Goodbye sports bar, hello upscale-casual dining.
The Press Box on Chesterfield Parkway changed ownership earlier this month and will soon have a new name, menu and redesigned interior.
New owners Chris Mertz and Shawn Mulholland plan to transform it into the upscale Scarecrow and fill a niche in the Chesterfield restaurant scene with food that's steps above the average casual dining chains that dot the landscape but still approachable.
"Initially, we hope to create and promote this idea that everything we are doing is of the highest quality, but it's not something that's going to break [your bank]," Mertz said.
There are no plans to close the restaurant while the interior is being redesigned. Mertz said he doesn't yet have a firm date on when it will officially become Scarecrow, but expects it will occur in about a month.
Some of the sports bar-centric decor has already been replaced and the pair are working on changing out tables and other fixtures to create a new look. One portion of the dining room has granite tapletops with ornate bases while a different section will be getting tables hand-crafted by a St. Louis carpenter to look like reclaimed wood.
The menu is also receiving a complete overhaul with the help of Executive Chef Michelle Parker. The plan is to have distinct menus for lunch, dinner and the bar, and small plates, steaks and high-end pizzas will be a big part of the new focus.
Parker is looking to source locally when possible and to start making more items from scratch. The small plates will be designed to be shared with friends and a bottle of wine.
"I cook with a lot of beer and wine," she said. "I like to do things with a twist that are familiar also."
Mertz is also planning on using his years of experience running wine programs and working in wine sales to craft a compelling vino menu.
"We would like someone to come in here and be confident that they can get a good glass of wine for a good price, and not have to worry about it being a low-label wine with a high mark-up," he said.
Mertz and Mulholland said they hope to create this kind of nicer, relaxed atmosphere while still maintaining the bar for the crowd of regulars it draws. In part, this will be achieved with the use of plantation shutters that will provide a sense of separation between the two areas of the restaurant.
"The idea is to let the bar be a bar and the dining room a place where you can come in and enjoy the evening and have a couple bottles of wine and some nice steaks," Mulholland said.
Mertz is a Chesterfield resident while Mulholland lives in Wildwood, but the two grew up in Webster Groves and went to high school together. The venture is the first time either has owned a restaurant, although Mertz has had a long career in the hospitality industry working at casinos, country clubs and cruise lines ("I've done just about everything," he explained).