fresh air into the place,” he said. The restaurant will also be rebranded to just Bis. “Half the guests say, ‘Don’t change.’ The other half say, ‘Change it all,’ ” said Moore with a laugh, adding, “I’m telling people it's going to stay the same, but change; add a couple of details to take the restaurant up a notch.”
Moore said they inherited about $300,000 in wine and spirits inventory, and they’re wrapping their heads around how to approach that, including building relationships with distributors to bring in more. He’s also working with longtime friend and local winemaker Mark Ryan McNeilly on a private label.
As for Bar Moore, which opened Sept. 28, the idea is for it to be a place for people to come before or after dinner, emphasizing sparkling wines, creative cocktails and shareable dishes. “There will be seafood towers with local oysters and Dungeness crab, and the wine will be an opportunity to build a new generation of customers with more modern and young offerings,” said Moore, who will highlight a variety of bubbles, as well as Greek and Croatian wines.
The intimate 1,200-square-foot space is envisioned as a modern European bar, with vibrant shades of pinks, deep blues and golds. Moore hopes to have local artists play music a few times a week as well.
“I built Barking Frog for 20 years into an institution. But an opportunity came about a year ago in Bellevue, on Main Street, a charming little area growing so fast,” said Moore. “To have a restaurant and bar right in the middle of all that just made sense.”—A.R.
Town House Opens in New Rochelle, N.Y.
Chef Chris dos Reis honed his craft for years at Grand Award winner Blue Hill at Stone Barns and at David Chang’s Best of Award of Excellence–winning Momofuku Ko. On Oct. 6, Reis brought those skills to a new three-floor restaurant, Town House, in his hometown of New Rochelle, N.Y.
“Our hope on a local level is to create a sense of community, a place that New Rochelle can be proud of and call their own,” Reis told Wine Spectator via email. “Beyond that we hope to bridge the gap between rustic and refined cuisine.”
With about 100 selections and growing, Town House’s wine list focuses primarily on regions in Spain, Portugal and France, with even more from New York, Italy and farther abroad. “Our whole team is passionate about wine and talking to our customers to help them choose [theirs],” said Town House manager Mariana Rodriguez, formerly of Goosefeather in Tarrytown, N.Y. Some 20 wines are served by the glass, including Vinho Verde, Cava and Napa Cabernet. Among the bottles, guests will find everything from Filipa Pato Bairrada to Roagna Dolcetto to Tokaji to natural wines.
“We hope the wine experience at Town House is, simply put, fun, approachable and delicious and that customers walk away having discovered something new,” Rodriguez added. Alternatively, wine lovers can look to cocktails from head bartender Julio Enriquez, also a Stone Barns alum, like the Drunken Koala (Barolo Chinato, vodka, eucalyptus and blackberry) or the Sherry-based Spanish Spritz.
These beverages complement Reis’ seasonal, “market-driven” menu, which mixes influences from his career and Portuguese heritage. “I use the flavors and techniques taught to me during my time exploring the family-run restaurants of rural Spain and Portugal,” Reis explained. The results are plates like toast with Cantabrian sardines, line-caught sea bass with cabbage, cod croquettes, grilled cauliflower with hummus and steak tartare with Jimmy Nardello peppers.
“We can’t move forward without understanding our past, and I use this ideology in my food daily, pulling on recipes from my grandmother and great-grandmother,” Reis said, noting how excited he is to share his culinary concepts and passion. “I hope this shines through in our cuisine.”—C.D.
André Hueston Mack Opens Kingfisher in Brooklyn
André Hueston Mack has opened another outpost in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Prospect Lefferts Gardens, where the acclaimed sommelier-turned-restaurateur makes his home. Kingfisher—a seafood-focused, upscale neighborhood spot offering a tightly curated wine list— joins a host of other Mack ventures lining the area’s central Rogers Avenue.
The restaurant is the latest example of Mack’s devotion to the Prospect Lefferts Gardens community, where he owns a wineshop, Vyneyard; an American ham and wine bar, & Sons; and now Kingfisher, in addition to several other businesses. He’s also involved in wine and spirits production: Since 2007, he has overseen Maison Noir, an Oregon Pinot Noir brand, and he recently launched Rye & Sons, a vintage-dated rye whiskey.
Kingfisher, described on its website simply as a “neighborhood restaurant,” represents an evolution in style for Mack, who made his vinous name at Grand Award winners the French Laundry and Per Se after quitting an unfulfilling job in investment banking. It has a sophisticated air—how many old-school neighborhood restaurants serve fluke crudo with yuzu kosho and pepita?—yet it’s also a genuine attempt to create a welcoming joint that’s both a gathering place for locals and a culinary destination for out-of-towners, or at least Manhattanites.
Mack told Wine Spectator his list is “small but dynamic”—one recent version included 42 offerings, with 15 available by the glass—and will likely change nightly. He plans to feature “some classics, some fresh faces, some surprise gems … all thoughtfully crafted and a complement to our menu’s focus on seafood and the best seasonal ingredients.” Unlike the list at & Sons, which boasts around 600 wines and spotlights rare domestic bottlings from classic vintages (including bottlings from the 1960s and ’70s), Kingfisher’s wine program embraces an international and domestic mix. Fans of Champagne and oysters will be pleased with bubbly from Pierre Gimonnet & Fils, Michel Gonet and others; the still wines, which range from Canary Islands bottlings from Envínate to Freisa (a close relative to Nebbiolo) from Azienda Agricola 499, toe the line between classic and eclectic.
Kingfisher’s dining room is cozy, with a bar abutting the open kitchen. Hooks for hanging coats, purses or whatever else diners have in hand circle the space. The elevated, modern and unpretentious design sends a strong message, something like Come as you are. The most expensive plate on chef and group culinary director Nico Bouter’s current menu—halibut with cauliflower, vin jaune and walnuts—will set you back $36, modest by Brooklyn standards. The menu offers just 16 dishes, comprised of four raw options, “tiger bread” (from Mack’s bakery, Chickadee Bread) with brown butter, three salads, five mains and three desserts. Outside of the seafood selections, there’s a chicken dish with kale, ragù and hay, plus a mushroom option with polenta, nori and dill. Kingfisher is closed Monday and Tuesday and open from 5 p.m.to 10 p.m. the rest of the week.—K.M.