Raleigh, N.C. — Chef Suny Gerhart sits at the bar going over the menu at his upcoming restaurant St. Roch Fine Oysters and Bar.
"We are embracing the attitude of New Orleans," Gerhart said of the new oyster bar. Expect a laid back atmosphere and great food, but not a "New Orleans bar and restaurant." St. Roch will have its own style.
St. Roch (pronounced like Rock) is named after the New Orleans neighborhood that Gerhart's family grew up in. While he still has family in Louisiana, Gerhart has called Raleigh home for 10 years. He was the first person famed chef Ashley Christensen hired when she was starting the award-winning Poole's Diner in downtown Raleigh. So Gerhart's roots and connections in the city are strong.
Gerhart is very familiar with St. Roch's location, 223 S. Wilmington St., as he used to work there when it was Joule, another one of Christensen's ventures in the city.
Gerhart had been looking for months to find the right place for St. Roch. He and Christensen talked and realized that Joule was the perfect home for the oyster bar.
After three years in business, Joule closed its doors on Dec. 31. Christensen remains an investor and consultant on St. Roch.
Work began in early January on St. Roch. The walls were painted and the bar-top redone using 100 year old church pews. But the restaurant mostly remained in its original state, giving Gerhart more time to work on his menu, which will include an oyster and raw bar and lots of seafood. There will also be boudin sausage and other Louisiana staples with a twist.
St. Roch's style can best be summed up with some of its artwork - a portrait of friend Justin Miller's chicken, Lydia. Gerhart had originally planned to hang the painting in the bathroom, but decided it looked too good not to have in the main dining room.
St. Roch plans to open in late spring or early summer.