The Food Biz: Dining diminutively

Matt Bolus to open intimate restaurant in boutique Gulch hotel

Gulch watchers have been keeping a close eye on construction next to The Station Inn, and now there’s some welcome restaurant news to report.

In March, my Nashville Post colleague William Williams reported that developer Mark Banks is planning a small boutique hotel on the site, with space carved out for a little restaurant. (See image below.)

Now we know more. Chef Matt Bolus, who built a strong reputation in Charleston, S.C., before moving to Nashville and working for Watermark and Flyte, is the man in charge of the new Gulch restaurant, which will be called The Kitchen at The 404. (The restaurant address will be 404 12th Ave. S.)

Bolus told me the restaurant’s going to be charmingly intimate, a little more than 40 seats, with a tiny bar where patrons can chat and get to know the bartender crafting their special cocktails.

The chef added that other details, including the menu, are still in the works. Bolus did acknowledge that the cuisine will represent the food he’s come to be known for, “local and regionally based.” (I think we can take that to mean Southern-inspired.) “Pure, honest food,” he added. The opening is expected later this summer. “Sooner rather than later, I hope,” Bolus said with a laugh, because his wife Kelly is expecting their first child Aug. 3. (What’s with chefs launching restaurants and welcoming babies simultaneously? Hal Holden-Bache did the same thing with Lockeland Table.)

We’ll keep you posted as more details are revealed.

• Maher Fawaz, the Lebanese-born restaurateur who’s operated the popular Green Hills cafe Kalamatas for nearly 10 years, is getting ready to launch a new venture in the bustling 12South neighborhood.

It will be called Epice, from the French word for spice (pronounced roughly as EH-piece). Unlike the original Kalamatas and its two spinoffs (Belmont Boulevard and Brentwood), the new place will be a full-service restaurant.

Fawaz (pictured above) describes Epice as a Lebanese bistro, with authentic flavors and recipes and a small selection of wines to complement the cuisine. (He’ll also offer a local beer or two.) The menu will be created by Fawaz and Beth Collins, Kalamatas’ executive chef since opening day. Some of the Mediterranean dishes will be familiar, some will be more unusual in Nashville — Fawaz promises some examples of real Lebanese home cooking.

Epice is taking over the space at 2902 12th Ave. S. formerly held by the Clean Plate Club (which has moved to Houston Street). Fawaz hopes to open it mid-August.

• The turbulent saga of Chappy's may have come to an end — in Nashville, anyway.

Launched by chef John Chapman in 2006 after his long-time restaurant in Mississippi was destroyed by Katrina, Chappy’s was closed and padlocked by the state this week for non-payment of taxes. Previous twists in the Chappy’s story include a bank foreclosure and auction of the property (the restaurant continued to operate after that crisis), Chapman accusing the bank of predatory lending, and a TV appearance on Kitchen Nightmares that featured tough advice from host Gordon Ramsay, followed weeks later by Chapman’s decision to reverse the changes Ramsay made. Through it all, Chappy’s retained a core of loyal fans almost as vocal as the restaurant’s critics.

Chapman wrote this Tuesday on Facebook: “Nashville’s been great to us and we love all our customers! This is a very sad day since we have worked so hard. We shouldn’t have done Kitchen Nightmares. We have spent several months struggling to come out of a negative situation. Plans are forthcoming right now and in the meantime, we are taking a break and spending time with family. Thank you.”

But meanwhile, New Orleans City Business reported Wednesday that Chapman has filed a sign permit for a Chappy’s Restaurant in the Riverbend neighborhood of New Orleans. The site has reportedly housed failed restaurants in the past.