Elmwood will reopen its dining room next week after nearly a year of takeout-only service, but the acclaimed Maplewood restaurant is not ending the pizza menu that has sustained it during the pandemic.
Instead, Elmwood is temporarily turning into a full-fledged pizzeria.
From June 10 through August, Elmwood will operate as Pizza Champ, with a menu of pizzas as well as a burger, fried chicken sandwiches and other fare. The pop-up will preview a permanent Pizza Champ location, which Elmwood owners Chris Kelling and Adam Altnether aim to open later this year in Maplewood, as Sauce first reported.
“We're ready to reopen (Elmwood),” Kelling tells Off the Menu. “You know, the team’s vaccinated. We feel good about where the numbers are, where they're going, etc. But we wanted to keep our pizza in front of people, to be honest, until we opened (the new restaurant).”
Kelling and Altnether briefly reopened Elmwood’s dining room last July after the initial pandemic shutdown, but they closed it again two weeks later as the number of COVID-19 cases was rising. The restaurant then quickly pivoted to pizza for takeout and delivery.
As Pizza Champ, Elmwood will accommodate about 60 diners at a time. Diners can expect a “super casual” environment, Kelling says, including TVs.
“The TVs are temporary,” he says. “Like, all bold print, 50-point (type): the TVs are temporary.”
As for Elmwood, which opened to rave reviews at the beginning of 2019 with Altnether’s modern, charcoal-fired fare, Kelling says the team still believes in the concept. They did not want to open a “watered-down” version of it now, though.
“We hope that come the fall we’ll either have more of a team or work the service model out that works with a smaller team to be able to deliver the same caliber of experience, if not the same exact experience,” Kelling says.
The Pizza Champ pop-up will be open for dinner Thursday-Saturday beginning June 10. Reservations are strongly recommended.