Local Chef ‘Over The Moon’ To Reopen Eat-Rite Diner As ‘Fleur STL’ In May
The historic Eat-Rite Diner in St. Louis is getting another life thanks to an area chef. Tim Eagan is leasing the small eatery on Chouteau Avenue, just south of downtown, with plans to spruce up the place and change the name to Fleur STL.
Eagan brings a lengthy resume to the project, spending time as an executive chef for hotels, area restaurants and as a private in-home chef.
St. Louis Public Radio’s Wayne Pratt spoke to Eagan about his plans and how long he’s been eyeing the high-profile building.
Tim Eagan: I actually saw a post from a friend on social media back in January and it was a picture of it boarded up with the “for lease” sign on the front. And I screenshot, zoomed in and called him the next day. It’s been in the works since mid-January. And then I just signed the lease a couple weeks ago.
Wayne Pratt: What’s your timeline at this point?
Eagan: You know, I’m going to be super optimistic. I have a lot of my permits, and every license is already in place. I am going to do some interior and exterior renovations to the building. My timeline, optimistically speaking, is mid-May.
Pratt: Why do this now?
Eagan: Most people would probably say it’s crazy to do it right now.
However, I think the only reason that the building was available was because of everything that’s going on right now. So I definitely took it as an opportunity to move on something that I’ve wanted to do.
I’ve been looking for commercial space. Just the proximity to Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis, I think it’s fantastic. And people know the diner. They know the location. Really, all in all, I think it was just the right place, right time.
Pratt: Opening a restaurant is risky at the best of times, but here we are in a pandemic. Does that give you any concern or change your strategy at all as you move forward?
Eagan: As related to the diner itself, and just in the food service industry in general, I think everything kind of has to adapt. Even once things do open to 100%, I feel like the to-go and the takeout and the curbside is going to be a major factor in restaurants moving forward.
Pratt: Do you think that will make in-person restaurant numbers decline once you can open at 100%?
Eagan: You know, I really don’t. I think it’s just going to expand the business that much more. It’s just going to give you another outlet that you can reach customers and get your food to them, which I think is awesome.
One good thing we can take out of this from restaurants I think is the overall takeout business and curbside and contactless or online ordering.
I think it’s really the wave of the future.
Pratt: Do you feel any added pressure as you embark on this, considering the property we’re talking about? Everybody in St. Louis knows the Eat-Rite diner.
Eagan: I find people are very hesitant to change. However, I wasn’t getting the spot in order to continue exactly what it was. Things really just have to adapt and fit into what places need and what the city needs. It’s going to be something different. You know, there is some pressure. You know, the items and the things that are iconic to that place are always going to be in the back of people’s minds. But I think once they come in and see what I have to offer and they see what we’ve done with the place, I think it’s really going to open those people’s minds and know that I’m not ruining a tradition or doing something different per se.
Pratt: Are you excited? Nervous? Apprehensive? Maybe all of the above?
Eagan: I’m not really nervous or apprehensive, to be honest with you.
I’m super excited. I cannot wait to get in there, start cooking food for people. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve had my own restaurant. Just to be able to cook my food, get it to people — especially in a small setting, intimate setting where I’m in front of the customers and I get to see that again. I think it’s going to be, it’s going to be fantastic. I’m over the moon, excited for that.