by Ian Froeb
As you likely know by now, Monarch closed after service this past Saturday, March 10. The closure leaves a hole in the dining scene and one of our most talented chefs without a professional kitchen to call his own. It also means a large piece of property in the heart of Maplewood stands empty.
Monarch owners Aaron Teitelbaum and Jeff Orbin retain possession of the building. What should they do with it? Gut Check considered the likely options and then decided that, by themselves, those options were, well, likely. So, as a public service, we've added some of our own suggestions to the list of obvious possibilities and ranked them by the probability of their occurring.
10. Petting Zoo & Butcher Shop
Cosmopolitan, high-end restaurants are so pre-Great Recession. Nowadays diners have embraced a more rustic aesthetic. They want to know the farm that raised their food, and how well it was treated there. They'd love to visit the farm themselves, if only it weren't so inconvenient to their daily commute. Now they don't have to. As a bonus, Monarch's large space allows the zoo and butcher shop to be separated so that the kids can pet the cute lil' lamb while the parents tell the butcher which cuts of they want.
9. Food Truck
Step 1: Add Wheels to Monarch.
Step 2: ???????
Step 3: Profit!
8. Monarch by Niche
Yes, Gerard Craft already has four restaurants. And, yes, two of them will open by the end of the summer in nearby Clayton. But can you say this is totally out of the realm of possibility?
7. Concert Venue
Think the Firebird for the grown and sexy. No longer would smooth jazz concerts be relegated to the (relatively) cavernous environs of the Pagaent. Guitar & saxes & (in a nod to Monarch's influence on the local drinking scene) old-school cocktails slung by new-school mixologists.
6. Adult Bounce House & Cocktail Bar
Like #7, Monarch honors its past as the restaurant that introduced the cocktail wizardry of Ted Kilgore to St. Louis. In this case, however, it takes the Dave & Buster's (or, if you prefer a more local analogy, the after-dark crowd at City Museum) route by acknowledging that adults secretly want to relive the fun of childhood, except while smashed out of their minds.
5. Hardee's ThickBistro
Diners post-2008 want to be coddled without spending much cash. And while fast-food chains have flirted in the past with such higher-end touches as table service and booze, they haven't been able to overcome the fact that their restaurants are grease-splotched fast-food joints. Monarch, on the other hand, offers a turn-key upscale setting in which a ThickBurger -- we choose Hardee's because of the local ties of parent company CKE -- wouldn't need a semi-orgasmic supermodel to sell its charms.
So much for the long shots (i.e., our suggestions). Page through for the likely contenders.
4. Herbie's Vintage 72 West
Teitelbaum and Orbin already revitalized the Balaban's space in the Central West End with the throwback Herbie's Vintage 72 concept. Why not try to capture lightning in a bottle twice? Simply sprinkle a few more crowd-pleasers among the old Balaban's dishes to appeal to a suburban audience unfamiliar with the Balaban's brand, and, voila.
A more refined version of the "grown and sexy" concert venue in No. 7. Top-notch cocktails, live music every night, bar snacks. Offer VIP bottle service (and no questions asked) in the Monarch kitchen's old "skybox" room and bingo.
2. Sports Bar
Does Maplewood need a giant sports bar? Have you tried to score a table at the Post Sports Bar & Grill down the street during a major televised sporting event? Have you tried to score a seat there on any Sunday during NFL season? Just class up the snacks to differentiate yourself from the Post and attract those who might consider a sports bar declasse.
1. Special-Events Venue
Teitelbaum and Orbin told the Post-Dispatch that they already have some special events planned for the place post-Monarch, so this has to be ranked as the odds-on favorite. It makes sense. Wedding receptions. Cooking classes. "Underground" dinners. The space is ideal for any number of events, even if it would still be dark more often than not.