You know what they say about playing with fire? Click on the image above to see how I felt the heat. The heat that comes from the passion of a local restaurateur from another part of the country, deciding to expand his operation and take a gamble opening a new restaurant location in a new Cordish Company development, like the Power & Light District.
When millions of dollars are at stake, you tend to honor that kind of risk-taking, especially in this economy. I went to visit the newest restaurants in the Power & Light District to learn more about their concepts and their food, and in the process I got a glimpse of how the Cordish Company actually courts successful local restaurant concepts from other cities and gives them a chance to expand their concepts to other Cordish entertainment districts nationwide. A very tempting and potentially profitable opportunity for local restaurateurs ready for expansion to other markets outside of their own.
I got the invite a couple of months ago to join, Rachel Felix, Sponsorship Marketing Manager for the Power & Light, on a tour through the latest round of new restaurants that have opened in the Power & Light District downtown. This video was filmed at the very pretty Kobe Japanese Steak House, where Manager, Frank Ha, and his entire team, really went above and beyond to try to impress this Foodie with what they had to offer. They did. The sushi was made with top-notch fish, and my two new friends here really showed their sushi skills when making this wooden boat of sushi right before my eyes. The Kobe restaurant concept has locations in Virgina, West Virgina, Maryland, Michigan and now Kansas City. Two of their six locations are in Cordish Entertainment Districts.
Just like our local restaurant concepts, once you are in a Cordish property, they are checking you up and down for expansion opportunities within their family of entertainment districts. They would like for you to come and expand in their districts on your own dime, but if you fill a niche they are looking to fill they might look to franchise you as a Cordish-owned and managed restaurant. Which I am guessing might be the future fate of their newly acquired Chefburger concept, that was started and owned by local Chef Rob Dalzell, but was turned over to Cordish in a squabble over back rent that was due. Chef Rob Dalzell had told me that Cordish was, when he first opened his burger joint in the Power & Light District, courting him to take Chefburger to their newest project, Ballpark Village adjacent to Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO. A great second location opportunity for someone with the desire to expand a concept to other cities.
I was thoughtful about whether to accept this invite to visit the new restaurants in the Power & Light District, because like many of you, when it first opened I was initially disappointed in the lack of locally-owned restaurants and the long list of chains they opened down there. Amid rumors of astronomical rents which supposedly prevented local restaurateurs from being able to make the leap to this new development downtown, Cordish did score several locally-owned concepts including the gorgeous Bristol Seafood Restaurant, The Peachtree Restaurant and the long-awaited Cosentino's Market Downtown.
I decided to keep and open mind, and take Rachel up on her offer to meet the folks behind Fran's Restaurant, Kobe Japanese Steak House, Pizza Bar and locally owned second location for the very popular lunch spot, The Mixx. Owned by popular caterer turned restaurateur, JoMarie Scaglia, The Mixx is another local addition to the Power & Light. During my discussions with JoMarie, about her choice to go into the Power & Light District, she explained that The Mixx does a lot of catering to downtown offices, and having a location closer to where her business comes from just made good financial sense.When I asked her if she was being approached by Cordish to expand her concept to their other properties, she said she is considering opening other locations that have nothing to do with Cordish properties. She did not confirm or deny, and seemed to leave the door open for future possibilities. With a great concept, eco-friendly focus and healthy creative menu, The Mixx will do well wherever it goes.
Pizza Bar is a Cordish-owned restaurant concept that I think hold much potential in terms of it's family friendly food and location directly across the street from the Sprint Center. I can't tell you how many times I have left the Sprint Center after an event with my seven year old son, Tastie, only to realize there was no place I could take him to eat close by that did not feel more like a bar than a restaurant. Pizza Bar has pretty good pie, fast service and is within walking distance of the parking lot. Get the Zeppole, fried bits of pizza dough dusted with sugar for dessert. Delicious.
Finally, there is Fran's Restaurant . . .a gorgeous, light, bright and modern restaurant that has a full bar open almost 24/7 and a menu with home cooking and diner classics. Fran's started out as a family run restaurant in Canada in 1940's. It was a beloved location back in the day, and still in Canada carries great brand recognition. I met during opening week with the two brothers who now own the restaurant and have licensed the name. Richard Kim, the President, is in the black shirt in this photo. With Fran's other 2 locations in Canada, this is their first US outpost. But they are another example of a successful locally owned restaurant concept that got introduced to the folks a Cordish and are right now shopping around for other Cordish properties that might be right for their concept to expand. They consider Cordish a great partner in helping them to make the connections to expand their concept in the US. The food and atmosphere at Fran's is absolutely great. I really enjoyed eating their Eggs Benedict and their Lasagna.
Fran's is also the first 24/7 restaurant in the Power & Light district. All those watering holes, really needed a place to land for breakfast when the bars close for the night.
So, I came away from my tour of these new restaurants that have opened in the Power & Light thinking . . .oh, okay so not all chains . . .but local guys, from somewhere else . . .trying to make the leap to the big time . . .just like many of our own locally-owned restaurant concepts.
Sometimes, local guys, may not be local to your city, but they are considered local guys somewhere in this world.