Hitmaker Gerard Craft is adding a new restaurant to his St. Louis empire. The chef at the head of Niche Food Group has steadily opened a roster of successful French and Italian restaurants in the area for the past decade, but his latest, Cinder House, will serve South American food at the Four Seasons hotel.
At Cinder House, Craft wants to create an accessible restaurant in the heart of downtown St. Louis. He says the space, which overlooks St. Louis landmarks the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River, boasts some of the best views in the city. “I think we get a chance to show people who already are our customers, really engaging them in downtown St. Louis,” he says.
The initial idea was to focus on cooking over a wood-fired grill. “We knew we really wanted to highlight meat, but we didn’t want to open a steakhouse,” he says. “Meat in a hotel setting definitely goes well.” There’s a 14-foot wood hearth inside the restaurant for grilling meat, but as Craft began to plan the menu, a strong Brazilian influence emerged.
Craft credits his childhood nanny, who was Brazilian, with teaching him to appreciate food, and at Cinder House he’s calling on that experience. “It’s fun coming in everyday and having those flavor memories,” he says. And the food at Cinder House isn’t a complete departure for Craft, as some of the dishes at the restaurant have followed the chef throughout his career.
The pão de queijo he grew up eating appears on the menu at Craft’s first restaurant Niche under the name “Dia’s Cheese Bread,” and he’ll refer to the traditional Brazilian dish by the same name in honor of his “second mom” at the new restaurant. Coxinha, a dish Craft describes as “like this gooey cheesy chicken nuggets,” has also carried over from the menu at Niche to the menu at Cinder House. The chef is looking forward to serving traditional entrees, like feijoada and moqueca, and desserts, like a classic flan and traditional rice pudding. “These are the things I grew up with so every time I sit there and eat them like the little chubby kid that I was, I’m transported back,” Craft says.
However, Cinder House isn’t a straightforward Brazilian restaurant and is instead inspired by South America more generally. The granite that makes up the restaurant’s bars (there’s one inside and one on an outdoor patio) comes from Brazil, but the restaurant’s overall look is meant to recall the blues and greens of the marble caves of Patagonia. The menu in these bar spaces also takes a broad approach to South American cuisine with summer barbecue fare cooked on the wood grill, like a smoked pork steak sandwich, grilled lobster rolls, and tacos.
Craft is looking forward to introducing St. Louis diners to a new kind of restaurant. “It’s flavors that don’t really exist in St. Louis at the moment so it’s kind of fun to bring something new and fresh and unique.” he says. “I want this restaurant to remain special and be its own place.”
Cinder House debuts to the public this month. Take a look around below.
• Cinder House [Official]