Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group Opens Coop De Ville
Plus, we catch up with what’s going on at the restaurant group’s other establishments.
“We built a social hall during social distancing,” says Richard DeShantz, as he’s putting the final touches on the interior of his latest venture, Coop De Ville.
More than two years in the works, DeShantz is slowly rolling out the opening of his Strip District establishment, which folds a fast-casual Southern restaurant, barcade, coffee shop, multiple bars and all-day lounge into a 14,000 square foot entertainment venue.
Up front is a coffee bar, a refreshed carryover from when Marty’s Market occupied the space. Beyond that is a grand square bar with cushy high-top seating and giant television screens. The rest of the interior is sectioned into zones. There’s an arcade with classic cabinet games, a row of pinball machines, pool tables and various nooks and crannies that can serve as social spaces, dining areas or, during the day, as a spot to cozy up with a book and a cup of coffee. The far end of Coop features a plush 8-lane duck-pin bowling alley, which, along with the main bar, offers a full-service dining experience; for the rest of the space, guests place food orders at the back counter and drink orders at one of the two bars mentioned above or the tiki trailer in the pinball area. The building’s numerous garage door windows will remain open for as long as the weather cooperates. As typically is the case with DeShantz, his design feels of-the-moment, airy, colorful and breezy.
“I love the feel of this area, of where it’s going. It reminds me of Chicago, West Randolph Street. It used to be industrial, but now people and offices are moving in,” says DeShantz, who owned Cafe Richard in the Strip District in the mid-2000s.
Of course, his complete vision for space won’t be actionable until physical distancing precautions necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 are lifted. Currently, the coffee bar is open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with outdoor seating for food and cocktails starting at noon on those days. DeShantz plans to open Coop for limited indoor seating in two weeks. The arcade will be open, but guests can’t bring their drinks to the games as state law still requires all guests to be seated at a table while they imbibe.
Chef de cuisine and part-owner James Ciminillo’s opening menu is similarly dialed back, with a near-complete focus on fried chicken. There are six versions of the excellent fried chicken sandwich he’s been honing over the last few years, as well as a fried chicken dinner option. Sides such as spicy collard greens, deviled egg potato salad and butter beans round out the initial offerings. Look for the menu to expand with more sandwiches, grain and salad bowls and Southern-style snacks such as deviled eggs in the forthcoming weeks. Ciminillo likely will add a brunch option in November. “We’re going to grow into where we need to be with the menu,” DeShantz says.
DeShantz says his team designed a beverage program to fit the space. “I don’t want anything too complex or pretentious with the drinks here,” he says. Southern-inspired cocktails such as sazeracs, juleps and smashes will frame the main bar’s cocktail menu. The trailer bar near the pinball machines and bowling alley will feature frozen drinks such as piña coladas and tiki drinks. And the coffee bar will turn into a wine bar in the evening, also offering coffee-based cocktails.
DeShantz sees his other restaurants as works-in-progress during the pandemic. “Let’s rethink everything. Let’s take this as an opportunity to be better. We had a great run, but now how can we keep moving forward,” he says, noting that he’s hired a corporate chef, Wyatt Lash, to help oversee the culinary operations.
Two establishments, Poulet Bleu and tako, are running nearly full-steam, albeit with slightly smaller menus (as well as, of course, reduced capacity and physically distant seating). I dined outdoors at tako a few weeks ago and found the experience utterly enjoyable. The tables outside the restaurant, which sprawled onto half of Sixth Street, were transformed into a stylish, high-energy space, with food and service that matched the vibe. Look for that to continue for the next few months; a line of all-weather igloo-style pods are on their way for cold-weather dining.
DeShantz and company are deep into the process of refurbishing his first Downtown restaurant, Meat & Potatoes, which opened in 2011. The restaurant, which is currently open for dine-in and takeout, will in the not-too-distant future have a menu that includes refined comfort food dishes such as linguine and clam sauce, stroganoffs and expanded steak options, as well as a room dedicated to prime rib served with traditional fixings. Butcher and the Rye is getting an all-around spruce-up, too, and is expected to re-open Dec. 1. As for the long-anticipated Gi-Gin, DeShantz says it, also, might open in early December (though we heard that same prediction last year).
Things are moving ahead with the build-out of tako’s Bakery Square outpost, though an opening date for that location, which will be more casual than the Downtown original, has not been set. DeShantz says that Fish nor Fowl won’t open as-is for the time being and that he is beginning to conceptualize what he’ll do with the recently closed Pork & Beans space; it’s possible he could open something new as early as next spring.
“It’s a constant learning thing right now. I felt a little defeated the second time we had to shut everything down, but I’m focused on moving things forward now. We’re just trying to roll with the circumstances. We’re doing our best to offer people fun, comfort, the opportunity to relax,” DeShantz says.