When one restaurant replaces another, the owners of the new business are faced with a choice: Go to great lengths to distance themselves from their predecessors or stick with the elements that worked at the previous place and build upon its successes.
Bruno Bas, who opened Fireside Cafe at 6752 Cincinnati-Dayton Road in Liberty Twp. in April 2017, spent numerous months — and tens of thousands of dollars — renovating it so it didn’t resemble the former Italian restaurant that previously occupied that space.
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He added a pizza and pasta prep kitchen up front, raised the eatery’s ceiling, rearranged seating, created a waiting area and installing six flatscreen televisions. The upgrades cost him thousands of dollars but were well worth the investment, he said.
“I didn’t want it to look like it used to be,” Bas said. “They didn’t know how to design the kitchen … the dining room and how it’s supposed to be. I’ve been doing this for 35 years. I know how it’s supposed to be.”
Changes also were necessary to the restaurant’s decorations and color palette.
“When you walk in, it has to be restaurant colors,” he said. “You have to use the right colors to make people feel (they want to) eat something. If you use different colors (of) whatever you like, it’s not going to work.”
Ryan’s Tavern, which opened in Hamilton in 2008 and served as a catalyst of downtown Hamilton’s revitalization efforts, closed last April prior to the sale of the building at 241 High St.
Its replacement, Basil 1791, opened Jan. 10, leaving certain elements of the restaurant intact, such as its wooden decor. But it introduced area diners to a vastly different menu.
Instead of opting to continue with Irish pub fare, it fuses Asian and American cuisine. It also spent months revamping the restaurant’s kitchen, installing a garage door to link the restaurant to outdoor dining and revamped the second floor to include new carpets, new upholstery and a new bar. In addition, a 30-bottle bourbon bar is in the works on the restaurant’s main floor.
“The owners were looking to do something different to appease everybody’s palate, as far as the food was concerned and the menu changes,” said Jamie Campbell, the restaurant’s executive chef. “As far as (new) look, it speaks for itself. It’s a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing building and dine in. It’s got great ambiance and a comfortable atmosphere.”
Jenny Guan, who previously owned and operated Asian restaurants in Fairfield and Finneytown, said the decision to reboot longtime restaurant Chinese Lantern with few changes after its owners retired in December and closed was essentially a matter of not fixing what wasn’t broken.
Guan is changing the name of the business to Asian Lantern and is working to renovate its kitchen to maximize its potential before its March 1 opening.
But that’s the extent of her changes. Guan hired a former chef from the restaurant to ensure food there continues with the same tried-and-true recipes. She also decided to add only a few new choices to what essentially will be an identical menu to what area residents knew for decades.
“There are a lot of people who loved their food,” she said. “We don’t want the people to lose. We wanted to keep the food and keep the chef that worked for them.”
Basil’s On Market in Mason
Basil’s On Market in Mason chose a completely different tack than Asian Lantern, gutting the interior of what used to be Brazenhead Irish Pub and working for months on a series of improvements and new features, including a new bar and patio.
“We are very brand specific, we’re trademarked and we’re in the process of creating a brand, so the Irish pub theme of that beautiful building just wasn’t who we are,” said Basil’s co-founder Jeff Finkelstein. “We put our spin on it. We’re an open environment, so you’re able to see the entire place from standing in one spot in the restaurant.”
All the previous fixtures and furnishings installed by Brazenhead, including original pieces of framework, several antiques and a bar that was custom-made out of reclaimed Irish wood, were sold through an online auction. The new restaurant is also getting three large garage doors to create a summer dining experience.
The completely “different feel” means patrons of the former restaurant won’t even recognize the new place once it opens, he said.
The Basil’s On Market menu features everything from Boneless Short Rib, Pesto Chicken and Buttermilk Fried Chicken to Sauteed Sea Bass, Barrel-Aged Salmon and Lobster Shells and Cheese with Grilled Shrimp.
A lunch menu features Pulled Pork BLT, Bruschetta Pasta, a Chiptole Chicken Wrap and more. Also available will be 43 wines, both red and white, as well as a selection of 10 scotch whiskeys and 10 bourbon whiskeys.
“It’ll be something that Mason just doesn’t have, and not corporate,” Finkelstein said.