This week I visit Crushed Red (8007 Maryland Avenue, Clayton; 314-725-8007), the new fast-casual concept whose partners include veteran restaurateur Chris LaRocca and chef Jason Tilford. Page through for a sneak preview of my review.
Crushed Red has a problem any other restaurant would kill for: Not yet three months old, this fast-casual spot in Clayton is often so busy that it needs an employee to direct traffic. Sometimes during the peak of the lunch rush, it needs two traffic cops. One takes your order or, if you want a salad, directs you the cooks who will prepare it for you, but not before ascertaining to her satisfaction that there's a sufficient quantity of empty or soon-to-be-empty seats to accommodate your party. The other stands at the top of the staircase that leads up from the street-level entrance into the restaurant proper. Her task is to make sure that the line to place orders, which has already wound its way out of its prescribed area, maintains its form. (She also hands out paper menus, because it's going to take a while for you to get close enough to be able to the menus projected on flat-screen monitors near the head of the line.)
If you want a salad -- and you very well might, given that Crushed Red specializes in pizzas and salads -- the line to order turns into the line to wait to have your salad made. And regardless of what you order, you'll need to stand in yet another line to pay. There are no more traffic cops. Not yet, anyway.
Visit Gut Check tomorrow to read my review of Crushed Red and view Jennifer Silverberg's slideshow of the restaurant.