A Shuttered Restaurant in St. Louis Is Suddenly the Hottest Table in Town
Chef Mike Randolph's ticketed dinners at Privado have been a surprise hit in a year filled with good restaurant openings.
Mike Randolph likes to experiment. The St. Louis chef / restaurateur might be most popular with local diners for his crowd-pleasing, brunch-focused Half & Half, or for the wood-fired, Latin-inspired cooking at Publico, which snagged him a James Beard nomination (one in a handful he's received) last year, but Randolph was also the guy behind the wholly imaginative, critically-acclaimed Little Country Gentlemen, a dinner-only experience operating out of Half & Half, after that restaurant closed for the day.
Mike Randolph likes to experiment, but he's also a fairly practical guy. Little Country Gentlemen was definitely a hit, but when it couldn't turn a profit, he shut the whole thing down and moved on. It's not the first time Randolph, who came up under the late, great Homaro Cantu at Chicago's futuristic Moto, admitted defeat and cut his losses—for a few years now, he's had this space in The Loop district of St. Louis, just a couple of doors down from Privado. Originally built out as an upscale pizza joint, it was then shuttered and reopened as an Italian restaurant, which he closed earlier this year. Both times, he told local media, it was because the concepts just hadn't caught fire. Time to move on.
Move on, apparently, to more experimentation; to creating, even if unintentionally, one of the most talked-about restaurants to open in St. Louis this year. Well, make that sort of open—inside the still-shuttered restaurant, Randolph began to offer weekend-only, ticketed tasting dinners, featuring upwards of a dozen courses, at just the one seating per evening. He's called the project Privado, each seating maxes out at just sixteen diners, and while the plating and concept scream fine dining, the vibe is anything but, with chef and crew in casual dress, cooking like madmen to an eclectic soundtrack that rambles all over the musical map. (It's all a bit early-days-of-Momofuku-Ko, but with more comfortable seating.)
Privado isn't just a cool name—arriving guests will feel like they're being ushered into a closed restaurant for an exclusive event. You're encouraged to show up a little early for a chat with the kitchen crew, who will have laid out the night's amuse; a welcome drink will be offered.
"The Loop is quirky and exciting," says Randolph of the St. Louis neighborhood where the restaurant is located. "It embraces all independent, unique individuals, and that will be the spirit of the Privado dinners. You don’t have to wear a jacket. You aren’t going to get ‘country club’ service. The music will probably be random and inspired by everything from Bruce Springsteen to Frank Sinatra, and we’re going to have fun.”
The dinners will be held Fridays and Saturdays, doors open at 6 p.m. for a 7 p.m. seating each evening. Tickets are $100, exclusive of tax and gratuity, and can be purchased on Tock. The bar will also be open on weekends for walk-ins—a short, a la carte menu will be available, utilizing the same ingredients from the tasting menu. Reservations for that experience are also available on Tock.