NICHE FOOD GROUP
Niche Food Group is based in St. Louis, Missouri and owned by executive chef Gerard Craft. As a Food & Wine Best New Chef, Food & Wine Innovator of the Year, 2015 James Beard Foundation Award-winning Best Chef: Midwest, and Inc. Magazine Star Entrepreneur, Chef Craft has been a pioneer for the Midwest dining scene.
A native of Washington, D.C., Chef Craft became addicted to the restaurant life while living in Salt Lake City as a snowboard photographer. Chef Craft went on to cook at Bistro Toujours in Park City, Utah and Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, California as well as stage at Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey before making the leap to open a restaurant of his own.
Always a believer in following intuition, Chef Craft settled on a boarded-up building in the Benton Park neighborhood of St. Louis, a city that he had never visited, to open his first restaurant, Niche, at the age of 25 in 2005.
Niche Food Group now includes six restaurants in St. Louis and one in Nashville, Tennessee: creative cocktails at Taste by Niche, French bistro fare at Brasserie by Niche, approachable Italian at Pastaria, fun, seasonal fare with a nod to Italy at Sardella, laid back burgers and brats at brassWELL inside Rockwell Beer Co., and his latest restaurant, Cinder House, a wood-fired, South American-inspired restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel.
BRASSERIE BY NICHE
Brasserie by Niche offers a menu of French bistro fare with perfected interpretations of classic dishes such as onion soup, housemade country pâté, and cassoulet with duck confit. Recognizable by its bright red exterior, Brasserie by Niche offers an approachable, lively dining experience with its warm, inviting atmosphere, pressed-tin ceiling, and checkered tablecloths covered with butcher paper. The 90-seat restaurant pairs its simple, uncomplicated food from Executive Chef Alex Feldmeier and exquisite desserts from Executive Pastry Chef Elise Mensing, with an extensive list of French wines, as well as craft beer and signature cocktail selections. Brasserie’s noteworthy brunch and patio also serve as a destination for locals and visitors alike. A nod to nostalgia, Chef Craft kept the bustling bistro ambiance alive as homage to the space’s former life as Chez Leon, a go-to spot for chef and his wife, Suzie, when they first moved to St. Louis.
PASTARIA - ST. LOUIS
Pastaria is the approachable Italian concept inspired by the pasta-making factories and lively osterias of southern Italy. With a mantra of “La Verità,” Pastaria represents Chef Craft’s dedication to “the truth” of Italian cuisine, celebrating the simplicity and quality of great food. Executive Chef Jai Kendall helms the kitchen for Pastaria’s menu of soups, salads, and appetizers, organic pastas, Neapolitan-style pizzas, wood oven entrées, and of course, gelato. A recipe that took two and half years to develop, Pastaria’s pizza showcases Craft’s dedication to producing chewy, bubbly crust for the perfect balance of texture and flavor. Pastaria’s gelato program features a rotating menu of classic to creative flavors and guests are encouraged to visit the gelato counter to sample selections as well as watch pasta being made by hand.
PASTARIA - NASHVILLE
Chef Craft opened the second location of his casual Italian concept, Pastaria, in Nashville, Tennessee in September of 2017. Part of the West End's oneC1TY development project, Craft describes the restaurant as “town hall” style of dining - a lively atmosphere where all are welcome. Other décor elements include a pasta window to watch handmade pastas being rolled and extruded, lighthearted, large-scale vintage photos adorning walls in the sleek bar, classic retail gelato display of seasonal, rotating flavors created by Executive Pastry Chef Mathew Rice, a large sculptural centerpiece that is both stunning and functional, and a bocce ball court and live music stage adjacent to its sprawling patio and private dining rooms. Like in St. Louis, the menu celebrates tradition while Executive Chef Joe Luckey also showcases seasonal ingredients in unique specials each week.
Sardella is a term for an ancient fish sauce, and Executive Chef Brian Moxey aims to make the old new again in his dishes. Sardella’s design echoes the same notion as the menu – inviting, bright, and fun. Antiqued, oak wood floors and a white painted plank ceiling with large wood joists set this tone for the space. While marigold banquette seating, Mediterranean blue and white tile on the walls, antique brass mirrors, and a colorful mosaic-like installation of sardine cans above the open kitchen add drama and excitement, a marble and wood bar along the entire length of the restaurant creates a warm and welcoming environment. The menu offerings change seasonally so guests are encouraged to explore Sardella’s selection of shareable small plates, unique hand-crafted pastas, globally-influenced entrees, and desserts from Executive Pastry Chef Sarah Osborn Blue.
Taste focuses on hand-crafted cocktails paired with seasonal, fun bar fare from Executive Chef Matt Wynn in a modern speakeasy atmosphere. The team of Taste’s talented bartenders, led by Bar Manager Lindsey MacTaggart, create a signature menu of more than 30 inspired cocktails that change seasonally. Guests feeling adventurous can opt for the bartender’s choice, or try countless classic concoctions expertly prepared. Located in the Central West End neighborhood, Taste’s exposed brick, warm wood bar, and filament bulb lighting offers an intimate “club-like” feel for cocktail enthusiasts in the 55-seat space with a 30-seat patio and lofted, couch-laden lounge.
Located on the iconic 8th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, Cinder House showcases sweeping views of the Gateway Arch and downtown skyline in a newly reimagined space. Cinder House marks Chef Craft’s first foray into South American cuisine. The menu is inspired not only by the continent’s grilling traditions, but also by Craft’s early food memories. His beloved nanny, Dia, was a native of Brazil and introduced him to flavors of her country at an early age. Many of those Dia-inspired dishes are now on the Cinder House menu, albeit transformed by Craft’s creativity and the heat of the wood-burning hearth. There’s feijoada, for instance, the national dish of Brazil, which the restaurant serves with grilled duck legs and a stew of black beans surrounded by bold Moroccan chermoula sauce. And there’s the addictive pão de queijo, an airy cheese bread made with tapioca flour that can be found on home dining tables across Brazil.
Located inside Rockwell Beer Co., in a cozy shipping container of its own, brassWELL is inspired by the Cinq à Sept happy hour menu at Brasserie by Niche. brassWELL Executive Chef Joe Landis prepares single or double-patty burgers, a classic beer brat and thin-cut crispy fries. Vegetarians can try a house-made veggie burger or an off-menu grilled cheese. Brasserie also lends brassWELL its brunch beignet recipe for a sweet finish, which pairs perfectly with Rockwell’s fantastic beer offerings, or the rotating flavors of soft-serve ice cream.