At press time, Niche Taste Bar was slated to debut on Tuesday, July 21, after a soft opening the previous week. Niche Taste Bar is located at 1831 Sidney Street in Benton Park, the same address as its namesake restaurant, Niche, where executive chef Gerard Craft has won national recognition for his cooking.
Niche Taste Bar takes over the space to the immediate east of Niche's entrance, which was previously occupied by Veruca Bakeshop & Café. The interior has been given an impressive makeover, which you can view step by step on Niche Taste Bar's Twitter account (www.twitter.com/nichetastebar).
(This seems like a good place to point out that Gut Check also has a Twitter account. Follow me at www.twitter.com/gutcheckstl.)
Niche Taste Bar features a more casual menu than Niche, with snacks and small plates. A top-secret source sent me a camera-phone picture of a prototype menu, which included charcuterie, cheese and spicy pork meatballs served on toast. Prices were all $10 or less.
As if the star power of Craft and Niche pastry chef Mathew Rice weren't enough, Niche Taste Bar has brought on board master mixologist Ted Kilgore, who earned a significant following for his classy cocktails during his years behind the bar at Monarch.
Niche Taste Bar is open 4 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Chouteau's at 39th is now open at 3800 Chouteau Avenue, the space formerly occupied by the late, great King Louie's and, more recently, the well-received but short-lived Revival. Chouteau's menu is courtesy of the indefatigable Mike Johnson (Roxane, Boogaloo and many, many more over the past few years) and includes sandwiches, burgers, tweaked versions of crowd-pleasing appetizers like calamari and chicken wings, and a few entrées. Most notable might be the "Fatty Melt," which the menu dares you to eat: a burger served between two grilled-cheese sandwiches. Chouteau's serves food 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5-11 p.m. Saturday. The bar's open till 1 a.m.
Now open at 7336 Manchester Road in Maplewood (the former location of Mike Johnson's short-lived pan-Asian joint, Fu Manchu) is the Red Lion, whose menu offers pizza, sandwiches and bar-and-grill appetizers. The Red Lion is open daily 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Call 314-374-8533 for more information.
Are you opening a new restaurant? Know of a place that has closed? Something else for Ian to chew on? E-mail email@example.com. And check out this column's virtual doppelganger at http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/gutcheck.