By now, if you don’t recognize the names Ryan and Jen Hidinger, Staplehouse, or the Giving Kitchen, you haven’t been paying attention. After all, their story dates back six years to chef Ryan Hidinger and wife Jen Hidinger’s supper club, A Prelude to Staplehouse. It attracted attention in 2013 when Ryan was diagnosed with Stage IV gall bladder cancer and the restaurant community pitched in to help. The Hidingers formed a nonprofit called the Giving Kitchen to extend that help to fellow industry workers in need, and when Ryan passed away in early 2014, the initiative only grew.
Since then, Ryan’s sister Kara Hidinger, her husband and chef Ryan Smith, and Jen have been working feverishly to fulfill Ryan’s dream of opening Staplehouse. Jen says the end—or maybe the new beginning—is finally in sight.
“We’re deep into construction and on schedule for the middle of summer—the end of July if not sooner,” she says. “It’s been six years since we birthed this concept out of our home. It’s formed so many different branches for such good, and it’s the heart of what Ryan and I created.”
A sustainable, seasonally driven restaurant, Staplehouse will have different menus for the patio and the dining room.
“It’s like we are opening two small restaurants at once,” Smith says. “The patio will [have] food with the intension of sharing—a little less fussy and formal and family style.” Big Green Eggs will be used.
Inside, the offerings will be “more finessed, technique-driven and coursed out,” Jen says.
Smith previously said the Staplehouse menu(s) would include double-layer crispy buffalo chicken wings, as an ode to Ryan Hidinger, who loved the snack. Now, Smith says Ryan left him a whole list of dishes and ideas and he plans to use them “here and there” on both Staplehouse menus.
While the team is staying mum on what those dishes are, Jen says the focus will be on quality ingredients. “Smith values everything he puts into his body,” she says. “He’s always been very technique- and finesse-driven, but his approach to food is different since Ryan was diagnosed. He took a different type of care as to what he put into his body, and I think it changed his viewpoint a little bit.”
The team is in the process of hiring someone to lead the bar program—John Wayne Kendrick is no longer involved—but Jen says they want to keep it simple and traditional. “We’re not necessarily looking to compete with our dear friends in the city who are bad asses at making these extensive cocktails,” she says.
Kara Hidinger, Staplehouse’s general manager, is also involved in organizing the bar program. She says the wine list will be “small and intimate” and the beers craft and local. Both will be offered by the glass and the bottle.
“As with our beer and wine selections, the cocktail list will be intimate and change seasonally,” she says.
Designed by Square Feet Studio, Staplehouse is in an old brick building from the 1900s. The restaurant’s front door is in the back of the space, accessed through a courtyard.
The patio will have communal seating for 24 to 30 diners and an outdoor prep kitchen that Jen describes as “a piece of art.” It’ll have a wood-burning oven surrounded by waist-high dark glass so diners can see the prep cooks at work.
The patio itself will likely have vegetable and herb beds, and the bricks will be engraved with the names of Staplehouse’s Indiegogo contributors.
Inside, there will be an eight-seat bar and a forty-seat dining room with an open kitchen. Local furniture maker Kendrick Anderson is designing the tables in the main dining area, while Skylar Morgan designs the tables for the private dining room upstairs.
Staplehouse will serve dinner Wednesday through Sunday.