LaRue plans move to former Ganache space on Elm Street
LaRue restaurant owner Trey Bell said today that he’s signed a lease for the building at 403 N. Elm St. that will more than quadruple the space available for this successful young chef and his growing team.
Bell launched LaRue, a modern French cuisine restaurant, in March 2015 in a cozy space at 313 S. Greene St. just across from the Carolina Theatre. Bell said he self-financed LaRue as a way to prove the concept viable, hoping he would eventually attract investors and be able to grow the space. The Greene Street space is 2,200 square feet. The space on Elm Street, formerly home to Ganache, is more than 9,100 sqf.
Bell hopes to open the new restaurant, which will be called LaRue Elm, in early August.
Bell was known to be exploring other spaces in town for some time as he sought investors to expand LaRue. He told me during an interview in LaRue this afternoon that a patron approached him three weeks ago about taking on that role.
“He’s always wanted a restaurant,” Bell said, declining to name the investor who he said wants to remain a silent partner. “He’s been trying to find the right concept and the right team to invest in. He came in here and sat at the bar and was blown away by what we are able to achieve in this space.
“It happened quite quickly.”
LaRue Elm will seat about 110 people on the first floor, in addition to a 20-seat bar. The second level will be used as a lounge for private parties, special events and tastings.
“It’s that place that I can have separate from everything else,” Bell said, adding that he envisions wine and whiskey tastings in addition to other special events.
A 60-seat rooftop patio just across from the Tanger Performing Arts Center should make LaRue Elm a hot spot.
Bell said he plans to hire four to five more kitchen staff and will soon interview for front of house personnel. Bell was blunt when describing the kitchen space at the new location.
“That kitchen itself is larger than this restaurant,” Bell said as he stood between the bar entrance in LaRue that leads to the hot-plate kitchen his staff has used to attract quite the following.
Once opened in August, LaRue Elm will start with daily hours from 5-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Bell intends to add lunch and brunch hours once things are settled in at the new location. Regular hours will continue at the current location until the move in August.
The culinary concept will shift a bit away from modern French to focus on modern American with European influences. Bell said his staff at LaRue has been testing elements of the new menu in recent months.
“I feel like in the last year and three months we’ve tested some 400 items on our menu,” Bell said. “We’re going to draw from what the public liked.”
The menu will include regular dinner options such as salad, appetizer and entree while a small plate menu will feature the best of LaRue’s tapas.
“It’s not that much of a difference,” he added. “We’ll not be as heavily focused on French, but it will be an influence along with Spanish and others.”
The tapas menu will fall in the $5-12 range with entrees priced between $14-25.
“Having a larger kitchen will give us the opportunity to do more specials,” Bell said.
Bell will remain as Executive Chef at LaRue Elm while his current sous chef, Kevin Cottrell, will become Chef de Cuisine.
Bell was obviously excited about the move, but took the time to reflect on his experience and growth at the Greene Street location.
“That’s always been in the cards,” he said about the move. “This was funded by me. Now that we have the opportunity to grow, I think it shows we really pushed. We pushed people to their comfort level until they came back. We’ve developed our crowd, our diner and palates.They have faith that what we do will be well thought out. We pushed ourselves on every single plate.”
The staff has grown as the restaurant has matured, Bell said, and he feels he has “the A-team” in place. The focus and attention to detail is what the staff strives for.
“Our stuff looks good, but it has a reason, a flavor or texture component as well,” he said.
Cottrell said the staff is excited to move up to Elm Street in the expanded space.
“We’ve been busting our butts for a year to get on Elm Street. It’s the walking, window shopping street,” he said.
“This is a perfect ‘cutting your teeth’-style venue. We were successful in a really small space and we outgrew it,” Bell said. “We built a great family of followers here, people that will come here to try what we do, trusting that we are not going to play it safe. We will keep that going as well.”