Wednesday, March 26, 2008

L'Explorateur Looking for New Space

The word is out. Cory reports this afternoon that Chef Neal Brown and his real estate broker are making the rounds looking for more suitable space with an eye to moving L'Explorateur downtown. It's been a pretty open secret that Neal's been contemplating some changes and I felt reluctant to break it here, especially since there really wasn't any news to break. The fact is that a) the building they're in now, the former Tavola di Tosa space, is a wreck and starting to get expensive, and b) let's be honest, their current location is not great. Broad Ripple is trending towards downscale establishments, parking is only going to get worse, and "tucked away" and "hard to find" are not really adjectives you want applied to your restaurant. L'explorateur has to increase its numbers to survive.

Restaurants cost an insane amount of money, and if they're not pulling in a solid number of people every night, they die. And no one -- especially Neal -- wants to put L'ex on life support. I suppose I get a little miffed when I see so many people over at Cory's blog rave about the place when I wonder how often any of them actually dine there very often. (Sometimes, when people go on and on about L'ex to me, I'll ask them when they were there last. I often get "Ohh, it's so expenseive, special occasions only. Oh, well, really just the once. A couple of years ago.")

I strongly support Neal in his efforts to find a new home for a restaurant that's worthy of the work he's doing. And I strongly encourage those of you who love L'explorateur to get down there for dinner post haste and contribute to the lets-move-downtown-so we-can-keep-eating-at-L'ex fund. Having great local restaurants in Indy is great but they require strong support from a large base of solid customers to survive. Don't wait until L'ex is downtown competing with five steakhouses for support. Go support them *now*.

16 comments:

indieats said...

Thank you, braingirl, for this thoughtful post.

I saw the yuck/yuck IndyStar article about steakhouses. How refreshing, a serious/grown up restaurant.

A win/win for Chef Brown--good location, expense accounts, media exposure and the next step in our evolution as a sophisticated, serious culinary community.

Anonymous said...

So in 1 year Peterson's loses Karl, L'Ex is in trouble and Elements is "not for sale". Indianapolis INDYpendent restaurants are doing rather well. Thanks for the support.

braingirl said...

I wouldn't say the picture today is any different than a year ago. Restaurants change, grow, open and close every year.

Not sure how you an attribute Karl's departure from Peterson's as a sign of bad times. (If you know Karl, you know it had nothing to do with economics and it was a difficult and agonizing decision for him for a variety of reasons.)

L'ex is doing the same as it always has been -- to think that suddenly "they're in trouble" is a naive look at how the restaurant business works. (And it's been my understanding that Elements has been making noises about a sale for a couple of years now. They're still in business last I checked.)

This year, we also saw two major new independents in Indy (three if you count Z's) and several expansions. Considering this is proejcted to be a tough year for restaurants across the board due to economic situations, I think we're doing OK.

I think your view is very limited.

Anonymous said...

well said

Anonymous said...

L'explorateur has to increase its numbers to survive.

You said it, not me. I wish more people supported these restaurants as much as I do. What I meant with "Thanks for the support" was that we do need more INDY people to get behind these restaurants more and go more often.

Since I am in the restaurant business, not just the eating at one and bitching about it business, I feel as though my view is unlimited because I see it everyday. I mean no harm by my statement and I am sorry that I ever said anything about your beloved L'Ex. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Gastroholic said...

"I mean no harm", "beloved L'ex", "trash".


OUCH.

ryan said...

can someone post a weblink to cory's blog? i'd be interested to check it out....

Anonymous said...

I think the Nicky blanes spot would be incredible for L'exp business. Circle theater and IRT being within a block of your door.
So bring it downtown Neal!

braingirl said...

Ryan, Cory's blog is the IBJ's Property Lines. The link is in the first paragraph of the post hypberlinked to "Cory reports" but you can also find it at:

http://propertylines.ibj.com/

braingirl said...

Anon, I do agree with you that more people need to put their money where their mouth is and roll out to support *all* of our independent restaurants. I suspect that any of the fine dining Indies downtown (I'm thinking primarily of those on Mass Ave) would feel better if their numbers across the board were up.

I think the old Nicky Blaine's space is a bad idea.

downtown girl said...

I was riding my bike the other day and saw the old Canary Cafe space for sale. I called the number and all the seller was asking was $125k to OWN! Sure a lot of renovations needed but can't beat the location or price. Good luck L'ex and all other excellent independent restaurant ventures.
(reposted at Babelfish)

John said...

I would *love* to support these restaurants, L'Ex perhaps most of all.

I'd be interested to know if there are any similarly middle class people out there who eat regularly at places like L'Ex, and how they manage to afford it. Do you just not eat out at all? Spend less money on groceries?

Anonymous said...

I agree John. I would LOVE to be able to eat at L'Ex every night or even every month, but just cannot afford it. It has nothing to do with not being a good value, but just having so many other expenses, that dining out has to be an exception.

Anonymous said...

Several small independent restaurants now offer bar menus as an affordable way to eat at your favorite fine dining spot more often.

almostAchef said...

I know it's already been said above, but I just want to chime in that I also would LOVE to eat at L'
ex, and Elements, and R Bistro, but I work two jobs and am in culinary school and make about $11 an hour. It's just not realistic.

However, thanks for the tip about the bar menu idea, I will look into that. And I added Chef Brown's blog to my favorites-seems like a really neat guy and I've been longing to try the place forever!

Jason said...

I've only eaten at L'Explorateur once, but tonight I'm happy to say will be my second opportunity.
My opinion after one visit? This is my favorite restaurant in Indianapolis. Not only is it out-of-this world delicious, it's the most adventurous, eclectic restaurant around. I hope people catch on and Chef Neal Brown's restaurant becomes and Indianapolis landmark.