Summer Breeze salad at Drake's Place is full of fresh flavors
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Summer Breeze salad at Drake's Place is full of fresh flavors

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The Summer Breeze salad with its ripe strawberries, sweet mandarin oranges and zippy spring mix of baby lettuces and greens is a perennial favorite at Drake’s Place, the Ferguson restaurant Bridgett and Deundrake Lewis opened in 2014. Deundrake, who goes by Sonny, is a classically trained chef whose knowledge of flavors and fine-cooking methods makes dining at Drake’s a true pleasure.

The inspiration for the sunny salad came to Sonny Lewis in a flash. “I had gone to a wedding reception where they served a berry salad. I thought we should add a berry salad at Drake’s,” he says. “We named it after my wife’s niece, Summer.”

“She used to work for us more, but she has a new baby now,” Bridgett Lewis says. “She’s staying home now with that baby, but when we need her, she jumps in.”

The family and friends of Sonny and Bridgett have consistently stepped up to help. The restaurant was barely open a year when the unrest in Ferguson threw them a curve. They recovered with grace, building a good clientele over the years, but running a business took its toll on both.

When Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible booked Drake’s for a show in the 2020 season, family, neighbors and friends were on the scene working to refresh and improve the family-owned neighborhood restaurant they’d come to love.

The hard-working couple didn’t realize how much would be involved with the show or how much it would affect their business after the episode aired mid-February. “It was so much more than what we expected,” Bridgett Lewis says. “They went above and beyond. Our restaurant had more of a traditional look, but now we have a more modern, contemporary look that’s popular with our younger customers.

Even little kids noticed the change. “We had a little girl in here, she was 7 or 8, and she danced all around ‘Oh, look at this. I like that.’ It was fun to see. Now, with our regular seniors crowd, the reaction is mixed. ‘Well, this is nice, but we liked it the way it was,’” she says.

Drake’s had a significant increase in business, garnering new customers from out of town as well as those in the neighborhood. Then the shutdown occurred. “Our lunch business declined immediately with UMSL and Emerson sending people home to work. We shortened our hours to serve dinner only and started curbside service. We’ve followed all the safety guidelines from the CDC since the beginning,” Bridgett Lewis says.

“We’re getting used to the new normal,” Sonny Lewis says. “Even after the dining room and patio opened, 80 percent of our business is still carryout and curbside. Because of the way we present our food, it’s hard to put our dishes in a container,” he says. For a classically trained chef, composing the plate is important.

Even in these changing times, Sonny and Bridgett still push ahead. They’ll soon open Bub’s, serving barbecue items prepared by their son along with the Drake’s menu. Drake’s will be closed for vacation from July 13 to July 21 and will reopen at 4 p.m July 22.

The Lewises hope to announce the full menu when they return from vacation. It will include smoked ribs, smoked beef brisket, smoked pulled pork and sides, perfect for carryout, inside dining or patio dining at Drake’s Place.

Drake’s Place

701 South Florissant Road, Ferguson

314-736-1140; drakesplacestl.com


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