Old Southside Eatery is New Again as Lemmons by Grbic
St. Louis, MO/May 29, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News) Lemmons Restaurant – Some local restaurants come and go, disappearing completely in the fog of urban progress. Others are more like cats with nine lives, born and reborn again and again. Lemmons at 5800 Gravois Ave. in the Bevo neighborhood of South St. Louis is like the latter. This nightspot first opened as a fine dining establishment in the 1940s. In those days it was a nice, full-service restaurant that featured linen tablecloths, well-mannered waiters, steak, seafood, and its famous fried chicken. Back in the day, Lemmons was a great dining choice for important business dinners, special date night meals, and family gatherings. It was stylish, without being pretentious. Like much of the Bevo neighborhood surrounding it, Lemmons faded over time, changing hands and menus, until closing finally in 2014. Thanks to an already successful St. Louis restaurant family, Lemmons is getting new life. Lemmons by Grbic opened May 24th promising something new for St. Louis diners.
The Grbic family owns and operates the popular Bosnian restaurant Grbic at 4071 Keokuk Street in the Dutchtown neighborhood. They bought the shuttered Lemmon’s (then a pizzeria, bar, and concert venue) in 2014 with the intention of leasing the restaurant space, or perhaps creating a sports bar on the site. But the building and fixtures weren’t exactly turnkey, so they spent the next three years renovating the iconic Southside restaurant. This restaurant family already had practice repurposing historic St. Louis buildings. In 2002, the Grbics transformed the old Bailey Farm Dairy into a comfortable, elegant restaurant and event venue. So, it’s not surprising that the transformation of Lemmons is so complete and well done. The changes include pretty much everything except the iconic Lemmons signs—two neon masterpieces that date back to the first half of the 20th century.
The new dining room at Lemmons is bright and inviting, with an upscale, casual vibe thanks to the exposed brick walls and European-style furniture (including tables imported from Sarajevo). Polished wood and pops of yellow play well together in the subtly lemon themed decor. There’s a brand-new kitchen and a sparkling new bar that draws beer from a special basement freezer which keeps the beer chilled to 27-degrees and feeds directly into the taps upstairs. There’s also space in the basement for a meat curing and processing area that will serve both Grbic family restaurants. Even the apartment upstairs has been renovated and leased as law offices.
Parents Ermina and Sulejman Grbic, who were born in Bosnia, are the driving force behind Grbic Restaurant. Their children, Erna, Ermin, and Senada Grbic—all born in the U.S.— are the impetus behind Lemmons by Grbic. That combined American-Bosnian identity is reflected in the style and flavor of this new endeavor. Erna Grbic is the event coordination and marketing pro for both restaurants. Ermin Grbic handles front-of-house at Lemmons. Senada Grbic is sous chef of Grbic and executive chef at Lemmons.
The menu Chef Senada Grbic has created for the new restaurant would best be described as American-Balkan fusion with dishes that draw on the Grbic family’s traditions and Lemmons’ own history. For instance, diners who remember the terrific Black Thorn pizzas from Lemmon’s days gone by will appreciate the many fresh flatbreads on the restaurant’s new menu. One twist that’s sure to be a hit is Babo’s flatbread, which features the grilled chicken her father serves at Grbic, and ajvar spread (roasted red peppers with garlic, eggplant and chili peppers called ajvar spread). Diners will also find burgers (including one that blends ground beef with beef bacon) served on Bosnian-style buns from Sana Bakery. They’ll also find smoked chicken wings with a sweet and spicy glaze, crispy crab cakes, spiral-cut potatoes that are fried into chip-kabobs and served with an assortment of savory dips, and pillowy, deep-fried ustipke (like doughnuts) served with sweet dipping sauces. In a nod to Lemmons’ history, Chef Senada has created her own version of crispy buttermilk-brined fried chicken that she pairs with buttery mashed carrots. There’s also a crazy, creamy drink called the Freak Shake. It starts as a vanilla milkshake, but then they crowd it with Nutella, Balkan-style cookies and candies, and Rumchata whipped cream. It’s over-the-top delicious.
The new Lemmons by Grbic is open for dinner Tuesday – Thursday from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Friday – Saturday from 4:00 p.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. This restaurant rebirth is a welcome development for the Bevo neighborhood of South St. Louis and should be a go-to destination for first and second generation Bosnian diners looking for classic Balkan flavors, as well as other St. Louis area diners who want a great meal that offers familiar American dishes with a definite European flair.
Lemmons by Grbic
5800 Gravois Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63116
Phone: (314) 899-9898