ST. LOUIS — Schnuck Markets is headed back to the kitchen. After closing the last of its in-store restaurants in 2005, the company has decided to have another go at the business, recently opening new, upscale versions of its previous eateries.
In mid-February, the operator of 105 stores opened The Marketplace Bistro and The Grille at Schnucks concepts in its newly remodeled Woods Mill store in the St. Louis suburb of Town and Country.
The two eateries are the first restaurants since the last Schnucks Station Restaurant closed at the Collinsville, Ill., store in 2005.
“The Bistro is an upscale version of these restaurants with an expanded menu, designed to appeal to the tastes of those families who enjoy dining out but don't have the time or the budget for regular restaurant dining,” said Melissa Bunch, director of deli for Schnucks.
“We realize that all things are cyclical — what is old is new again,” Bunch said.
While The Marketplace Bistro has some gourmet offerings, both concepts are designed to make customers feel at home. All the food served in the restaurants is made by Schnucks' chefs, according to Bunch.
“The made-by-hand aspect is very important, in that it proves to our customers that we are willing to go the extra distance for them. Our goal is to not only serve our customers, but also engage them while shopping,” Bunch said.
The Marketplace Bistro and The Grille are designed primarily for takeout, but an eight-seat lunch counter is included in the 63,000-square-foot store as well.
The remodeled store also includes a Kaldi's Coffee Bar with a seating area that includes wireless Internet and a flat-screen TV. Schnucks started adding St. Louis-based Kaldi's coffee cafes and carts to certain stores in early 2007.
Kaldi's serves lattes, espresso, fruit smoothies and other items.
“Customers stopping in with their laptop can check their email or surf the Web while they enjoy the coffee and pastries,” said Schnucks spokesman Paul Simon.
Schnucks opened its first snack bar in one store in 1958, and then expanded it to a restaurant in 1961. The in-store restaurant concept was later expanded to several of its stores and became known as Schnucks Station Restaurants, featuring a railroad theme.
While The Marketplace Bistro and The Grille are located only in one store so far, the company said it plans to add the eateries to some new and remodeled stores.
“This is something we will continue to monitor as we build new stores or remodel existing ones,” Bunch said.
The Bistro, which offers upscale appetizers such as Baked Brie for Two and entrees such as Creole Barbecue Shrimp Pasta, is designed like a “chef's table.” The cooked-to-order food is prepared in front of guests, who can sit at a dining counter furnished with stools or take their items to go.
The Marketplace Bistro offerings include Smoked Beef Brisket for $6.99, Artichoke Tortellini for $6.99 and Asian Stir Fry for $5.99.
A made-to-order pasta bar is featured, along with a stir-fry station and made-to-order sandwich shop. Make-your-own pasta bar options include lunch for $4.99 and dinner for $6.49.
Salads also receive a lot of play at The Marketplace Bistro, with an array of prepared salads and made-to-order salads. Salad dressings and croutons are made from scratch.
“The Bistro salad bar is very different from our traditional salad bar, in that it features ingredients for a more discriminating palate. Customers are really enjoying our homemade croutons,” Bunch said.
Dressings include Green Goddess, Creamy Blue Cheese and Red Wine Dijon Vinaigrette.
Build Your Own Salads includes a variety of greens, toppings and chicken, shrimp or salmon. Prices are $4.99 for lunch, $5.39 for wrapped salads, and $6.99 for dinner.
The adjoining casual concept, The Grille at Schnucks, offers pizzas, quesadillas, burgers, grilled sandwiches and other foods.
Some unique items include the Bison Burger for $5.99 and the Turkey Burger for $5.69.
As in the Bistro location, the focus of The Grille is custom-made offerings.
“Our grill master will make your meals to fit your tastes and dietary needs,” Bunch said.
While they've only been open a short while, both eateries have drawn crowds at both lunch and dinner.
“A growing number of customers have begun calling ahead and picking up their dinner on the way home from work,” Bunch said.