JMR Kitchens, which has launched three neighborhood restaurants in the city in four years, is opening a fourth one May 9 in the Five Points neighborhood, its owners announced Wednesday.
Taste will open at 1912 Bernard St., where the Cave 1912 restaurant and wine bar has been since 2015. It will be Taste’s second location. The first Taste is at 3048 Medlin Drive, off Dixie Trail.
“You look for that one concept you can do multiple of,” said Ryan Riek, the younger of the brothers. “To continue to come up with brand new concepts is difficult. ... We found a great spot for a neighborhood restaurant.”
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Cave 1912’s last day will be Saturday, April 22, said owner Brian Wellman. He opened Cave 1912 in September 2015. The restaurant earned positive reviews from foodies and local residents. But his main passion is soccer; he moved to the area to be president of the Carolina RailHawks (now known as North Carolina FC).
He said he decided to sell the restaurant because of the time commitment required to run a restaurant, coach soccer and balance a family life.
“One of three has to be given up,” he said. “I thought it was the right thing to do.”
He said he didn’t know the Rieks when he put the restaurant on the market but said it was “serendipitous” that they’ll take over the lease and everything inside the restaurant. The feel of Taste is somewhat similar to Cave 1912, though Cave’s Chef Michael Pryor has more of a French-American menu.
Riek said Taste-Bernard, as the new restaurant is called informally, is off Whitaker Mill Road in an area with a growing restaurant and brewery scene. It’s not far from Neuse River Brewing Co., Nickelpoint Brewing Co., and Lynnwood Brewing Concern.
He said they hope to recreate the laid-back atmosphere of the original Taste on Medlin Drive, which also is tucked away inconspicuously in a neighborhood.
The new space is a bit bigger than Taste-Medlin by about 400 square feet. Riek credits Wellman with going above and beyond a typical restaurant’s needs, like making sure the space is soundproofed, when it was built.
“He thought of everything,” Riek said. “It’s very neighborhood Chicago, neighborhood New York.”
Riek said he doesn’t expect to make many changes to the space. “We’ll create a little bit of a more cozier feel,” Riek said.
The new Taste’s menu will be similar to the current one with a variety of small plates and seasonal dishes. All of the menus at JMR Kitchens restaurants, under executive chef Scott Phillips, rotate throughout the year depending on the season.
The Taste menu features crab cakes; grilled cheese with white cheddar and brie on homemade bread; bacon and beef meatballs in bourbon barbeque sauce; and Beltline sliders. Eventually, the menu at the new Taste could expand, thanks to the bigger kitchen space. Riek said tacos on housemade tortillas are expected to join the menu.
Taste also will continue to be a wine bar like the original Taste. The wine menu will mimic the Taste-Medlin list for now but eventually will grow to mimic More’s wine list.
“New space, more room,” Riek said.
JMR Kitchens was founded in 2013 when the first Taste opened. A restaurant named Taste had occupied the spot for about a year under different owners before the Riek brothers bought it and completely revamped it.
Then came the Oak in 2014, in the former 618 Bistro, and More. in 2015. Riek said some have told them they’re crazy to open four restaurants in four years. But it’s been Ryan’s dream to own his own restaurant. After years of working his way up in restaurants, from dishwasher to general manager, he left his life in Chicago to move to Raleigh in an attempt to persuade his brother to help him live out his dream.
“I threw caution to the wind,” Riek said. “I put my clothes in a box. Shipped them Fedex. Grabbed my laptop.”
Justin Riek agreed to help Ryan open up a neighborhood restaurant.
“That’s all we knew we wanted to be in the beginning,” Ryan Riek said. “We didn’t see in four or five years we’d have this.”
As for Wellman, he is excited about the chance to coach college players and teach them how to win at a higher level. But he’ll miss the community, and his employees, at Cave 1912.
“We’ll miss it terribly,” he said. “It’s an amazing team of people.”
Jessica Banov: 919-829-4831; @JessicaBanov