Q • I met a friend for lunch at Robust and was wowed by the chowder. It has a zippy aftertaste I can’t get out of my head. — Helen Fletcher, University City
A • “Our chowder has nice heat,” says Robust Wine Bar’s executive chef Joseph “Joe” Hemp V. “Not a lot, just enough to let you know it’s there.” Customers love Robust’s chowder, he says, and Robust chefs make a huge batch every other day during summer and some times twice a day during cold weather.
Chowder is on the menu at all three Robust locations: the original neighborhood gathering spot in Webster Groves; a chic downtown restaurant just east of America’s Center; and a third new location in Edwardsville with a lively patio.
Each wine bar has its own “personality,” Hemp says. Meat and cheese boards and small plates “fly out of the kitchen” at all three sites, popular with those who want a little nosh with a glass of wine. But downtown’s convention-goer traffic expects a more traditional meal and an entrée-style plate.
Developing menu items that work for all three locations is a little tricky. Not only do clientele expectations vary, the kitchens are much different. Hemp laughs, “We say that Webster has a ‘closet’ for a kitchen, downtown a full kitchen and Edwardsville something in between.” Hemp’s personal favorite is a half chicken roasted in cast iron (downtown and Edwardsville only). “It’s a nice humble dish with lots of flavor.” For summer, he recommends the BLT and Greek salads.
To re-create Robust’s Chowder, home cooks should choose a large pot, larger than might seem needed. “You really want to be able to get in there and stir from the bottom,” Hemp says.
Robust’s Webster Groves and Edwardsville restaurants will be closed on July 4th.
Three locations, Webster Groves, downtown and Edwardsville