Crunchwerks begins dine-in service at Summit on March 6, with concerts to follow
Summit Music Hall owners and chef Mysti Burris pivoted to cloud kitchen Crunchwerks. Next week they'll start dine-in service, followed by live music.
Back in June, Summit Music Hall co-owner Chris Salvato still had a Zen mindset about the pandemic, even as it forced the closure of a venue that he and his business partners, Trey Burris and Rob Chafin, had only been operating since October 2019.
“We're really happy to sit it out and just open whenever it'll be safe and fun for everybody again,” Salvato told Alive in June. The Summit received an Economic Injury Disaster loan, which helped keep the venue afloat while the doors were closed. Then came fall, then winter, and the pandemic was still raging. “We realized that we were going to hit a wall, and that we really needed to do something,” Salvato said in a recent phone call.
The Summit partners began brainstorming ideas for a restaurant, in hopes of serving food to help generate some revenue before concerts became possible again. Fortuitously, the kitchen formerly occupied by Pierogi Mountain at Cafe Bourbon St. next door became available, so the Summit began renting the kitchen space. The next question was: What would they serve?
Co-owner Trey Burris tossed around some ideas with his sister, Mysti Burris, who was previously head chef at Standard Hall and learned the art of scratch cooking at since-closed HomeFare in the Short North. “Our dream has always been to own a business together and cultivate good food and good drinks, and mix that with a really good culture,” said Mysti Burris, who hit on the winning idea for a menu theme while talking to her brother on the phone. “It was 12:30 at night, and we were going over previous menus I had written before and what we wanted to do. We were really trying to look for our flagship, and it hit me like a lightning bolt: ‘Oh, duh. Trey — crunch wraps, dude!’”
The idea came from an earlier pandemic experience. “Over quarantine, my bubble only consisted of my brother, his family and my wife,” Mysti Burris said. “To entertain ourselves, we were just making random things, and I remember one day I picked up some dry-aged steak, and I made some corn salsa with the corn I grew in my garden. I went over to my brother's and I made a crunch wrap, and it was amazing. I was like, 'This is so good. I'm never going to Taco Bell again.’”
Thus, Crunchwerks was born.
To raise money for the new venture, the Summit hosted a livestream fundraising event with a dunk tank, then opened Crunchwerks for takeout and delivery on Jan. 1. “You have a different choice of protein and all kinds of delicious, flavor-packed toppings all wrapped into a large tortilla wrapped around these tostadas. So it has a nice, crispy inside. And then we grill it,” Salvato said. “It's also a totally handheld item, so they’re easy to enjoy while also enjoying a concert.”
Burris also wanted the menu to appeal to all eaters, regardless of dietary restrictions. “We make our own soy-free, nut-free, gluten-free vegan queso every week,” she said. “I take allergens very seriously. … We don’t use any nuts in the facility. I just want everyone to feel welcome here.”
So far Crunchwerks has limited itself to takeout and delivery, but beginning on Saturday, March 6, the cloud kitchen will become a brick-and-mortar restaurant when the Summit opens its doors for dine-in service. Soon after that, Salvato said the venue will also begin booking socially distant concerts.
“People can come in, order food, sit down and enjoy a different atmosphere that's going to be musically themed,” said Salvato, who hopes to host live music at the Summit “as soon as possible.” “Everything is going to be social distanced. There's going to have to be masks. … But our stage is large for how big the venue is, and I don't see any reason that we can't have safe, socially distanced entertainment during food hours, and then also during the nighttime, as well."
The Summit crew also recently renovated part of the space, refinishing floors and fixing the ceiling to bring everything up to code. “We're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for this whole nightmare that's been the pandemic, and what it's done to our business,” Salvato said. “We're all really grateful and excited to be back here working.”