The former home of James near Eighth and Christian streets in Bella Vista is fast being transformed into The Mildred, which chef and co-owner Michael Santoro tells us will be “a good, fun neighborhood spot with slamming foods, great beers and a really, really good wine list.” Contractors there are nearing completion of most of the major work. Once a new kitchen hood is installed, and some refrigeration units moved in, staff training will begin. Santoro and partner Michael Dorris expect an official opening to come September 3 or 4. “Everything’s rolling, and rolling strong,” Santoro, who exited Talula’s Garden last year, told Grub Street. “Construction is done, really, and we’re just getting into the painting and the finishing now.”
One of the major changes is a relocated entrance. It’s been moved to where former tenant James had a valet box. The new entryway brings guests directly into the heart of the restaurant’s dining room, instead of the bar. To open the space up more and make it “warmer and friendlier,” Santoro said they took out walls so the dining room and bar feel more like one continuous room.
When opened, The Mildred, which takes its name from the street that runs directly behind the restaurant, will serve a style of food that blends American flavors with European techniques and sensibilities. Santoro told us that the “old world European” menu reported elsewhere was the result of him being misquoted. He explains that while working at England’s Fat Duck, he often found Heston Blumenthal researching recipes from the Middle Ages, trying to understand the sometimes oddball flavor combinations, and borrowing from them as a jumping off point for new dishes.
“I was describing that process and how I too like to look back at the way things used to be done, too,” Santoro told us. “And that’s how that got taken that way. Bottom line is, it’s going to be American food. It’s going to be seasonal, regional, and it will have a little bit of British influence, because that’s where I trained.”