On Sunday, 8-month-old restaurant Wayward will close its doors after a final brunch service at 1610 Little Raven Street. The 180-seat space by the owners of The Way Back and American Grind introduced seasonal plates and cocktails to Riverfront Park back in August. It filled the spots vacated by Zengo and La Guera before it. But it couldn’t compete with openings in surrounding neighborhoods both downtown and in the Lower Highlands.
“Giving people a reason to come to Little Raven is difficult with so many other great spots popping up on both sides of us, towards Union Station and LoHi,” said Wayward co-owner Chad Michael George. He and partners Kade Gianinetti and Jared Schwartz saw Wayward “as a bigger platform” for the work they had started a year before at their Berkeley cult favorite The Way Back. And they knew that 13-year-old Zengo had been a success in the same spot. “We got blinded by that opportunity to do something bigger,” George says. But since Zengo’s closing last May, Little Raven Street has become “a little island.”
“I’m just not sure what can work down there,” George said. “We’re bummed it wasn’t Wayward, but we’re working with our landlord and the neighborhood to make something happen that everyone truly appreciates and enjoys.”
Now he and his co-owners are looking for another restaurant to take over their lease. They hope to work with the new restaurant’s owners and continue to operate a bar out of the smaller, adjacent space, which they’ve been successfully using for themed pop-ups since back in November. After runs of a Christmas-themed bar, an Olympics-themed bar, and a Spring Break bar, George says he envisions operating a more permanent bar there, something approachable for the neighborhood with televisions, beers, and snacks.
“We’ve definitely listened to what (the neighborhood) is looking for,” he says.
Last week, the owners notified their staff, and George says they’ll help to find them positions elsewhere. But “we had a great staff, and they’re not going to have trouble,” he adds. For this last week in business, George hopes to see old familiar faces and new customers alike. Following Sunday, he and the team will switch gears to focus on The Way Back, which opened just six weeks ago on Tennyson Street, and American Grind, which will get a brick-and-mortar location by fall in Wash Park.
This story has been updated with comments from Wayward owner Chad Michael George. More news to come on the Riverfront Park and Wash Park restaurants and bar space.