Host, a new lunch spot downtown, won’t officially open until Monday, May 7, but the restaurant has been offering a series of soft openings for its social media followers to “grease the wheels.” We stopped by for lunch today amidst dozens of other curious diners to take it all in.
The restaurant is located in the small space at 1220 Locust St. formerly occupied by Flour. A group of four friends and family members — Tony Lemmo, Phil Shires, Katie Lemmo and Lisa Hutchins — have been transforming the spot since early March, warming up the once-industrial space with repurposed and up-cycled furniture and new decor.
The focus of Host is simplicity, sustainability and locally grown food. Refinished chairs — inexpensive finds at flea markets and thrift stores — were sanded, painted and reupholstered by Hutchins. The long “harvest” tables (there is seating for about 35-40 guests) are crafted from 100-year-old salvaged wood from Winterset. Overhead fixtures are upcycled metal milk crates, converted into lights. The wall art is by local artist Erin Jay Frye. The result is a hip, urban spot with a soft feel. It’s open, but intimate.
We arrived at noon, as the doors were opening. Already, a short line had formed at the front counter, under a menu written on salvaged, painted window panes. Five sandwich options, four entree options, a few sides, desserts and drinks (including wine and local craft brews) round out the menu.
We tried the chicken pot pie ($12), made with chunks of tender, juicy chicken and roasted veggies in a light sauce. A flaky puff pastry sits on top of the dish, making it more of a deconstructed pot pie rather than a totally inclosed bowl of crust. The veggies were still crisp-tender, and the sauce — lighter and better-seasoned than typical hearty pot pie gravy — made this dish appropriate for a summer lunch. It’s comfort food, but refined.
We also tried the KPLT sandwich, a rye panini made with Tamworth prosciutto from La Quercia, roasted leeks and grape tomatoes, and melted Gruyere cheese. The saltiness of the prosciutto, sliced a little thicker than most delis serve, was well-balanced by the sweetness of the roasted vegetables. Whole grape tomatoes, instead of sliced raw tomatoes, were an unusual surprise. Perfectly roasted to still hold their shape, they burst open with each bite. It’s familiar, yet unexpected.
We tried a side of sweet potato salad, a twist on the summer picnic staple lightly mashed with what tasted like a vinaigrette dressing and dijon mustard. We also tried a side of Mediterranean quinoa, which was extremely fresh tasting, and polished off a mammoth-sized lemon shortbread cookie. Delicious... and delicious.
Host is a great lunch spot for just about any occasion, from power lunch to casual . It’s a sunny place, too. We couldn’t help feeling a little more cheerful about tackling the second half of our day.
Host is not fast food — order at the counter and have a seat, the staff will bring out your freshly prepared meal soon. We ate at a comfortable pace, without rushing or dawdling, in about 40 minutes. When officially open, Host will serve lunch from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and will be open for private dinner events.
Find it: 1220 Locust St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. beginning Monday, May 7
Info: ; hostdsm.com