Re-Enter Balaban's — and Exit Ozzie's

Oct 21, 2009 at 4:00 am

Central West End institution Balaban's is being reborn in Chesterfield as Balaban's Wine Cellar & Tapas Bar. The new Balaban's will be located at 1772 Clarkson Road, in a Dierbergs shopping center. Steve McIntyre, who bought the original Balaban's from Herbie Balaban in 1986 and owned it for most of the next twenty years before selling to Brendan Marsden and Harlee Sorkin in late 2006, is behind the new venture.

When I spoke to McIntyre on the phone last week, he told me, "It is going to be like a tapas bar, a lot of Spanish and southern Mediterranean dishes." Among those he mentioned: paella, octopus salad, Spanish ham and Spanish and French cheeses.

In addition, McIntyre says, "We're going to have a lot of the classic [Balaban's] dishes but reinterpreted in a small-plate format: the barbecue, spiced salmon, the cucumber bisque, the Ligurian pasta, what they won't let me take off the menu. We are going to have those, but not in the giant portions that you have to charge $25 to $30 for. That doesn't seem like what people want anymore."

What people do seem to want, says McIntyre, is wine. "The retail wine aspect is just as big as the food is," he says. "We're going to have almost 500 different wines in the retail end." There will also be a deli with an extensive carryout menu of panini, soups, salads, flatbreads and pizzas. Look for an early November opening.

Meanwhile, the original Balaban's location reopened late last year as Herbie's Vintage 72 under the stewardship of Monarch co-owners Aaron Teitelbaum and Jeff Orbin. This resurrection just earned that restaurant Best Comeback in the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis 2009.

Ozzie's Restaurant & Sports Bar, named after Cardinal legend Ozzie Smith, closed after service last Friday, October 16. The restaurant, owned by restaurateur Ray Gallardo, opened in 1988. A statement from Smith himself blames the economy for the closure. Earlier this year Ozzie's engaged in a legal tussle with the owners of Westport Plaza, Chicago-based Golub & Company, over its Westport Plaza neighbor Pujols 5 Westport Grill. Ozzie's claimed to have lost revenue because Pujols 5 operated a venue similar to Ozzie's, which Golub & Co. had claimed would not be the case. The lawsuit was dropped last week. Memorabilia from Ozzie's will be auctioned off this Saturday, October 24.

Are you opening a new restaurant? Know of a place that has closed? Something else for Ian to chew on? E-mail [email protected]. And check out this column's virtual doppelganger here.