We're not ready to call the Great Bend Restaurant Shakeout over just yet, but lately we've been hearing more about restaurants opening than closing. Following a wholesale massacre that brought down dining titans Merenda, Deep, as well as Volo, Bistro Corlise and, earlier, Blue Fish Bistro, the downtown scene is poised for a rebound of sorts. Over on the corner of Minnesota and Wall the former Merenda staff, led by Mike Millette, is putting the finishing touches on their new and retooled restaurant, dubbed 900 Wall. Millette said the business is tentatively scheduled to open its doors on May 6.
In the meantime, the new owners are hard at work with a remodel that includes adding more booths, sound dampening to combat the pervasive clatter that often made casual conversation a chore at Merenda and an expanded bar area. Just down the street, chef Ramsey Hamdan and wife Juli (formerly of Jackalope Grill) have a new project, a casual Middle Eastern-themed restaurant called Joolz that is expected to open by May 1 in the former home of Bistro Corlise. Also downtown, the former Volo site is getting set to welcome its new occupant, Zydeco Kitchen and Cocktails, which you can expect to see in its new digs in the next month or so. No word yet on menu specifics, but expect some of the same formula that made them a success at their Third Street location. Upstairs, personal chef of sorts Lisa Glickman is debuting a new hybridized dining option at the Loft, Lisa Glickman's Dinner Club @ 919 Bond. Glickman will be offering her customers a made-to-order dining experience for groups of 10-20 people by reservation in the private Loft. The dinners include a custom menu with wine, beer, cocktails and the option of live music, and a free cooking instructional.
Out of downtown and off the fine dining scene, Rivals sports bar has finally opened its doors in the former home of Bernie's BBQ and later Pepe's. The restaurant is pushing its upscale sports bar theme heavily, but it's bread and butter will be poker. Rivals co-owner Charles Pearlman said the business has five poker tables and will offer games five days a week for a $15 buy in and free games on the weekends.
While Pearlman and his partners are food industry neophytes, they've hired local restaurant vet Paul Conrod as general manager.