Friday, July 23, 2010

Em Chamas meats St. Joseph Monday

Posted By on Fri, Jul 23, 2010 at 10:35 AM

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St. Joe gets a new steakhouse, Brazilian-style
Last week we reported that Kansas City's first Brazilian steakhouse, Em Chamas -- located in the Northland -- had changed its pricing structure to a more economical three-tier system. That's the same pricing structure that the new Em Chamas Brazilian Grill will have in place when the second location of the independently owned churrascaria opens Monday evening in downtown St. Joseph.

We know what you're thinking: St. Joseph?

One of the developers of the new restaurant, Kenny O'Mara, has heard all the naysayers too: "Yes, I've heard people say that Em Chamas is too expensive for St. Joseph, that this city doesn't have the right demographics for an upscale restaurant, that it shouldn't be downtown. But we think it's going to be a success."

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Hot meat in the kitchen: Chef Tomas DiGregorio fires up the stoves
O'Mara and his business partners -- Mike Conroy, Herb Brooner and Jeff Collins -- have renovated a 19th-century building in the heart of St. Joseph's once-thriving retail district and offered Sam Silvio, the general manager of the Northland's Em Chamas, what he calls a "deal too good to pass up" to create a second location of the churrascaria. It's a terrific building -- four stories with space for a future rooftop deck -- at the corner of 6th Street and Edmund. It's right across the street from another historic building that O'Mara and his team plan to renovate: it once housed the dentist office of Walter Cronkite Sr., father of the legendary TV newscaster.

The building that houses the new Em Chamas once held a drug store and a music business on the first floor (the original tile floors are intact) and a bowling alley on the second, which has been transformed into another dining area. There had been, in more recent years, a nightclub on the third floor; Silvio and Argentinian chef Tomas DiGregorio would like to put an outdoor deck on this floor and maybe a nightclub.

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Em Chamas bartenders Vic Rodriguez and Ryan Scroggins
DiGregoria was fussing with the gas-fired roasting grill yesterday afternoon in the restaurant's kitchen. In the tile-floored bar, veteran bartender Vic Rodriguez (Manifesto, Justus Drugstore) was stocking the shelves and planning the wine list. A number of young servers, clad in black pants and shirts, stood around, waiting to continue their training.

In the main dining area, the ironwork near the staircases still boast the musical clef notes from the Eshelman Music Store, once an important retail shop in downtown St. Joseph. "This building is amazingly well-built," said Kenny O'Mara, who likes to show off the striking tilework in the basement, the arches in the thick brick walls, and the cast-iron columns up on the second floor. "Half of this building survived a terrible fire in 1960," he said, "but so many original details survived."

When this new Em Chamas restaurant opens next week, it will be the only upscale restaurant in St. Joseph and one of the few dining venues in the city's downtown, which still boasts the glorious Missouri Theater movie palace -- now a live entertainment venue -- but a lot of vacant buildings dating back to the glory days of this town, which was once a rival to Kansas City as a cosmopolitan community.

 

 

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