Grand Prize Bar has been more than just a bar since it opened nearly two years ago -- it's had a culinary history of its own nearly since its birth. Only a few months after Grand Prize began shaking up its first cocktails in July 2010, chef Adam Dorris and his cooking partner Will Walsh began serving their now-famous Ghetto Dinners to large and hungry crowds.
Popular British restaurant Feast kept the kitchen stocked with hearty pub food for a while, and many a beer dinner has been held in the large upstairs bar area. And a constant rotation of food trucks -- working both on the street and in the bar's surprisingly large kitchen -- kept patrons fed for months after the Ghetto Dinners went on a long hiatus.
Regular patrons may have noticed, however, that the bar no longer has food trucks parked out front these days and that the kitchen has been dormant for a while.
"People are expecting food now," says Joshua Martinez, owner of The Modular. "They want food from Grand Prize, one way or another."
So he hatched a plan with Grand Prize owners Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse to make that happen once again -- and to satisfy an itch for his fellow food truck owners to get out of their trucks for a night and get back into a real kitchen. A kitchen with ovens and other cool toys, like a dehydrator and an immersion circulator.
As of this coming Monday, there will be a different food truck chef in the kitchen every night of the week, serving food to the first 50 people who come to the bar. And lest you think it'll be more food truck fare -- you'd be wrong. Expect gourmet, all the way.
Kicking off the new nightly food service this Monday will be a group collaboration between many of the participating food truck chefs and Martinez himself, although he says that The Modular itself will be more of a pinch hitter and will sub in for the other food trucks if needed.
The schedule so far also includes:
- Tuesdays: Jason Hill and Matt Opaleski from H-Town StrEATS
- Wednesdays: Justin Turner from Bernie's Burger Bus
- Thursdays: Van Pham from Phamily Bites
- Fridays: Ruth Lipsky from Stick It Truck
- Saturdays: Louis Cantu from Coreanos
Sundays are currently open, although Martinez is in talks with Buffalo Sean of Melange Creperie to come in and bring his crepe-maker with him. (Although, Martinez says, Sean won't be using it to make crepes.) And eventually, Matt Marcus of the Eatsie Boys, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America and worked at Cyrus, the critically acclaimed California restaurant with two Michelin stars to its name, will join the lineup on Monday nights.
The chefs are excited to show off skills that have been dormant while they work on their trucks, many of which have them "pigeonholed" into making specific foods or cuisines. Louis Cantu, who has worked at both Congress and Imperia in Austin, has been keeping himself sharp by driving back up to Uchiko every week to stage in the kitchen.
And Ruth Lipsky, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Arizona and worked the line at molecular gastronomy mainstay Moto in Chicago, excitedly told Martinez about her plans during her weekly turn at Grand Prize: "I can do things other than on a stick! Sometimes I want to put something on a plate."
Pricing for the nightly dinners -- which will begin service at 7 p.m. -- will be slightly higher than at the chefs' various trucks, "because some of the ingredients won't be your typical fare," says Martinez. But, as with the Ghetto Dinners, dinner will cost far less than what you'd pay at an upscale restaurant. And more collaborations are planned aside from this Monday's kick-off.
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"At the end of July, we want to do a sit-down dinner for 22 people upstairs that's paired with the bartenders' cocktails," says Martinez. Until then, though, guests will get to enjoy the simple spectacle of chefs doing their best to out-do each other every night of the week.
"It's kind of a competition for each of these chefs in their own mind," laughs Martinez. "The gauntlet is kind of thrown, like, 'I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna show off. I'd better produce something super awesome.'"