The Shaved Duck Is Back — With New Owners and the Same Old Favorites

"I want to focus on making the food exactly what it was — and exactly what it needs to be"

The Shaved Duck quietly reopened a few months ago — but they're only now getting the word out.
The Shaved Duck quietly reopened a few months ago — but they're only now getting the word out. ZACHARY LINHARES
A bit over a year ago, catastrophe struck one of St. Louis' most loved barbecue restaurants.

Since opening in 2008, the Shaved Duck (2900 Virginia Avenue) had been a favorite of both its Tower Grove East neighbors and food writers across the U.S. Guy Fieri even named it Missouri's best barbecue.

But the terrible cold snap that gripped St. Louis around Christmas of 2022 caused a pipe in its building to burst. A restaurant manager walked in to find not only a flood but a collapsed ceiling from all the water damage.

And so it was curtains for the Shaved Duck — until now.

Recently, word began to spread among neighbors and barbecue lovers: The Shaved Duck is back. And for once, the rumors are true — the restaurant quietly opened its doors in November, with new owners and a fresh look.

click to enlarge The new owners of the Shaved Duck: Adam Kaufman, left, Joshua Powlishta and James Heredia. - ZACHARY LINHARES
ZACHARY LINHARES
The new owners of the Shaved Duck: Adam Kaufman, left, Joshua Powlishta and James Heredia.
Two of the three owners come from another successful spot in town. James Heredia and Joshua Powlishta are co-owners of BLT's (an acronym for Breakfast, Lunch and Tacos) in downtown St. Louis. The third member of their trio, Adam Kaufman, had previously worked with Heredia, and Heredia was a manager at the Shaved Duck for six years prior to its closure.

It's one reason Heredia jumped when the restaurant's longtime owner, Ally Nisbet (also known for the Scottish Arms) was ready to sell. "Ally is a good friend of mine," he says. "Sometimes in the restaurant business, you've just got to move on."

He adds, "He wouldn't have done it unless somebody knew somebody who was willing to take over but would keep it the same. He knew I'd be that person. I want to focus on making the food exactly what it was — and exactly what it needs to be."

That's one reason, Heredia explains, that the restaurant kept its soft opening so damn soft. After nearly a year of being totally closed, with a largely new staff to train, the owners wanted to get everything up to par before diners beyond the eatery's superfan base stopped by for a meal. He finally thinks they're there.

click to enlarge Barbecue sauce sits on a table before dinner service on Wednesday, February 7, 2024. - ZACHARY LINHARES
ZACHARY LINHARES
Barbecue sauce sits on a table before dinner service on Wednesday, February 7, 2024.

There is one small hiccup, though, and that is the city's onerous process for new liquor licenses. They still don't have one, despite hiring someone to shepherd them through the various hurdles laid down by city ordinance. Heredia is hopeful it will be just a few more months at the most. And in the meantime, he hopes people will support their efforts by ordering takeout or delivery if they really want a drink with their barbecue.

He says, "We tried to go BYOB for now, but you have to go through all the same stops as your regular liquor license, so this will just be one of those things that'll keep us pushing our food for now. It's a little wrench, but not a big wrench."

click to enlarge The interior of the Shaved Duck has a new open floor plan and bar. - ZACHARY LINHARES
ZACHARY LINHARES
The interior of the Shaved Duck has a new open floor plan and bar.

And even stone cold sober, the diners who've tried the new Shaved Duck seem stoked. Heredia says the feedback lately has been great, and he's thrilled to bring a local landmark back to its many fans.

"It's a St. Louis institution, and it belongs to St. Louis," he says. "We just want to keep it going and keep that tradition alive. It's amazing how many people are coming from not just St. Louis but all over the country, even now, people from all over are coming to the Shaved Duck."

For now, hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, though the restaurant sometimes closes early on slow days. They hope to expand to seven days a week and bring back brunch in the coming months, probably dependent on that liquor license. Says Heredia in a note of understatement, "St. Louis likes to drink."

click to enlarge Sunlight shines on a barbecue sign at the front entrance of the Shaved Duck. - ZACHARY LINHARES
ZACHARY LINHARES
Sunlight shines on a barbecue sign at the front entrance of the Shaved Duck.



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Sarah Fenske

Sarah Fenske is the executive editor of the RFT and its sister papers. She is the former host of St. Louis on the Air and continues to host its Legal Roundtable, as well participating as an occasional panelist on Nine PBS' Donnybrook. She lives in St. Louis.
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