Chef Tim McKee dishes on his new Uptown restaurant, Libertine


It sounds like you've been really trying to take the neighborhood into consideration with the development of this restaurant. 

The idea for this restaurant was developed with Uptown in mind. You know, it wasn't 'I really want to do this restaurant and here's a space it'll be perfect.' This was more of a 'what do I think would really work well enough in Uptown and what do I think the people in Uptown will gravitate towards.' The people that use Uptown are really in that 20- to 30-year-old group and a lot of times they're freshly out of college. It's not the cheapest place to live and they might not have the money to go to Manny's, but that shouldn't deny them the opportunity to get a great cut of meat.

So you're putting chef Stephan Hesse in charge, is that correct?

Oh yeah, Steve Hesse will be the executive chef over there, and he's been working with me for a long time. He was the corporate chef for Sushi Avenue when I helped do the Masu Restaurants, and I was able to get him on my team about a year and a half ago and he's been waiting for us to finally do this project. He's a great guy and we're lucky to have him!

And for the desserts?

They'll be done by Adrienne Odom and she's really phenomenal. Adrienne worked at Aquavit, then La Belle Vie, then Solera, and then back to La Belle Vie. She's developed a really great, kind of booze-oriented dessert list. She's doing a baba rum with grilled stone fruit, and a smoked chocolate tart with a bourbon caramel and smoked sea salt, and other things like that.

Have you learned any lessons from Cafeteria and the former Il Gatto that you're incorporating into Libertine?

You always hope. It's always scary, but the fact of the matter is, Cafeteria was doing all right. I mean, you could always be doing better, but it did a lot better than a lot of other restaurants do. But we've got an opportunity to do something that we think will make it even better.

How will Libertine transcend the traditional steakhouse, other than offering unique cuts of meat?

Well, the conversation has skewed toward the meat-centric aspect of the restaurant, but the important thing to remember is that's really just the second page of the menu. The first page of the menu, since we had the kind of heavy meat statement, we wanted to kind of temper by having a nice selection of oysters. We'll have East and West Coast oysters and we'll have a selection of oyster shooters. One of them will be a Bloody Mary shot, the other is a watermelon margarita shot, and the other is a cucumber gin fizz. We'll also be doing some charbroiled oysters with a variety of interesting flavors as well as some fried oysters with a number of preparations.

We'll also have a section of more bar food and smaller plates and a section of mostly vegetable preparations. Salads, but not conventional salads, and then some vegetable sides. You know, we talked about the 'steakhouse' feel, but there's actually a section that's mostly vegetarian with a few vegan options as well, and that's something you'll never see in a steakhouse!

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23 comments
Andrea IntVeld
Andrea IntVeld

So does this mean no more Cafeteria?! Was just there this weekend :(

Jean Claude Cau
Jean Claude Cau

Libertine, Coup D'État... You need a French history book to dine out now.

Bob Fiel
Bob Fiel

Just don't try to serve that chop to Jack Sprat, unless his wife is wit him....

Adam Bertoni
Adam Bertoni

"The new concept is designed to better suit the maturing neighborhood" that line makes me think they haven't actually been to Uptown lately. lol

dekay5555555
dekay5555555

I would say that excessively large lobe of fat on that chop is all the symbolism we need. 

Angie Kiefer
Angie Kiefer

I loved it when t first opened.. Now, we went there earlier in the week and had horrible service and none of the tables were cleaned when we were trying to find patio seating.

rj0766
rj0766

Cafeteria had the worst food in Uptown, so good riddance to that menu.  I had better meals at Arby's.   I did think that the mid-century inspired interior was kind of cool.  It will be interesting to see if McKee can make it work, or if this will be another mediocre Parasole concept like ill Gatto or the crapateria.

Amber Ranzau
Amber Ranzau

It's about time! The rooftop was the only good part.

Gerri Lynn Gudmundson
Gerri Lynn Gudmundson

Probably grab our lawn chairs & coolers head to the river and laugh our asses off!

Lana Diamond
Lana Diamond

I liked the cafeteria. Not excited for the new place but who knows... Maybe it will be good...

Jason M Saye
Jason M Saye

I'm actually excited to try it out. Not a fan of coup detat or hammer and sickle. Plus Uptown cafeteria was pretty blah

Hanni Kenny
Hanni Kenny

Oh no! But Cafeteria was my favorite place! - said no one ever.

rachel.rae3930
rachel.rae3930

Oh hey!  Another Johnny Michaels drink menu! Ill bring my dictionary with me. Its almost as though there's no other game in town! Bah.

Canhnha Luu
Canhnha Luu

Good. Their food and drinks sucked. Rooftop patio was the only good thing.

JCVN
JCVN

Skeptical about how McKee's ideas are going to go once filtered through Parasole, especially if they find the neighborhood won't support that kind of vision—it will quickly adapt to something more crowd-pleasing.

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