Friday, May 10, 2013

The Purple Martin Is Coming to Fox Park

Fox Park is getting something it desperately needs...a neighborhood restaurant.

This neighborhood bound by I-44 on the north, Gravois on the south, Jefferson on the east and Nebraska Ave. on the west has a park that is nearly the center of the neighborhood.

This new restaurant will be occupying a longtime eyesore at the corner of California and Shenandoah right across from the park.

(new restaurant in Fox Park)

An energetic and driven woman, Michelle Veremakis, recently moved to suburban St. Louis from California, saw the potential in this corner storefront almost perfectly located at the center of the neighborhood and bought the property from DeSales Housing (largest rental property owner in the area) and lovingly rehabbed this beautiful space.

From this:

To this:

(corner entrance at California and Shenandoah)

(rear of building including upstairs tenant off-street parking)

The beautifully renovated space has been sitting in wait for a quality tenant.  Neighbors are fully aware that the Shaw restaurant called Sweet Art was very interested in this property for their business and the former filling station across the street for an art studio (since demo'd and a likely surface parking lot in near future).  That deal fell through when terms could not be met.

This was a blow for those who were desperate for a civilized dining establishment.

Enter Brooke Sissman Roseberry and Tony Lagouranis, both Fox Park residents.

Brooke and Tony are both from Manhattan, NYC.

Brooke moved to St. Louis to attend Washington University School of Law in 1992 and bought her house in Fox Park in 1999. Tony moved to St. Louis via Portland, Chicago, NYC, Santa Fe, and most recently Durango, Colorado, to be with Brooke in 2011. 

It was Brooke's dream to open a neighborhood cafe that serves Fox Park and fills a hole that's been non-existent since Tanner B's closed at the corner of Nebraska/Shenandoah approximately six years ago.  It just so happens Tony is a talented chef who had worked in the cities mentioned above, and shared Brooke's dream of a restaurant.

Tony has also written a book, Fear Up Harshabout American foreign policy on torture during the Iraq war, co-invented a popular drink called The Purple Martin which was served at The California Clipper in Chicago; he's been a blacksmith, served in the Army in Iraq, hitchhiked across the country and immediately prior to moving to St. Louis, worked in Colorado cutting down trees to help mitigate fire risks  Tony is also a talented chef and his father is a restaurateur in Connecticut, so he has the business in his blood.

The dream of a neighborhood place seemed to becoming a reality.

Brooke and Tony wanted to open a place in Fox Park and use as many local artists, designers and other resources to execute their plan.  First step was to start researching locations.  The former Tanner B's/Fox Park Grille/Bodega's spot at Nebraska/Shenandoah was their first consideration, but it wasn't to be.  They also considered the former Shameless Grounds space in the Koken Art Gallery...also not to be.

Then the spot at California and Shenandoah resurfaced on their list.  They came to terms with the rehabber/owner of the building, fell in love with the potential of this beautiful space and signed a lease.

The interior of the building has been carefully rehabbed, retaining many of the original features and charm of the building:

 (exposed brick walls, tall baseboards and new wood floors)

(exposed pocket door)

 (original tin roof ceiling)

 (ornate ironwork on interior windows)

The name of their new venture is the Purple Martin.

The name comes from Tony’s fond childhood memories of Ohio relatives who were lovers of the venerable bird and who put up dozens of Purple Martin houses on their farm.

The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner with a possibility of being open in the mornings as well if they arrange with another Fox Park neighbor who wants to have a space to serve smoothies, coffee, quiche, sandwiches and salads in the earlier hours.  There will be indoor and outdoor seating.

(plenty of room for outdoor tables facing Shenandoah)

They are applying for a liquor license and have already been talking to local breweries such as Civil Life in Tower Grove South to serve local craft beer and wine.

As for the food...get ready for some delicious selections.  The draft of their menu includes:


  • Sausage Plate - Assorted sausages with house made pickles
  • Cheese Plate - 3 cheeses with sliced baguette
  • Roma tomatoes stuffed with tapenade (chopped anchovies, olives, capers and parsley)
  • Smoked salmon on dark rye with cream cheese, capers and pickled onions
  • Shredded duck confit on toast rounds with assorted house made pickles
  • House salad
  • Greek salad
  • Caesar salad
  • Cured Asian sausage with cucumber and a warm spicy lime dressing
  • Beet and orange salad with Boston lettuce
  • Lamburger with a spiced aioli and sweet roasted pepper
  • Hamburger-your choice of cheese
  • Caponata panini-on focaccia bread with grilled eggplant, zucchini, sweet peppers, olives, capers and provolone
  • Caprese panini-on focaccia bread with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato
  • Artichoke panini-with provolone cheese
Main Courses
  • Prawns over a warm lentil and basil salad
  • Roasted chicken thighs with avgolemono sauce
  • Seared duck breast with a red wine butter sauce served over wild rice with daily vegetable
  • Lamb steak oven roasted with tomato and a rich sauce over orzo
  • Linguini with a savory meat sauce
  • Cous cous with lamb, merguez sausage and chicken (serves 2)
Can I get a hell yes to that?  My mouth is watering and I simply cannot wait to WALK here and spend many hours here socializing.  Targeted price point will be ~$15.00.  

