The pressure on St. Louis restaurant Reeds American Table is immense. In this city, where baseball reigns supreme 365 days a year, I’d say it’s equivalent to what the Cardinals face approaching each new season: people expect the World Series, or it’s a disappointment.
That’s a lot of weight on shoulders of anyone, but owner and executive chef Matthew Daughaday has spent the last few years receiving acclaim for his prowess as executive chef of Taste, a Gerard Craft restaurant focused on small plates and cocktails. When Daughaday announced his departure and subsequent plans to open his own restaurant, the culinary community was excited. When advanced sommelier and beverage director Andrey Ivanov came aboard, that excitement became ecstatic. The staff swelled to include top-notch pastry chef Summer Wright, three more sommeliers, a certified Cicerone to handle the beer list, a mixologist to handle cocktails, and a national Brewer’s Cup barista competitor to set up a coffee and non-alcoholic beverage menu.
No matter the channel, there’s an expert curating the collection at Reeds—it’s like a fantasy baseball roster builder’s dream come true, in restaurant form. St. Louis Magazine’s dining editor George Mahe has called the restaurant’s opening the “most anticipated” of 2015. This is an understatement.
Bartender and coffee guru Zach Althaus helms Reeds’ coffee program. He worked at The Roasterie in his hometown of Kansas City for six years, as well as stints at Kaldi’s Coffee, Goshen Coffee, and Sump Coffee in St. Louis. It’s clear to see there has been an investment in the coffee program from day one: the La Marzocco Linea Classic and Mazzer grinder are front and center when walking into the space. Reeds has partnered with Kansas City’s Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters for their coffee needs and local company Retrailer for teas. Behind the bar is a Mahlkönig Guatemala grinder and a Marco hot water tower to handle French press duty for brewed coffee and tea.
“To me, coffee is as important as any other aspect of the program,” Daughaday says. It may take up a smaller percentage of the business, he says, but assures “in terms of how much effort we’ll put into it, and where it can grow, it’s the same as everything else.”
Althaus and Wright’s combined areas of expertise, coffee and pastry, come together at Reeds with some natural pairings. A rich chocolate torte is accompanied on the plate by a Turkish coffee cream, brown butter caramel, and hazelnuts, and paired with a French press of Thou Mayest’s Journeyman Blend. A shot of Alter Ego espresso joins a silky smooth vanilla panna cotta, saba, grapes, and a buckwheat-almond streusel. And of course, the affogato: espresso, house-made vanilla bean ice cream, and cookies. The duo has also teamed up on a house-made tonic syrup and chocolate sauce for mochas.
Reeds takes the coffee pairings further with espresso and Amaro. Ivanov says he hadn’t heard of the pairing until Althaus talked to him about the traditional Italian after-dinner remedy. Amaro Sibilla accompanies the Alter Ego espresso on a small tray. Althaus recommended drinking the espresso first before pouring the amaro into the empty espresso glass.
In what should come as no surprise, the 18-page beverage list covers everything from wine (the 100-plus bottle list has several wines exclusive to the restaurant along with retail prices to take home) to non-alcoholic options (the staff tasted over 50 sodas and sparkling waters to fill two spots). No stones were left unturned. Ivanov described the beverage program as “complete.”
“Instead of having to micro-manage every single detail of every single beverage department, I have incredibly capable and very talented people that can do that and I can take a step back and just really oversee,” Ivanov says. “Everything that we do here is incredibly detail-oriented and we want to put forward the best product that we possibly can, otherwise we just won’t do it.”
Reeds is currently open for dinner six days a week. The food menu is full of high-end comfort food items like a pastrami Reuben made with beef tongue. As a nod to one of his dishes at his previous kitchen, Daughaday serves a roasted chicken with mushrooms, sautéed kale, roasted potatoes, and a pan sauce. There’s also a late-night food menu via chalkboard available Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
The next project on the restaurant’s agenda is brunch. The coffee menu will expand beyond the opening selections of brewed caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, espresso, and cappuccinos. Although ideas are abundant, putting them into practice in a 90-seat restaurant is another matter that Althaus is currently tackling.
“Maybe we’ll do something weird and bring some Tim Wendelboe in for a month,” he says. “I want to expand the coffee menu and then I want to potentially bring in some type of espresso that’s more intended to be served on its own, and then we’d have our espresso that would go in milk drinks.”
Since Wright and Althaus have already partnered on several projects, Wright hasn’t run out of ideas to bring coffee into the pastry department. Off the top of her head, she rattles off coffee ice cream, coffee caramel, pumpernickel bread, and coffee in chocolate cake recipes as next on the R&D list.
“I just want to continue to try and collab with the other people to do things that are unusual in a restaurant setting,” Althaus says. “I’m very excited to see kind of how Summer and I can continue to collab.”
The feeling is mutual with Wright.
“He just does a great job,” Wright says of Althaus. “We’re so appreciative that he’s here…we got him a really nice machine.”
Evan C. Jones is a Sprudge.com contributor based in St. Louis. Read more Evan C. Jones on Sprudge.