The corner of Walton and National avenue is coming back to life.
The site is once again set to anchor a thriving dining and business district now that Epping’s on Eastside opened Monday after being dark for more than two years.
The new restaurant, which draws its name from the John G. Epping bottling plant, the original tenant of the building, houses several concepts from executive chef Cole Arimes, who also co-owns Coles 735 Main with his uncle Richard Turnbull.
Coles is an intimate dining space; Epping’s will let Arimes spread out a bit. The new place has seating for about 230.
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At the entrance, which is at 264 Walton, there is a bakery selling bread, rolls and breakfast pastries made on-site by pastry chef Laura Clay, and Nate’s Coffee. The bakery will open at 8 a.m. seven days a week, with casual seating next door inside the space known as “Poppy and Olive.”
The bakery will also have housemade “pop tarts,” biscuits, upscale French pastries, bread puddings, muffins and desserts, Arimes said.
“We’re going to start it out slow and see what the neighborhood wants,” he said. “If enough people come in and ask for scones, we’ll add scones.”
The Poppy and Olive concept is parent-friendly dining that Arimes said was born out of his own family’s needs. And the restaurant is named for his daughter Hurst, 4, and son Park, 3, who were the size of an olive and a poppy seed, respectively, when they found out they were expected.
Arimes said Poppy and Olive will serve lunch and dinner with expedited table service and a family-friendly menu that is accessible for kids but features great food for grown-ups, too. And in a comfortable atmosphere that will offer the kids craft baskets and other items such as homemade “play-dough” to keep them happy while parents get a decent night out of the house.
One menu possibility for the kids: char-“fruiterie” boards with a selection of fresh fruits.
If the grownups are looking for more of a date-night feel, then Epping’s has that, too. Also open for lunch and dinner, the main dining space will feature subtle decor designed by Haven Home and Garden with a menu from chef de cuisine Nathan Voorhees, full bar and table service.
The moderately priced menu is “sandwich-centric” with lots of salad options and cured local meats including beef pastrami and smoked ham. The main dining room is TV-free and has a lounge area at the front.
The TVs are on the other side of the building, behind Poppy and Olive, in a casual “community bar” that will feature long tables of reclaimed wood from Branch and Bark Urban Sawmill.
“This is where I hope people will come to watch the ballgame,” Arimes said.
The restaurant also will have two rooms that can be used for private dining or event spaces. One, tucked behind a giant sliding barn door, is off National Avenue and Arimes said would be perfect for events such as bridal showers. He is hoping to tie into the burgeoning “wedding” district, with a bridal shop, a caterer, florists and more in the neighborhood.
Upstairs, in a separate room, Epping’s will offer a space for lunch or dinner meetings, with touches of the building’s industrial past showing through.
“We decided we needed one room that was pretty rough,” Arimes said during a recent tour. “The floors are probably our favorite spot in the whole place.”
Both rooms will be able to offer something that Coles on Main can’t: private dining. Arimes said that he often has to turn away requests for events because his other restaurant can’t accommodate them. But the building on Walton and National can, so if patrons want a catered menu from the Coles fine dining menu, he can offer that as well.
National Avenue, which was hurt by the closing of National Provisions in September 2016, is poised to rebound again.
“I think they are firing on all cylinders and in the right direction in this area right now,” Arimes said. “Mirror Twin is doing a bang-up job ... with La Petite Delicat coming, and the (Popcorn Paradise) popcorn company ... I think they’re creating a nice little community. ... I really want to tie in everybody in the neighborhood. I think that’s the way this area will thrive.”