FOOD- THE DISH- Night life: Orzo keeps Market up after hours
For Main Street Market fans, Orzo's debut on November 25 offers something they've never had before– a restaurant to keep the purple food emporium open at night.
"Right now," says Orzo co-owner Ken Wooten, "we're the only place open at night in the Market, but we hope our presence there might change that."
Indeed, last Saturday, Wooten says, they had 112 seatings ("We were humming like a real restaurant," he laughs), a crowd that just might encourage other shops in the building, especially Café Milano, to stay open a little later.
In the meantime, Wooten and partner Charles Roumeliotes are reeling from the reality of having a restaurant up and running.
"It's something that Charles and I always dreamed of," he says. "If we hadn't found each other, we wouldn't have done it on our own. Plus, it's great that our wives like each other."
Wooten and Roumeliotes met while they were co-managers at Fuel Co. Wooten managed the original Metropolitain in the late '90s and served for a time as Patricia Kluge's butler before taking over the day-to-day operations of Fuel Co. Roumeliotes, who moved here four years ago from California's Napa Valley, has spent 30 years in the restaurant business. Half the battle, says Wooten, was finding the right partner. The other half was finding a location.
"It wasn't easy finding the right spot in town," he says, "but we stayed the course, and now here we are."
In addition to wooing other shops in the Market to stay open later, the two hope their nighttime Mediterranean-style cuisine and daytime gourmet-to-go business will be a fitting replacement for the former tenant, José De Brito, whose bistro and food, cheese, and wine emporium, Ciboulette, graced the space for the last five years.
"Our staff has really stepped up to the challenge," says Wooten, who hopes Orzo will become as renowned for its fine food as was its predecessor.
Last time we heard from Andreas Gaynor, the former owner of Fusion and City Centro, it appeared he'd had his fill of the restaurant business.
"I needed to take care of myself. I didn't want to get an ulcer," Gaynor told Dish in January after selling Fusion, which, located under the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, made way for Eppie's. "Don't get me wrong. I had a decent life, and the people at my restaurant were like a family. But it was time to try something new."
After 15 years in the restaurant biz, Gaynor said he was happy to be debt-free and was looking forward to some time to reflect on his next move. "I'm going to relax and see what kind of epiphanies I have," he said at the time.
Well, after several months of relaxing, Gaynor seems to have had his epiphany. In an unusual move, Gaynor has struck a deal with Jeannie Brown, the owner of Kiki Café, to turn the popular, hip late-night joint into a juice bar during the day.
"Because the place is so beautiful already," says Gaynor, "there was really nothing I had to do. Fortunately, Kiki's owner had enough vision and trust to allow me to run a business in her space."
Hoping to pick up the baton from now-closed Liquid (which was three streets to the west), Gaynor says he plans to open on December 15 (10am-4pm during the week). Then he'll pass the keys off to Kiki Café, which has been thriving, he says. No food yet, but Gaynor says he'll be serving up smoothies with real fruit, simple juices, and will eventually begin using the "miracle plant" limu, a kind of seaweed renowned for its health benefits.
"This is my niche," says Gaynor. "I like small-sized venues, where I can offer real quality."
Orzo's Ken Wooten and Charles Roumeliotes hope their Mediterranean-style cuisine will make the Main Street Market a new nightspot.