Thursday, April 24, 2014

After about 15 years of working in other people’s restaurants, chef Owen Lane is preparing to open his own, with the help of his fiancé and fellow restaurant veteran, Tiffany Gellner. The two are reworking the space at 1301 W. Leigh St. that used to be the Leigh Street Bar & Grill. They hope to open their restaurant, called The Magpie, by the end of the summer.

I had been wanting to ask Lane about his plans since I'd heard he left Stronghill Dining Co. (to read an earlier post about that, click here), and put in a call to him after seeing a mention of the new restaurant on the Greater Jackson Ward News. Lane says the idea has “been in the back of my mind for five years now. Some things just finally came together. It’s either now or never.”

He says that he and Gellner chose the name Magpie to reflect the variety of food that will be served. The birds, he says, are “known to eat anything.”

Lane plans to draw on his varied experience in the kitchens at Stronghill, The Track, Bacchus, Helen’s, Hanover Tavern and Ironhorse, as well as several restaurants in Colorado. He envisions an upscale style of food in a casual atmosphere.

“I’m going to be as progressive as possible,” he says. “I want to take all the fine dining aspects I’ve ever done, casual dining aspects I’ve done and street food that I love, and twist that into what we do here — obviously with good drinks as well.”

Gellner, meanwhile, has worked at Star-lite, Amici and The Republic. She’ll manage the front-of-the house, Lane says. “She’ll be the beautiful girl pouring your drinks.”

The menu is still in development, but he says we can look for regional seafood and the game meats he is known for — venison, quail, pheasant, duck, wild boar and rabbit — “all the stuff that I love to eat.”

But for the time being, Lane and Gellner are shellacking furniture, choosing upholstery and installing lights.

“I pretty much spend every day here,” Lane says, adding, “We’re lucky enough to have a lot of friends who want to help us out.”

As residents of the Jackson Ward neighborhood, the two were happy to find an opportunity to open a restaurant in the nearby Carver District.

“We really think both neighborhoods are in an upswing,” Lane says.


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