Fortune at Gooseberry Wows With ‘Weird’ Spin on Classics | Cafe | St. Louis | St. Louis News and Events
Kim Bond remembers exactly the moment the culinary genius arrived. A few years ago – back when self-serve buffets were a real thing and not a relic of the Before Times – she and partner Ross Lessor loved having gooseberries, pizza nights at their Dutchtown restaurant. It was a weekly spectacle where they shut down the rest of their offerings, displaying pans of all kinds of pizzas, and sometimes asking their guests what toppings they’d like to see on the next batches.
One night a customer came in on pizza night longing for one of the Gooseberries St. Paul sandwiches. Disappointed that they weren’t available, the man was about to leave when Bond had an idea: why not make a St. Paul pizza? She went back to the kitchen, cooked a huge young egg foo patty, baked it into a crust, shoved the entire cake in with a generous layer of mayonnaise, then covered it with chopped cucumber, lettuce, and onions. Immediately she knew she had a hit, a finding that was confirmed when she was back in the kitchen making five more creations before the end of the night.
This quirky approach to food has been the defining characteristic of Bond and Lessor’s cooking style since Gooseberries opened in 2014. She also describes the new company Fortune at Gooseberry, a partnership with the Fortune Teller Bar that launched this past October. Since then, Bond and Lessor have taken over the bar’s dining window and kitchen, offering take-away meals to those who want to enjoy their food and support the two businesses – and now only outdoors.
Although Fortune at Gooseberry was in the works before the pandemic, COVID-19 informed the way the concept was taking shape. Last March, Bond and Lessor closed Gooseberries indefinitely and immediately began running a pantry out of the restaurant. A few months later, they decided to find a way to feed themselves and their guests and started a weekly program called Weekly Hookup, where guests could buy a generous basket of goodies to get them through the week.
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Even so, this was far from running a full-fledged restaurant. Realizing they needed to find an additional way to pay the bills – similar to the plight the fortune teller found himself in – Bond and Lessor decided to work with the bar last October to offer take-away food and cocktails . The response was overwhelmingly positive and only grew after the bar reopened its seating area in the backyard.
The setup is ideal for the current climate and offers several options for contactless ordering. Guests can either order online before they arrive, scan a QR code from their patio table, or use the bar’s outdoor self-service kiosk – all systems are integrated so there is a seamless connection between the separate bar and the store’s grocery side. For those who want to take their food with them, there is a carry window at the front of the building. Guests who want to dine on the terrace enter a long, narrow corridor to the right of the front door of the bar. Did I mention closely? It’s a print that can be either quirky charming or claustrophobic depending on your leanings. For those either not on the tight journey or unable to access it, Bond says she and everyone else at Fortune Teller will be happy to show guests around a different entrance upon request.
Whichever type you choose, you will be spoiled with an excellent dining experience. As Bond explains, she and Lessor don’t necessarily have a particular style of cooking as they have a penchant for classic dishes that they put their own self-described “weird” twist on. Bond may describe the food as odd, but the more apt descriptor is magical, as evidenced by the fried bologna sandwich, a seemingly humble offering that is extraordinarily well done. Layers of fried thickly sliced bologna and sliced cheese are stacked like a towering melt on fluffy white bread. A bagel sandwich is just as impressive. Unlike typical iterations of the shape where the filling is dwarfed by the bagel, the all-seasoned cooked bread here can barely include the perfectly fried egg, cheese, and thinly sliced fried potatoes. It’s like a breakfast buffet in sandwich form.