After a year of to-go service, the dining room at Tempus is now open.
In 2018, chef Ben Grupe took his first steps down a long-dreamed-of path toward opening his own restaurant. He left his gig as executive chef at Elaia, turned his attention away from the prestigious culinary competition world and got to work doing a series of R&D pop-up events, all with an eye to his highly anticipated debut restaurant, Tempus (4730 Manchester Road, 314-349-2878)
Tempus should have welcomed its first guests in March 2020. However, the pandemic forced Grupe and his team to put the restaurant on hold, then eventually transition to a takeout-only model — a year-long, 180-degree change from the hospitality, experience-focused vision of what Grupe wanted Tempus to be. Now, as he stands poised to open the dining room for the first time to the general public, Grupe is eager to finally show the St. Louis dining scene what the restaurant is truly capable of being.
"We've waited so long for this and just had to rip the band-aid off," says Grupe. "Putting food in a to-go bag and handing it out of a window is a lot different than having a dining room open."
Grupe and his team have created a sophisticated and inviting space.
Described by Grupe as a "chef-driven American restaurant with guest-centric, thoughtful hospitality," Tempus features a menu of quality, inventive food and cocktails that draw upon Grupe's and his team's vast culinary and beverage experience. Still, he emphasizes that the Tempus experience is meant to be familiar, approachable and comforting with classic flavors and recognizable dishes presented in a unique way.
Together with his sous chef, Justin Bell, Grupe has created a menu of dishes ranging from sea trout with sauerkraut, turnip and buttermilk vin blanc to beef rib with au gratin potatoes, pot roast carrots and cippolini onions. Starters include croquettes with country ham, olives and sherry vinaigrette and beets with quark, vadouvan granola and salted strawberries, while desserts evoke such comfort food classics as s'mores with gianduja, burnt marshmallow and spruce, as well as apples with whipped cream, brown butter cake and hyssop.
Veteran bartender Drew Lucido leads the beverage team, and he, too, is eager to move from the to-go model to the more personal style of service that he is used to providing for his guests. Designed to seamlessly connect with the food, his drink menu consists of cocktails that might be familiar in concept but different in form, such as a cocktail made with olive oil-washed vodka with dry vermouth, fino sherry, orange bitters and white verjus that is supposed to evoke a dirty martini — a drink that he notes pairs flawlessly with the sea trout.
Lucido is also excited to offer a different take on a wine list, with no regular by-the-glass selections. As he explains, glass pours will be available, but they will change depending on what he and his team feel like opening and what pairs particularly well with the food on any given day.
The bar at Tempus.
Above all, he's just happy to be able to take care of guests the way that he wants to.
"Through all of this, we haven't changed our core values of what we want the restaurant to be," Lucido says. "We are focused on hospitality for our guests and our staff, and that has never changed. That’s one of the things that has helped pull us through all of this, that we had a united vision between myself, chef and [others] of what wanted this to be. That has allowed us to create what we created."
Through Grupe and his team hope to eventually open Tempus for a la carte service, the restaurant is currently offering a three-course dinner that must be reserved in advance. The experience is $75 per person, plus tax and gratuity; for an additional $25, guests may add on a wine or cocktail pairing (a non-alcoholic pairing is available for $15). Drinks will also be available a la carte.
“Everything about Tempus is designed to bring a sense of what is familiar, crave-able and comforting,” said Grupe in a statement announcing the opening. “High-quality, inventive food and cocktails, coupled with our commitment to genuine hospitality, thoughtful service, and giving back to the community, is what makes Tempus unique. We want locals to become regulars and special occasion diners to feel right at home, and we are thrilled to finally open our doors and join the growing community of diverse hospitality establishments in St. Louis.”
Tempus is open Wednesday through Saturday, beginning at 5 p.m. Scroll down for more photos of Tempus.
The Tempus play on s'mores is both sophisticated and familiar.
A modern, black and white painting graces the walls of Tempus' dining room.
The dining room at Tempus.
Croquettes with country ham, olives and sherry vinaigrette.
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Tempus is now open for dine-in service in the Grove.
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