How chefs are adjusting to a more casual way of eating
It's a busy Friday night at The Rossi. Tables display a glimpse of fine dining fare: foie gras, cocoa-braised short ribs, house-made charcuterie. But the atmosphere is casual. Cold War Kids-not classical music-plays over the speakers. No white tablecloths. No dress code.
This is by design. For three years, chef Andrew Smith has supplemented his pizza and burger menu with upscale cuisine to capture clientele who want a casual, yet sophisticated dining experience. In short: good food, one fork. He's not alone in adjusting for the new style of dining-a style where diners want good food in a relaxed atmosphere and at a price to match.
While the Rossi is getting fancy, Kent Rigsby of Rigsby's Kitchen and Tasi Cafe is careful to communicate that white tablecloths do not mean a stuffy experience. He's made changes-in music and uniforms-to punctuate that Rigsby's is a bistro, and bistros are comfortable.
"I don't think there's a huge demand for the luxury-style restaurant," he says. "It is amazing to watch the popularity of Tasi. There's no doubt that the appeal is that really casual 'come as you are' experience."
Thad Kittrell, co-owner of 101 Beer Kitchen, thinks there's simply not enough demand for fine dining in smaller cities. His answer? He replaces center-of-plate classics with less expensive cuts of meat (such as hangar steak) to keep prices down for his customers.