Jason Sparks bought Layla (4317 Manchester Avenue; 314-553-9252) in September 2013 when it was strictly a Lebanese restaurant. Now, he's finally turning it into a spot that matches the vibe of the Grove, the up-and-coming, eclectic neighborhood it's a part of. Sparks added burgers and made the restaurant more Mid East fusion last year, but his new menu really matches his vision of what Layla should be.
"Honestly, I always really wanted to do a burger joint, but at the same time I really liked a lot of those items that were on the menu of the original restaurant," Sparks tells Gut Check, "and since I kept the name, I wanted to keep some of those items. I think we have the best falafel in town, the best hummus in town. It's all made form scratch."
Sparks thinks Layla now has a little bit of something for everyone; for example, many burger joints have limited options for vegetarians. That's not a problem at Layla. Sparks is happy to move away from the fusion menu.
"It was like, 'Let's go with what we're really good at.' So we focused on it," he says. "One day I looked at our awning, and it says, 'Burgers, shawarma and shakes,' and I said, All right man, we can't stray from that. That's what we need to do."
More wintery items will probably be added in the fall, like soups and items made with seasonal produce. Not everything is changing, though -- you'll still be able to get half price hookah on the weekends and those yummy adult milkshakes.
"It's not just like, 'Oh, we're just going to add a shot of rum to this shake.' These are composed cocktails; they just happen to be with ice cream," Sparks says. "The cocktail menu is really out of this world. Our bar manager, Zack Murphy, he's come up with some really awesome stuff."
You can check out the entire new menu on Layla's website here.
"I just think there's not one thing that I'm like, 'Eh, I don't know about that,' Sparks says. "When we first opened, I had a lot of that, but now I'm like, 'Man, I think we're hitting home runs.'"
Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at Nancy.Stiles@RiverfrontTimes.com.
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