Chef-owner Matthew Borchardt has married what really are two distinct business approaches — the selling demands of retail and the craft of fresh food preparation and service — into an entity that makes us wonder why this duel-purpose model can’t be the default.
When Edibles & Essentials opened its doors in St. Louis Hills nearly five years ago, Matthew expected the artisan market to dominate. He and wife Mary Beth stocked the shelves with “the best of the best” in local food and drink products, as well as fine food from around the country and the world. Local purveyors and products such as Buttonwood Farms, Red Hot Ripletts, Companion Bakery and more are available. There are at least 100-plus other pantry staples to cover the must-haves — think olive oil, honey, pickles, dressings, dinnerware and pretty much everything else necessary in a well-stocked kitchen.
But what Matthew does in his own kitchen was bound to have an impact on business. He put his farm-to-fork philosophy to good use making a variety of ready-to-eat foods. Available summer produce inspired tomato salad and guacamole; at other times, pickled and marinated foods, chicken and tuna salads, and other house-made dishes are packaged for grab-and-go market shoppers.
“The business has changed considerably since we opened,” he says. “Because of the quality of the food, it’s developed more as a restaurant than a market. The market reflects the restaurant food and the food reflects the market.”
Matthew’s hyper-seasonal focus keeps chutneys, fruit, nuts and charcuterie boards looking a little different at any given time in the restaurant. The café menu changes weekly, and the packaged market fare follows suit as necessary. At last check, the café's menu was loaded with summer veggie-forward dishes (roasted cauliflower with lemon vinaigrette, green bean salad, caprese, and tomato salad); at another time, hungry diners could be tucking into a mushroom potpie.
There’s little one could add to the discussion about his signature breaded and fried ribs (a scrumptious cherry-smoked “sacrilege” dreamed up by his brother) or the much-lauded pork belly bánh mì tacos that hasn’t been said. The fact that these faves never leave a menu that otherwise changes weekly is testament enough.
Edibles & Essentials is open Monday through Saturday for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Saturday brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Beer and wine is available packaged or by the glass.