by Ian Froeb
Gut Check learned last week that St. Louis native Nick Luedde and his wife, Audra, planned to open a new restaurant called The Libertine, with acclaimed chef Josh Galliano (An American Place, Monarch) in the kitchen.
We had a chance to speak with Nick Luedde this morning about his new venture, which George Mahe of St. Louis Magazine scooped will be located at 7927 Forsyth Boulevard in Clayton, the space previously occupied by Chez Leon. (Luedde confirms that report, though he notes that the lease still has to be finalized.)
"It seemed to make sense," Luedde says of his family's decision to move to St. Louis from a culinary career that included time in Chicago and New York City. "Every time we came back, the city had constantly changed. This dining culture has really changed. We wanted to come back and be part of it."
Luedde describes the basic Libertine concept as "an elevated dining experience at a very affordable price."
"On one end I wanted to keep this affordable: a neighborhood restaurant that everybody enjoys. The problem with the neighborhood restaurant is it tends to be average food. I wanted to go into it, bring a fantastic chef, really do killer cuisine, local and fresh, but still keep those prices really affordable."
Luedde plans to bring that same balance of quality and value to the restaurant's beverage program. Or, as he puts it, he doesn't intend to "attack this market with $15 glass pours like Chicago.
"I really like small-production, boutique [wine]," he adds. "I like to introduce people to new varietals -- to break out of the box, do something really cool."
Luedde promises frequent updates on the Libertine's progress. Stay tuned.