Co-owners Joe Farrell and Chef Adam Roytman of Black Rock, CT’s widely successful Walrus + Carpenter have brought new European fare to Westport, CT with the duo’s second restaurant. The pair’s newest eatery, Rothbard Ale + Larder, is a European-style beer bar and restaurant, offering dishes and drinks inspired by the Central European regions, including Alsace, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland.
So what sparked the vision for Rothbard Ale + Larder? What’s the meaning behind the name?
JOE: The inspiration came from approaching a comfort and a feel similar to that of Walrus + Carpenter, but focused on a different culture of food. Where Walrus gets its inspiration from the South, Rothbard looks across the ocean to the Alpine region of Europe.
The restaurant’s name is in honor of Murray Rothbard, a 20th century economist and historian. He comes from the Austrian School of economics, which we felt was appropriate for a restaurant serving Schnitzel.
Were any other CT cities a target or did you know Westport was the right destination? And was Brooklyn or New York City ever considered for Rothbard Ale + Larder?
ADAM: New York City or beyond weren’t really considered when we were looking for a new location. We wanted to be somewhat near Walrus so that we could pool resources. So we were looking for local, and we fell in love with this space in Westport.
Walk our readers through your approach to the both the dinner and beverage menus?
ADAM: We wanted to focus on animal fats for the food. We started with a winter, hearty menu of warming comfort foods. We did a lot of research into the food culture of the alpine region of Europe and delved heavily into the wine culture of that region as well.
What was your approach to the design of the kitchen and was there an existing kitchen? Did you use a dealer or architect for the kitchen and dining space?
ADAM: We used the existing kitchen, shifting equipment to improve flow and increase the amount of refrigeration and storage. We created more space where none existed. There is practically no practically no storage space, so we had to get creative.
Talk about the approach to building the Rothbard Ale + Larder team.
JOE: The Rothbard team sprung from the Walrus family, with a few people who we worked with in the past, who we trusted to help get us off the ground. We then used Walrus as a staging ground, training all our staff members at Walrus to ensure the same standards of quality and attention to detail were instilled into each employee before they came to Rothbard.
What’s your customer service philosophy?
JOE: Casual fine dining: The focus is on the food, flavors and intent of service. We avoid pretense, focusing our efforts on running a clean shop, listening to our customers, and creating a lively atmosphere every night. Welcome customers as guests into our home and join in the experience with them.
How are both your jobs different now that there are two restaurants?
JOE: Adam has certainly increased his focus on kitchen activities and food; Food buying and menu production at both restaurants. While I’m putting a lot more miles on my Jeep than I was previously.
What’s your opinion on local sustainability? And do you look for loyalty from your suppliers or do you go to bid each week?
ADAM: Supplier loyalty comes from paying your bills on time, and always picking up the phone to call. As far as local sustainability is concerned we spread ourselves across a number of local suppliers, focusing on who can provide the highest quality and deliver the right items on time.
Any advice you can share with those thinking of opening a second location?
JOE: Don’t do it. Haha. Having two restaurants is like… having two businesses that need 100% of your attention. For some reason, when you think of opening a second restaurant, you think you’ll be adding a little bit more work to your plate, and can re-distribute other things. It doesn’t really work that way, at least not in the beginning. Until you can find someone to take your place 95% at the original location, you may want to wait.
What is your opinion on the elimination of tipping and increase on minimum wage in our industry?
ADAM: As far as the elimination of tipping goes, we are focusing on food and service now, and observing how that aspect of the industry changes to see if it fits our needs.
JOE: In reference to minimum wage, I’d recommend Googling Murray Rothbard to see what he says. Regardless, Adam and I will always do what is in the best interest to the restaurant and our employees.