These days, marketers will use the adjective “handmade” in front of anything to get at hipster and foodie wallets. At Morgantown’s newest restaurant, Flour and Feed, Owner Kristin Elek and Executive Chef Sethbradley French understand that words like “handmade” and “handcrafted” carry special weight in the service industry. These are words that they use not only describes the menu, but the vision behind the entire restaurant.
Located in the Wharf District, Flour and Feed occupies the first floor of the Kincaid and Arnett Feed and Flour building, a historic warehouse originally built in the early 1900’s. The restaurant quietly staged a soft launch last week, serving friends, family and whoever else happened to stop by. Now open for lunch and dinner service, guests can choose from a menu that showcases upscale tavern fare, including classic steak cuts, hearty seafood entrees, pub favorites like burgers and pierogies, and a wide variety of wines, beers and spirits.
Elek had a passion for visiting restaurants, but wasn’t looking to get into restaurant ownership. “I never wanted to be in the restaurant business, but I love to eat. We eat out a lot in Morgantown, we’ll go to D.C. just to eat. My husband said to me ‘you know, if this building ever goes up for lease, we’re going to open a restaurant. And here’s me: ‘Ok, sure.’ And look! Here we are. It was the next week when the space went for lease. We couldn’t believe we were doing it.”
Finding herself with a new business to run, Elek’s passion for dining meant building the entire dining experience from scratch. Finding a top chef was a key ingredient, and Elek found full confidence in Chef French’s cooking. “Seth is excellent. He has all these fresh ideas, everything’s fresh, his food is so flavorful. We had him prepare some sample dishes for us to audition for the job. I would never go somewhere and order a pork chop and my husband says ‘he’s making us pork chops.’ Now, I’m used to shake-and-bake. But I tasted his pork chop and I said ‘we’re gonna be OK here.’ It was incredible.”
Chef French describes the Flour and Feed menu as West Virginia, rustic and traditional. “It’s all things you’d sit down and eat at a Sunday dinner, like your grandmother would make you. But there’s a twist. We serve meatloaf, but the meats are bison and boar. Everything is super seasonal, so this menu will rotate out at the end of May. I want to rotate the menu every three months.” Flour and Feed is giving Chef French the opportunity to create and develop his own menus and recipes, an opportunity he didn’t always have working in previous upscale kitchens. “I want to do everything in-house, so we have as much control over everything as possible, to make sure it turns out the way we want it. The pork belly is done in-house. All of our steaks are cut in-house. All the burgers are ground, all the seafood is filleted in-house, 90% of the breads are baked in-house. None of the soups arrive in bases- we’ll break down our bones to make our own bases. Pasta is made in-house. Everything that can be realistically made in-house is made in-house.”
Not only is the menu as hands-on as possible, but the restaurant’s furniture, flooring, and bar were all handmade too. “There were other restaurants before, here, but we wanted to return the space to its original warehouse, flour milling theme.” explains Elek. “My husband built everything in here– the tables, the bar, the wine glass rack… We basically gutted this place and filled it to fit the space.”
Elek has high hopes for the restaurant’s launch and is excited to open to the public. “We wanted to create a space where you could go and not be rushed out. It’s not a night club. It’s a place you can come and have consistently good food and consistently good drinks.”