Brooke and Tony are into supporting the STL scene in all manners.  The Purple Martin logo was designed by a local artist at Koken, they are going to contact Griffin Delivery (my favorite business in the city) to investigate the possibility of bike delivery, the interior build out is being done by a talented Fox Parker (who renovated my home).  And they hope to hire a local trained chef to help run the kitchen.

This is exactly the kind of place Fox Park needs to become a functioning neighborhood.  Keep your eye out for lots of action at California and Shenandoah.  And, come this fall, stop by and say hello.  I'll be the guy at the bar drinking a local pint!

Viva Fox Park!  Cheers to people like Brooke and Tony who are putting their sweat and love and money into the neighborhood.  You guys are the urban pioneers who make this city have a sense of place and community and soul.  

Best of luck!


Anonymous said...

This is exciting! Looking forward to the grand opening.

-Minnesota Ave, TGE, resident

Kim said...

Great news and the menu sounds delicious!

Anonymous said...

Awfully upscale menu for a "neighborhood" restaurant. I hope they offer some down to earth items... Looks like they missed the demographic. This doesn't look like a menu that would appeal to locals to eat at on a weekly basis.

I can see a rush at the beginning to try the new place and fantastic food menu, but it wont be realistic menu for repeat business.

Adam said...


Anonymous said...

Guess I'll have to check it out, John Miller, purple martin volunteer in Forest Park.

samizdat said...

She did a nice job on that building, which has always been one of my favorites. Kudos!

Shame about the menu. Sounds great...if you're not a vegetarian :)

Regardless of my choice of diet, good luck to them.

KimH said...

You all have no idea how blessed you are to have Tony and Brooke bringing in this restaurant. Tony is the most brilliant and lovable chef St. Louis will ever have. Expect to get the best combination of innovative ingredients and brilliant kitchen prowess. Oh, and Tony is one of the smartest people you'll ever meet-demand an updated version of the Bar Games book (may need to credit the Clipper).

We'll come as soon as we can. Enjoy!!

Daron said...

wow, any chance purple martin houses will be popping up around Fox Park? They could be easily integrated into the streetscape if the community was willing, and of course would impact the number of mosquitos flying about.

Anonymous said...

Fox Parkers are thrilled! I think the menu is awesome and they certainly did not miss the demographic. This place will do wonderful and is a much needed addition to the neighborhood.

Yet Another St. Louis Blog by Kevin B. said...

Daron said: "wow, any chance purple martin houses will be popping up around Fox Park? They could be easily integrated into the streetscape if the community was willing, and of course would impact the number of mosquitos flying about."

I was thinking the exact same thing, Daron, when I started reading up on the name. Set up some birdhouses nearby, release a dozen or so of them and see what happens.

Fox Park: Home of the Purple Martin...

Purple Martin: Home of the Purple Martini...

Mark Groth said...

^Daron, Kevin: you guys want to get a plan together? I think this is a wonderful idea. You guys should put something together and float it to us. This could be your personal mark on a pivotal so. side neighborhood. Send me note at if you are serious.

Anonymous said...

Check out the wiki page on Purple Martin's. Looks like we might just end up with a colony of Sterlings if we try to set up nests or even release adults. And to top it off, mosquitos aren't a measurable part of their diet.

Excited Fox Park Resident said...

Any word on the expected opening date? Even a prediction would help. I walk/jog by there daily, so it is easy for me to monitor the progress, lol! However, I would love to be able to mark my calendar accordingly! Ever since my husband and I moved into the neighborhood, we have been dying for someone to open a business other than a hair salon/barber shop! So excited for a restaurant/bar.

Anonymous said...

Hi - thanks for your excitement! we're aiming for a late september, early october opening - warm enough to still sit outside, i hope!

Anonymous said...

WE are so excited about this place can't wait to be able to walk to a restaurant/ bar and eat and drink and walk home. We just walked by it and it looks great !