On Dec. 17, French chef Rob Ubhaus opened the doors to his second restaurant, Rob's Bistro … right next door to his first restaurant, Resto.
"The restaurant next door shut down," he said. "I looked at it and thought it was a great opportunity to jump in there. Why let competition move in?"
Although both restaurants serve French food, they differ in style, price and atmosphere. Ubhaus welcomed the opportunity to offer more traditional French fare at Rob's Bistro without compromising the contemporary flair of Resto. His new restaurant is "very unfussy, very from-the-country, what French people eat on a daily basis."
"Resto is contemporary French food," Ubhaus said. "We take French classics and familiar flavors and play around with them. Rob's Bistro is the classics."
Rob's Bistro will be much more casual and family-friendly than Resto, and Ubhaus said that was a major factor in opening a new restaurant rather than adding to Resto's menu.
"In this economy, I fill (Resto) at least once during the week and at least once during the weekend," he said. "Could I triple that? Because there are 50 seats (in Rob's Bistro) and 26 (in Resto). I'm not really sure if we can fill 75 seats doing Resto food in this economy."
For example, entrees at Resto run from $23 to $34. In comparison, the most expensive entrée, the whole roasted fish for two, is $34, or $17 per person.
Ubhaus will continue to do most of the cooking at Resto, but will be "more of an owner-chef than a chef-owner" at Rob's Bistro. He's ceded executive chef duties to Brian Fuller.
"(Brian) was my sous chef here at Resto," Ubhaus said. "We've worked together for a little over a year and I trust him. I'm overseeing everything and tasting everything and watching as many plates as possible go out, but he's running that kitchen. Stepping back is difficult, but they're doing a great job next door."
Hands-on by nature, Ubhaus thinks the biggest challenge in running two restaurants concurrently will be the division of his time.
"It's really that I can't be in two places at one time," he said. "Where am I when is really the big deal."
Luckily for Ubhaus, his two restaurants are in the same building and even share a rear entrance, which will make it easier to manage both.
"If it was a couple blocks away or a mile or two away, it would be a totally different story," he said.
One thing that the restaurants share, besides an owner, is an artist; the art of Justine Westhead hangs on both walls. The only other place in world to see Westhead's artwork is the Louvre.
Ubhaus said the opening of Rob's Bistro went very well, and he was able to fill the restaurant for lunch and for dinner. He did very little advertising, and people only found out through word of mouth.
"You don't want to flood the kitchen or the service staff too bad," he said. "You have to make that first impression perfect."
Rob's Bistro is located at 75 Main St. and is open for lunch and dinner every day except Monday, with brunch on Sundays.