Last week, Joe Vostrejs, the COO of Larimer Associates, was heading home from Madison Street, the Congress Park neighborhood restaurant he opened in October of last year, when he started to think about dots -- specifically, connecting those dots to Troy Guard, the chef/owner of TAG and TAG RAW BAR, both of which reside in Larimer Square.
Guard, says Vostrejs, had been voicing his long range goals, not the least of which was to continue to expand his culinary kingdom -- not just for himself, or for Leigh Sullivan, his wife, but for his kitchen staff. "Troy has done an amazing job of attracting talent to his kitchen, and he wanted to provide more opportunities for his staff than what existed at TAG and TAG|RAW BAR," explains Vostrejs.
And Vostrejs, who opened Madison Street under the scrutiny of a handful of skeptical neighbors, had been contemplating making some changes of his own. "There was a bit of a disconnect between what we were providing to the neighborhood, and what the neighbors wanted," notes Vostrejs, pointing, in particular, to the menu. "We have killer burgers and really good fish tacos, which the neighborhood loves, but they also want more sophisticated fare -- food that goes above and beyond a burger and good pub food," he says.
And who better to raise the bar, wondered Vostrejs, than Guard and his staff? "It's a great opportunity for Troy that doesn't come with any risk, and it's a great opportunity for us to take the restaurant to the next level -- to connect the dots and kill two birds with one stone," reasons Vostrejs, who describes partnering with Guard as a "win-win situation."
The board, maintains Vostrejs, will continue to remain "accessible and familiar," but, he notes, he's counting on Guard to "dial it up and make it more distinctive and memorable."
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But while Guard is now an operating partner -- "This is Troy's deal, and he's 100 percent responsible for the operation," says Vostrejs -- Guard, who's firmly entrenched behind the lines at TAG and TAG|RAW BAR, won't be cooking at Madison Street.
Instead, the head kitchen gig will go to Rob Michaels, the daytime chef at TAG. "We're flush with talent at both restaurants," says Sullivan, "and these guys are hungry to do more." Michaels, who has been with TAG for eight months, and controls the day-to-day lunches, will pull inspiration from the TAG lunch menu, as well as dishes from the now-defunct Nine75, where Guard was the opening executive chef. "The menu will be unique and different, with lots of great variations from the lunch menu at TAG, and we're also looking forward to bringing some dishes back from Nine75," explains Sullivan.
For his part, Vostrejs says that bringing Michaels into the mix "creates an ideal opportunity for him to move up." And that, he insists, is what it's all about. "This is how we prefer to work, and partnering with Troy again is something that we're thrilled to do," concludes Vostrejs.