There are a few reservations left for this Sunday's pig roast at Story restaurant at 3931 West 69th Terrace in the Prairie Village Shopping Center. The $10 dinner - roasted pig tacos with traditional garnishes and Santa Maria pinquito beans - celebrates the first anniversary of the upscale neighborhood restaurant created by chef Carl Thorne-Thomsen and his wife, Susan, in a former retail storefront.
Carl Thorne-Thomsen, the former creative-writing student who shifted his attention to culinary pursuits, says the first year was - unsurprisingly - a learning curve, especially in the day-to-day requirements and front-of-the-house operations of a restaurant. "My wife wasn't going to be involved in the restaurant initially," Thorne-Thomsen says. "We have two small children. But I learned quickly how difficult staffing was going to be and the front-of-the-house management. Susan had to step in for a while to help me. Things that involve a lot of time - payroll and paying bills - were taking me out of the kitchen."
There's been a fair amount of turnover since the restaurant opened: The original general manager is gone and several kitchen staffers. That's not unusual in a new restaurant. Thorne-Thomsen says 80 percent of the restaurant's original serving staff is still working in the dining room.
Thorne-Thomsen says Story is doing well in a difficult economy - the restaurant's sales exceeded projections for the first year - but "we're still trying to figure our way to building our lunch business." The restaurant - which is open Tuesday through Saturday - has recently introduced an $18 three-course prix-fixe lunch (in addition to the regular selection of sandwiches, salads and entrees).
"It's worked pretty well," he says. "We've become much more sensitive to our customers' awareness of prices. We've tried to justify our price point. We're very serious about our food - every dish coming out of my kitchen has to be perfect. And it is, but we're conscious of prices."
Thorne-Thomsen's biggest epiphany over the last 12 months? "I've had to learn the value of time management, spending so much time in the office versus the time I spend cooking. And still find time to spend with my children. If I'm failing anywhere, it's there. Sometimes my son and I will ride bikes together at 6 a.m."
This Sunday's $10 dinner special is a celebration, but not an unusual activity. Story serves a $10 chef's choice dinner every Sunday: "It's usually based on what's in the kitchen. I try to keep it simple. I find something wonderful at a farmers market that week. I'll use it to create some kind of delicious meal. It's usually meat and potatoes, though. That's what most people want on a Sunday night."