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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Three Monkeys' New Owners Plan New Look, New Menu and New Whiskey Focus

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 9:24 AM

click to enlarge Zach and Mary Rice have taken ownership at Three Monkeys. - ED ALLER/@ALLERNOTHINGDOTCOM

Like many food industry professionals, Zach Rice and Mary Mangan had long dreamed of opening a place of their own. They even had the beginnings of a plan: First they'd get married, in November 2018. Then, the following month, Mangan would quit her job as general manager of Dressel's Pub House, giving them time to ease into their life together before focusing on drawing up plans for a new venture.

Fate had a much quicker timeline.

Two months before their wedding, Rice and Mangan got an offer they couldn't refuse. The longtime owner of the cheerful Tower Grove South pub and restaurant Three Monkeys (3153 Morganford Road, 314-772-9800) was hoping to sell, and she'd found a buyer for the building. But that buyer wanted someone else to own the restaurant — and was led to Rice, who'd been its general manager for eight years before taking a job at Schlafly Bottleworks.

Explains Rice, "They wanted to make sure they had a tenant that would ready to step in and take control." And even though the timing wasn't what they'd planned for, Rice and Mangan couldn't help but jump in with both feet.

"By October," she says, "we were running the restaurant."

Mangan is now Mary Rice, having taken her husband's name after their November wedding. And Three Monkeys is now slowly but surely taking shape as the restaurant of their dreams.

The Rices are in the midst of shaking things up, with a new menu, an overall upgrade and a sprucing up of the space. They closed after service on Monday and won't reopen until Friday this week to facilitate construction. Then, they plan to close again briefly from March 12 to March 14 in order to launch their new branding, which includes an updated logo and a fresher look inside.

On March 15, they'll be unveiling Three Monkeys 2.0 — an establishment much like the one south city has come to love, but with a whole bunch of changes for the better.

"You'll still have the beautiful arches, the dark wood, the bar," Mary Rice promises. "But you'll realize it's a different space."

click to enlarge Sandwiches are still on the menu, but they'll get an ingredient upgrade. - ED ALLER/@ALLERNOTHINGDOTCOM
  • Sandwiches are still on the menu, but they'll get an ingredient upgrade.
The room with the bar is getting more high-tops for a classic pub feel, in contrast with the more food-oriented dining room. And whiskey barrel heads stamped with their logo will highlight the bar's new direction, which will include both flights of whiskey and whiskey-forward cocktails.

Drink offerings will also include a new-and-improved wine list, Mary Rice says. Before her time at Dressel's, she was the bar manager at the late, great Five Bistro. "I'm a big wine drinker," she says. "Three Monkeys has always been known for its beer selection, but we'll start to embrace a little more thoughtfulness in wine and cocktails."

Zach Rice is taking the lead on the refresh for the food menu. He says it won't be so much an overhaul as an upgrade — though, he hastens to note, "We'll still have that south-city price point." He and longtime staffer Delana Chambers will be preparing a menu that still includes Three Monkeys' signature pizza, sandwiches and burgers, but with an increased emphasis on flavor. "The menu will be constantly evolving," he says. "But everything will be super flavorful. We'll be adding things that pack a lot of flavor into those familiar dishes."

click to enlarge Don't worry: Three Monkeys' pizza isn't going anywhere. - ED ALLER/@ALLERNOTHINGDOTCOM

That also means catering to the neighborhood's sensibilities, Mary Rice says, with everything from the meatless "Impossible burger" to grain bowls or other options for meat-free diners.

"We're not going to be a vegetarian restaurant," she says, "but we will have plenty of things for vegetarians to select from. We want to include everybody."

After first taking ownership in October, the Rices were simply consumed by the day-to-day. Running a restaurant isn't easy, and the fact that they were preparing for their wedding even as Mary Rice honored her commitment to Dressel's until the year's end, kept them busy just maintaining.

But now that they're beginning to implement changes, they're finally starting to see the place as their own.

Zach Rice recalls visiting Three Monkeys after his departure for Schlafly Bottleworks. He couldn't help but think of improvements. "I'd think, 'If I was in charge, this is what I'd do,'" he says. "It was always in the back of my head. Well, now that day has come — and I've got Mary to help me execute it."

It is, they say, a dream come true.

click to enlarge Three Monkeys' monkey motif will remain, but it's getting a new logo. - ED ALLER/@ALLERNOTHINGDOTCOM
  • Three Monkeys' monkey motif will remain, but it's getting a new logo.

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