When you think of the word “proper,” a pig probably isn’t the first member of the animal kingdom that comes to mind. But Porky donning a top hat and a monocle? Now we’re talking.
This is what Stephen Schrutt, owner of the Avenue eat/drink and Kings Street Food Counter, envisioned while brainstorming logo ideas for his new downtown St. Pete barbecue-comfort-food-cocktail restaurant, Proper Kitchen & Cocktails. He says he wants his third concept, announced for 344 First Ave. S. back in September, to be about growing up in the South.
“The name Proper fit. Doing proper food and drinks is Southern to me,” Schrutt tells CL. “Pigs aren’t proper, but they’re very intertwined in Southern culture and food, so he’s ready to look the part and have some fun.”
Long interested in the 2,700-square-foot building between the Avenue and World of Beer (its most recent tenants were Wood Fired Pizza and POW), the restaurateur says he believes Proper will add synergy to the block, helping it become more of a food and drink destination. A legal issue (involving POW and the property's owners, Triann Holdings LLC) put a hold on Proper's launch, but it’s slated to open in April or May.
Diners can expect a Southern-charm-meets-industrial feel. With seating for around 175, the rustic space will feature fresh landscaping, vintage lighting, a new steel-top bar inside, an Airstream bar in the yard, burnt cedar tables, black tufted booths and cocktail banquettes. Windows will allow a view of the kitchen from the dining room, and there will be a communal farmer’s table on a wooden deck outside. The outdoor bar will carry mainly draft offerings — cocktails, coffee and six craft beers, local options included, as the farmer’s table acts as the setting for gatherings like Sunday suppers.
To achieve a “butcher shop vibe,” Proper also plans to display hanging meats in a large cooler behind the indoor bar. Schrutt says a big focus will be on the elevated cocktail program, but he's staying mum about the restaurant’s director of spirits, promising only that she or he is one of the best in the region.
Like Schrutt’s other eateries, Proper will be refined yet approachable, inviting without being stuffy.
And the food?
The locally built, four-door, 12-foot custom smoker, set to integrate different wood mixtures like pecan and oak, will waft an array of barbecue smells out back: sausage, Texas-style brisket, pork butt, gator, chicken and fish among them. The restaurant will incorporate the wood-burning oven left behind by Wood Fired into its down-home menu, too; Schrutt says it will be used for desserts and certain sides (think mac ‘n’ cheese and cornbread).
Once the doors open, the restaurant will operate Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner, plus Saturday and Sunday with weekend brunch.
“I definitely feel like we’re bringing a new concept to the Bay area,” Schrutt says. “The food will be the reason you come in, and the drinks will be the reason that you stay.”