by Ian Froeb
When Araka (131 Carondelet Plaza, Clayton; 314-725-6777) closes next month, its location will not sit empty for long. Des Moines, Iowa-based 801 Chophouse plans to open its fifth location in the expansive Clayton space. Gut Check spoke with 801 Chophouse director of marketing Hillary Stark to learn more about the operation, which restaurateur Jimmy Lynch founded in 1993.
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"It is your quintessential chop house," Stark says, with "the late 1920's feel of all the dark woods and granite. It exudes luxury."
While each restaurant does have its own executive chef, the basic menu (link PDF) of USDA prime steaks, meats, appetizers and side dishes is essentially the same across all five locations.
"Where there's a little bit of variety is the 'Fresh Sheet,'" Stark adds, referring to each restaurant's selection of fresh seafood. "It's much more of a seasonal menu."
Stark projects a September opening -- "Hopefully," she notes -- and says new employees can expect a "pretty rigorous" training program. She herself trained for a month when she first joined the restaurant.
At 10,000 square feet, the St. Louis 801 Chophouse will be the biggest yet. (Besides the Des Moines original -- located at 801 Grand Street, hence the name -- there are locations in Omaha, Nebraska; Leawood, Kansas; and Kansas City.) It might also be merely the company's first footprint in our area. Owner Lynch recently debuted a new gastropub concept, Pig & Finch, and this June will unveil a seafood concept, 801 Fish, both in Leawood. Stark says Lynch would like to open the new concepts in each metro area where 801 Chophouse operates.