|Southern Eats and Local Art at Radix Tavern|
by Brandy Arnold
Balwinder Bal, owner of Radix Tavern and Bombay Cuisine, has gone back to his roots, both literally and figuratively. A food man at heart, Bal has transformed the Bombay adjacent Queen’s Pub into a new concept – the Radix Tavern. Radix, a southern-style eatery whose name means “root” in Latin, celebrates its grand opening August 3 and 4. It will focus more on farm fresh food, while still offering craft beer and cocktails with a southern twist.
“The original concept was to be modeled after an England pub, where people could come and talk and stay awhile,” Bal said, “but it turned into more of a late night college bar. We wanted to move into a different direction that allowed us to offer a full menu, and provide an atmosphere that was conducive to that.”
Enter Executive Chef Jayson Leek, who’s worked as a chef for 12 years, most recently as a Sous Chef at the B.O.B. Leek and Bal found a common love of southern cuisine and farm fresh offerings.
“That was really what drew me to the opportunity,” Leek said. “I’ve always cooked southern food at home. We began with talk of American comfort food, but if we were going to do that, we might as well specialize.”
While southern cooking is not often thought of as the healthiest cuisine, Leek adjusts traditional recipes to maintain the rich flavors without all of the fat.
The Tavern’s Southern Fried Chicken uses skinless chicken breast with a thin but flavorful breading that will “lock flavor in and oil out,” Leek said.
Leek will also utilize area farms to pack dishes with seasonal vegetables. The Vegan Shepherd’s Pie will feature an abundance of local vegetables and greens and is topped with a sweet potato mash.
The interior of the restaurant has received an overhaul as well, leaving nothing except for the color of the bar the same, Bal said.
“It’s upscale, but casual,” he added. “This is a 160 year-old building and we wanted to restore some its original architectural integrity.”
They have also commissioned the work of local artists, such as Kendall College professor Gypsy Schindler.
Schindler recently completed a mural overlooking the bar area and a more intimate nook-style dining space. The restaurant’s logo and the name inspired her work, she said.
“I immediately thought of the great big southern oaks that are draped with Spanish moss all throughout the south. So, I tried to create a scene that would capture that romantic, mystical, magical feeling that most people associate with the south and soul food,” she said. “I hope that the seating area under the mural specifically, along with the menu being served, can give the patron a unique and transformative dining experience.”
While a plethora of farm-to-table restaurants have popped up in Grand Rapids over recent years, including Radix neighbor Trillium Haven Restaurant, Bal is not worried this will decrease patronage at Radix.
“Local and healthy is not a fad,” he said. “This is how we’re changing as a society. There is plenty of room for other businesses. Everyone has their niche, and no two chefs will cook the same. I’m excited that there are two restaurants near each other pulling in similar traffic because we’ll all benefit. Eastown has taken on a Chicago feel. The neighborhood is becoming a food destination.”
Photo of chef Jayson Leek courtesy of Radix Tavern
Published: August 3, 2012
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