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Brian White is one of those guys who just likes creating things. He also really enjoys bringing people together. And he enjoys nice restaurants. So he decided to combine all those loves into one project: a new restaurant that would be different than anything Poplar Bluff has ever known. That is what Frontier is all about. It really is a new frontier for Poplar Bluff. The restaurant represents a new birth for downtown Poplar Bluff, and is located at 506 Vine Street, next to Black River Art Gallery. And as Brian White and his partner in this venture, Daniel Kingree, explain, this is a project that was meant to be. “It has just been amazing the way it has all come together,” said Kingree.
Daniel admits that when his friend first presented him with the idea of a new restaurant in Downtown Poplar Bluff, he had his reservations. He agreed that the concept would fit nicely in our community, but needed to make sure it was economically viable before jumping on board. During Daniel’s research, he found a recent marketing study with a community survey that showed the people of Poplar Bluff were looking for something like Brian was proposing. He decided to go along for the ride.
The two agree it’s a perfect partnership, because White is an idea guy. Kingree, with his engineering background, is a nuts and bolts kind of guy. “I’ll shoot an idea to Daniel,” explained White, “and he’ll look at me and either say, yeah…that’s a great idea, or he’ll tell me half a dozen reasons that idea won’t work. It takes both of us to make this work, and to work it well.” The two hope to have the restaurant open sometime in July.
They both admit they really enjoyed the research phase of the project. “We basically visited all kinds of restaurants in all kinds of places, and decided what elements we wanted to incorporate into our restaurant,” said White. The two felt Poplar Bluff had some good things going for it. “We visited restaurants in areas like Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and we liked their cozy hometown feel. That is a community with some old buildings, and the community has really gotten behind developing a feel to their downtown,” said White. “That’s what we wanted. We wanted to help build an atmosphere. We want this place to be an iconic restaurant for Poplar Bluff.” Hopefully, Frontier will be the seed of redevelopment needed to bring Downtown back to life. “We’ve got a lot to work with,” added White. “We’ve got this cool brick street. That gives us something to help develop a local flavor.”
Even the name “Frontier” seemed meant to be. It was clinched when the two discovered a plaque on the home, now turned restaurant. It read, “Frontier House, Est. 1906.” But their research showed the house burned in 1940, and then was rebuilt. It was originally built by Poplar Bluff physician, Dr. J.T. Redwine. During its life, it has been a photography studio, a hair salon, and a bed and breakfast. And now, it is going to be a restaurant that incorporates everything they believe goes into a great restaurant. “It’s an old building, and we love that historic feel. But we also want it to be clean and modern. We want it to be comfortable and the food and service to be top notch,” said White. The restaurant will be designed to handle both lunch traffic, and dinner, and just relaxation time for people. “There are a lot of people who work downtown,” said White. “And right now, there are not many eating choices downtown. Most people only have an hour for lunch. So if they have to drive all the way across town to grab lunch, about all they have time for is fast food. Our lunch menu is designed for great food, and a great atmosphere, but served quickly so people can have an enjoyable lunch, and then get back to work.” Dinner will be completely different, designed for people who want a nice meal, and some relaxation time. Frontier will feature 30 craft beers on tap, and even more in 22 ounce or 750ml bottles that are designed to be shared between guests.
“We’ve got seating for 65 people inside, and 38 outside,” said White. “We think it’s just the right size to preserve a feeling of comfort and intimacy.” White and Kingree decided they definitely wanted a smoke free environment, inside and outside. “We had a lot of people tell us that’s what they wanted, too,” said White. So the vibe is going to be a relaxed place to come out and meet your family and friends.” The outdoors area features a large projection screen, which offers all kinds of possibilities. “We can use it to show sporting events, or to just create a background of pleasant sounds and images to help people relax,” said White. “We’re also thinking about showing iconic movies. We think that could be a lot of fun.”
But the star of the show at Frontier will be the food. Chelsey King is the chef. She is from Poplar Bluff, and is a product of Poplar Bluff’s Culinary School. While representing Poplar Bluff High School, she won the district competition two years in a row, and placed in the top 10 at the state competition both years. She also completed an internship at Blackberry Farm Resort in Walland, TN. “Chelsey is great, and what I love about her is her fearlessness in trying new things,” explained White. He recalls how he and Kingree would often come back from a trip, tell her about what they ate that they really liked, and Chelsey would put her own spin on it and create something even better than what they’d had.
“Frontier says it all for us,” concluded White. “Frontier is the edge of something that has not yet been explored, and that is what we are doing here. We’re trying something brand new, and we think people are going to love it.” Restaurant hours will be 11 a.m. to midnight to accommodate both lunch and evening crowds. Once open, White recommends reservations for dinner. “We don’t have a great deal of space, so we expect to be staying busy. And I don’t want people to have to stand in line, so I’d definitely suggest calling ahead for dinner time meals to make sure we can get you in.” The dinner menu will include steaks, salmon, and many other foods that will become local favorites. Also featured will be unique pub foods.
For two relatively young guys (White is 37 and Kingree is 34), Frontier is a dream in the making. Both are originally from Bloomfield, MO, and they both agree their small hometown helped make them both who they are, and they have brought that commitment to community into this venture. “I think as humans were are at our happiest when we are building and creating something,” concluded White. “This has definitely been a labor of love.”