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While Ferretti and Coy sound like a musical duo from the 80s, it is accurate to say that Pete Ferretti and Buddy Coy have been producing hits for the last 10 years...in the form of The Pepper Lounge, Mandarin, The Outfield at Mike Shannon's, and Lumen private event space--all downtown venues.
Several years ago, realizing that many of their customers travel from West County to their places in the city, the duo considered opening something further west. Enter developer and friend Bob Brinkmann, who just happened to be putting together Ballwin Grove (at Clayton and Schoettler Roads in Ballwin) and was looking for a crowd-magnet restaurant that would serve as an anchor tenant. (As it turns out, the complex will have two: Steve and Jamie Komorek of Trattoria Marcella will soon open Marcella's Mia Sorella in the center of that same complex. Ferretti smiled when he noted that "Bob got that anchor tenant...and how. We all got our wish.")
Fittingly, Circle 7 Ranch is the seventh project from Ferretti and Coy's Lounge Concepts LLC, but as the project's name indicates, this one will be anything but a "lounge concept." The sub-head is "Tap House & Grill," which Feretti interpreted as "a fresh adaptation of the classic sports bar model." He explained further: "We wanted to get closer to our customer but didn't see anything clubby or lounge-y working out west. Many suburbanites tend to stay in their neighborhood for dinner--and all those places seem to do well--so we thought a bar and grill done one better was the way to go."
The "one better" part wasn't just idle, sitting-around-the-campfire chat: Circle 7 will be the first establishment in the state to offer "Personal Table Taps," a system where the customer can literally pour his own draft beer right at the table. Nine tables will be outfitted with the wall mounted taps, three per table. Customers access the system via a tablet computer mounted on a swing-arm that allows beer to be dispensed and measured using a "flow-meter" monitoring system. A server activates the system and sets an initial 32-ounce per person pour limit--a 2-beer ration, if you will. When that level is reached, the server either resets the system to dispense more beer...or not.
Whether you use it or don't, you gotta admit that this type of "no wait service" plays perfectly well into today's "and I want it right now" mentality.
Beer selection will vary by table, but not much. Ferretti knows it's the main-line beers that sell (especially in West County) and he plans to play that hand, so look for popular--not craft--beers, at least initially. "We'll start off with the mains, plus Stella and Shock Top," Ferretti says, "but you never know. If the customers demand something more esoteric, we can easily do that."
The advantages are obvious, from its sheer novelty, to the time saved waiting for a traditionally-ordered beer, to the opportunity to taste new beers (4 ounces is the minimum portion), to "opening up a dialogue about beer in general," as Ferretti notes, the proverbial conversation starter. And although the device may provide "an automatic upsell" as Ferretti put it, it's not designed to replace the server, adding that "it will only expedite service." To which we might add, "and increase servers' tips."
Although such systems have been introduced in places like the Bull & Bear in Chicago and Stats in Atlanta, existing "pour laws" in Missouri have, until recently, prevented these kinds of dispensing machines. Curiously and commendably, it was Ferretti and Coy (right) who lobbied Jeff City to get that law changed. (Heretofore, the closest permissible system had been a wall-mounted wine dispenser, first seen locally at the now-shuttered Bella Vita wine bar in Rock Hill, then rolled out again yesterday at the new Dierbergs in Des Peres, though those devices are operated by staffers rather than customers.)
Although Circle 7 Ranch conjures "roadhouse," don't expect a dingy biker bar, not from these guys. And don't expect the shiny-slick surfaces of Mandarin or The Pepper Lounge. Expect worn-in and rustic, but tasteful... the F&B equivalent of shabby chic. The ceiling is open, there's barnwood throughout, we're told the leather booths with floursack upholstery are comfy, and there's even dining and a bar on a patio that overlooks a pond that's fed by rainwater collected throughout the complex.
The "Ranch" part of the name indicates, as Synergy Productions Amit Dhawan explained it, "a synergy between the feel of the decor and the feel of the food." Circle 7's Facebook page provides some of that feel, noting "homemade recipes, signature dishes, clever appetizers" as well as "modern American classics... specialty burgers, handmade shakes, a grandma-style apple pie," and an "oversized, right-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookie served in a cast iron skillet." If it all sounds homey as well as family-friendly, that's the intent. From chatting with Pete Ferretti I got the impression that he and his podner Buddy know the neighborhood, know the customer, and are aiming to serve them what they know they'll eat, not what they may want them to eat. As long time local restaurateur Ray Gallardo told me long ago: "The first thing you need to learn is to leave your ego at the door."
The unegotistical Circle 7 Ranch opens September 10.