Executive chef, Lance Barto checks in with Eater about serving fine food in a casual atmosphere at his new restaurant, Central Bistro and Bar in LoHi. Barto previously cooked at Linger, Wildcatch and Strings-where he was executive chef. He opened Central Bistro and Bar on July 25th with owner and developer Isiah Salazar. Barto talks about his staff, clientele, and Ian Kleinman.
You've been open less than two months. How is it going so far? Really well. All of the feedback we've gotten has been extremely positive and we are figuring out the space and settling in our methods every day. I am getting more and more sleep each week. In the first couple of weeks, sleep was difficult to come by. As the staff becomes closer, we are really starting to work together more efficiently, and there is more sleep for everyone.
What has been the best part of the experience so far? The ability to watch the process from start to finish, to see the design transform from paper to real life. It has also been great to have the opportunity to grow closer with my boys in the kitchen. It doesn't feel like the grind it actually is surrounded by those you get along with. Also, the staff is great. Having the opportunity to hire from the ground up was so incredible. Everyone working on the floor and in the kitchen is genuinely interested in providing great hospitality to each of our guests. They are proud of the product we are putting out night in and night out—not the just the food and drinks, but the overall quality of the dining experience. I couldn't be happier with the staff. It's a great team to be a part of.
What has been challenging? Of course, there have been a lot of challenges in our first eight weeks. Our simple lack of storage space. We have had to get creative with storage, including keeping wine and liquor underneath the booths on the banquette. I feel one of our greatest challenges is to continue to ride that line of serving fine food in a casual atmosphere—cooking something exquisite, in a comfortable room, without pretense. It's a tough line to ride.
Who is coming through your doors? A lot of our guests have been people that live in the neighborhood, and we are actively working to get more of the neighborhood to come and visit us. We are also starting to see more and more people come to our restaurant as a destination. We had hoped from the beginning to serve both our neighborhood and it's visitors. It's great to see that happening.
If you could bring on anyone to work with you who would it be?
I would love to be able to bring on Ian Kleinman—you listening Ian? Let's get some liquid nitrogen and get crazy in the kitchen and behind the bar.