On or about January 10, the restaurant space that shares a breezeway with Starr's at 1135 S. Big Bend will have a new concept, a new image, a new staff, and a new name...Root. Brian Hardesty, former exec chef at at Terrene and current owner of the super-popular Guerrilla Street Food food truck, is spearheading the operation.
A month ago, Hardesty took over the existing restaurant (Nosh) with plans to change the food but not the name, then had a change of heart. "I really had no shoes to fill at Nosh and, in truth, never really liked the name anyway," he confessed. "I had a new idea and that required a new name."
Root will focus on what he is calling "Old World American" food. When asked about the curious oxymoron, he commented that he "plans to explore where American food comes from," taking his customers on a culinary historical journey, as it were. He explained further: "For instance, quail is a dish that originally was simply roasted and served as a finger food. We will do it the same way, and even supply a finger bowl with lemon water, as was done in colonial times."
He will reintroduce dishes like Boston Brown Bread (cooked by steaming in a can), and Old World techniques like "crimping," where a fish is deeply scored before cooking (contracting the muscles, so the fish stays flat and firm). And he has a sense of humor, too, as evidenced by "Barnyard Buddies on a 3-Way Street," a trio of terrenes/pâtés from three different animals; one is hot, one cold, the third is at room temp.
Hardesty is careful to point out that while many chefs tend to modernize and riff on traditional dishes, he will not. In his words, "You will not see an interpretation of an item, you will just see that item." According to Hardesty, New American cusiine can bounce all over the place while his Old World approach is more focused. In the tradition of true home cooking, he will make all the breads, the butter, and the cheeses.
Regarding libations, Hardesty lets out some slack. Root will offer 40 bottled beers and 75 "paired" wines, but customers may also step next door to Starr's to take advantage of an exponentially-larger selection. Owner Bud Starr originally built out the adjacent space to host pharmaceutical dinners, but that business waxed and waned, leading to several private endeavors in the space in the past few years.
If Hardesty is excited about the project, Starr is ecstatic, conceding that Hardesty is the real star of this show: "Brian is the kind of guy I've been looking for since day one," he said. "But guys like him are impossible to find in this town. It's a big deal for him, and a bigger deal for me."
Root's website and Facebook page are not yet active, only their Twitter handle (@RootSTL), is. Ligaya Figueras at Sauce magazine has additional information on Root here.