Bryan Robertson and Hilary Maich faced a one-two punch earlier this year.
In an attempt to get back on track, Robertson and Maich reopened Render at 521 E. Jefferson Blvd. in May with a new chef. But eventually, decided they needed to make a bigger change.
“When we reopened in May, it felt like we were a little bit lacking focus,” Maich said. “We were putting out nice food, people were still coming in but there wasn’t that drive. … For Bryan and I, if the whole world is changing, we might as well choose that change and do something different.”
After temporarily closing in August, the restaurant reopened Oct. 2 with new renovations, a new concept and a new name — Render Meat & Potatoes.
Since opening in 2016, Render has been known as a contemporary fine dining restaurant with modern aesthetics where consumers can come as they are. Now, Render Meat & Potatoes has streamlined its focus into becoming more of a steakhouse. Maich said the goal is still to be the fine dining option on the East Bank, but the protein is now the centerpiece.
“We’re not going to ever lose that we’re younger business restauranteurs with fresh ideas and great culture,” Maich said. “There’s always going to be something about us that is exciting.”
The new menu focuses on “giving the Midwest what it really wants,” Maich said, and currently offers five cuts of steak, paired with a choice of five different sauces and styles. In traditional steakhouse form, steaks are served at requested temperature by themselves and a choice of sides that can feed two people are offered for an additional price. For those seeking non-steak options, items such as soups, salads, fresh fish, roasted chicken, lamb chops and pasta are also available. With the updated concept, Maich said, the restaurant is steering away from offering a vegetarian and vegan menu.
“There’s (vegetarian and vegan) options, but it’s not going to have the whole menu anymore,” she said. “We’ll miss them but we needed to try something a little new.”
Changes are also coming to the desserts and bar portion of the business. Maich is creating the desserts herself, making her grandmother’s Coca-Cola cupcake and a banana creme pie that she describes as a must-have. The bar will continue to embrace the steakhouse concept, focusing on classic cocktails such as a Manhattan and old-fashioned. Previous favorites like the gin-based Water Lily cocktail and gin and tonic on tap will still be offered.
The interior of the building has also seen some changes, with splashes of bold red and blue colors now painted on the walls and portraits of famous chefs overlooking customers.
The menu’s prices are a touch steeper than before — averaging about $75 per person compared to $50 before, Maich said. That’s mostly because of the high-end steak options.
In light of the coronavirus concerns, the restaurant continues to seat only about 75% of its capacity. It also will offer outdoor dining as an option for as long as it can. Carryout orders have been popular so far, as the restaurant owners have invested in more expensive to-go boxes to help the steaks, sides and other entrees that travel well. Catering is also a viable option for those interested and not beholden to what the current menu offers, with Maich saying they will do what they can to create what the consumer requests.
Maich said the restaurant will continue to use locally sourced ingredients and is open to adjusting the menu as needed. The overall laid-back aesthetic and top-notch service will also still be the same.
But with the shift, there has been some natural hesitancy among devoted customers who are worried that Render has become just another steakhouse option. Maich says they recognize that concern, but even with all the changes, the Render owners say they have not lost touch of who they are.
“It just makes sense to try something and to still stick with what we are,” she said. “The food will still be great, the cocktails will still be great, you’re in a cool space, we’re still going to play our music and you can come as you are. But it is refreshing to have this change and to choose the change versus just keeping everything the same and hoping people walk through this door. … That might change our customer base a bit, but let’s try some new things and we can always just adjust.”
Render Meat & Potatoes is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturdays from 5 to 11 p.m.
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