I could have sworn that the sign in front of 1911 Main had been painted with the word bagatelle - a trifle, a short musical composition - a month or so ago. The sign now boasts the upcoming restaurant Affare. Both concepts were the creation of chef Martin Heuser, former executive chef and food and beverage manager at the Westin Crown Center. Heuser decided to nix Bagatelle as a possible name when, he says, "a very upset French restaurateur in a different city called me, threatening me with lawyers because he owns the right to use that word for a restaurant. That's when I changed my plans to open a semi-French restaurant to a completely German restaurant."
Because the word affare has the same meaning in both German and English (where it's spelled affair), Martin Heuser and his wife, Katrin, decided to use the sexy word for the restaurant they plan to open May 5 in the Crossroads. "That's the beauty of the word," Martin Heuser says, "it has the same meaning in both languages." It's pronounced, he says, ah-far-re.
The vast room inside the gray-painted building at 1911 Main seemed perfectly fine for a nightclub like Bar Natasha or a combination restaurant and show bar operated, briefly, by veteran femme mimic "Flo." But it was too large for any sort of intimate restaurant, so Heuser split the space into three areas: a 77-seat main dining room, a 45-seat private dining room, and a spacious lounge. Martin and Katrin Heuser plan to introduce the space to patrons next Friday, May 4, during First Friday festivities in the Crossroads: "We won't be open officially that night," he says, "but we will pass hors d'oeuvres and serve drinks at our bar."
Heuser will also introduce several visual artists who will have their work on exhibit at Affare, like Arkansas-based Pupe Gomez. Katrin Hueser is a former employee of Starker's Restaurant, and a few other Starker's employees followed her to Affare, including bartender and opera singer Richard Gibson.
Affare will be open for lunch and dinner after May 5. Heuser says he plans to serve traditional German dishes with a modern spin - but not schnitzel. "Only if a lot of people come and ask for it," he says. The planned Affare menu can be found on the restaurant's new website. The restaurant's menu will be very seasonal, Heuser says. "We'll only serve sauerbraten during the cool autumn months."
Heuser has hired a young pastry chef, Kirstyn Wentzel, a graduate of the culinary program at Johnson County Community College, to oversee the desserts for Affare.
Affare is privately owned by the Heuser family: "We have no investors," he says. "It's all us."