New concept coming to upstairs at Brugge
After a little more than three months, The Owner’s Wife restaurant in downtown Indianapolis is closing, the latest in a string of high-profile closures. Just in the past two weeks, owners of the Elbow Room, a longtime downtown pub on Pennsylvania Street, and LongBranch, a newcomer at 22nd and Delaware streets, announced that their establishments would close.
Ted Miller, managing partner of The Owner’s Wife with his wife – and restaurant namesake – Shannon Stone, said today that the restaurant will close at the end of service Saturday. Outliers Brewing, which opened in 2014, will be closing too, he said.
“We’re closing everything downtown,” he said. “The brewery. The restaurant. It’s a smart decision.”
It’s a good decision, he said, even though “people, including us, are going to lose a bunch of money on this deal. And we’ve had very long conversations with Eli (Schloss), our partner, about losing a bunch of money.”
But they’re still friends, he said.
“It’s a business decision that we’re not throwing any more good money after bad,” he said. “It’s time to sell it, get what we’ve got and move on with our lives.”
“I think this is going to be good for us,” Miller said, “even though it’s kind of sad because we put so many hours and so many dollars. And the place is good. Just not enough people came.”
The restaurant has featured a menu designed in part by Milktooth chef Jonathan Brooks with a focus on house-cured meats, homemade cheeses, conservas-style canned seafood and freshly brewed vinegars.
Customers seemed to enjoy the menu, but the restaurant just didn’t draw a steady crowd, Miller said.
“Sometimes you go down there, and it’s full, and we’re doing the kind of numbers that you need,” he said, “but it’s not consistent.”
It’s tough to pinpoint the exact problem, he said.
“There are so many things that contribute,” Miller said, “and some of them were our fault. The time it took us to go from brewery to restaurant. And maybe I got caught up in all these things that I think are really cool – making your own vinegar, canning fish – and people just aren’t that excited about it. It could be part of it.”
The size of the space, which also included the brewery, was a factor too, he said.
“That’s another part of our problem down there,” Miller said. “It’s huge. It’s 14,000 square feet.”
The restaurant and brewery are for sale, Miller said, but the sale won’t affect Brugge Brasserie, the restaurant he and Stone have operated in Broad Ripple for 13 years. Miller said he can brew enough beer at Brugge to supply that restaurant.
“Don’t feel bad for me and Shannon,” he said. “Brugge is what we are. It works for us. It’s 13 years old. And it works. Let’s go back to what we’re good at and do that.”
The fact that The Owner’s Wife is closing is sad, said Stone. “But I’m not disappointed in us. We did what we could do.”
“We still have our baby,” she said, referring to Brugge. “And Broad Ripple is also where our heart is. It’s okay. I’m still the owner’s wife. It doesn’t change that. And I’ll still wear the name proud.”
But there are some changes coming to Brugge, Miller said.
For one thing, he said, they need to better utilize the upstairs space.
“We’re not using the upstairs enough,” he said. “So then I started getting into Basque cider. So we are going to do a Basque cider and steak thing.”
The new space will feature food and hard ciders from the Basque region, which lies in the Pyrenees Mountains area between Spain and France.
“You go to these cider houses,” Miller said, “and the menus are all the same. There’s a salt cod thing — ours will be a fritter – some of them do a poached chorizo. Then you go on to the txuleta, the bone-in ribeye. And Txuleta is the name of the restaurant.”
Look for Txuleta, with its steaks and pintxos – or shareable snacks – to open later this summer, with a wide variety of hard ciders on tap.
“The menu’s cool as hell,” Miller said. “And I’m excited about it. But it has to make money.” — Jolene Ketzenberger