Hotel slated to be open in December
By Jim Bloch
Get ready for four-star dining and luxury accommodations in downtown St. Clair.
The first catered banquet at the fully reconstructed St. Clair Inn will be held Sept. 21.
But hotel’s white-tablecloth restaurant, dubbed “1926” for the year the historic inn first opened, will not be launched until October or perhaps early November. The 106-room hotel will not debut until December.
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Those are the projections of majority owner Jeff Katofsky, who led a media tour of the facility on Sept. 19.
“We’re almost done,” said Katofsky.
The restaurant occupies the southeast corner of the original inn and is comprised of four rooms — the large square dining room on the inn’s south side, which will retain its now-refurbished stage; the rectangular room on the inn’s southeast corner; the riverside room just north of it and the new intimate private dining room for parties under 16 or people tucked off the riverside room. All the dining rooms feature new broad-plank manufactured wood floors.
The brand new kitchen fills the southwest corner of the original inn, just like the old kitchen. It will serve a number of satellite kitchens, where food will be finished for The Dive Bar (the old River Lounge); the new banquet facility which occupies the double room that previously held the old pool and a smaller banquet room; the third story bar; and the Sand Bar tucked under a broad slate deck facing the pool and the river.
Katofsky hopes to keep the pool open eight to nine months a year and the new oval hot tub open year-round.
To run the inn’s food service, Katofsky has hired Jacob Verstegen, former chef of LondonHouse Chicago’s the tri-level restaurant and bar called the LH Rooftop and the lobby restaurant Bridges. Verstegen cooked in top restaurants in Spain, Brazil and Chicago before his stint at LondonHouse. His style combines his classic French training, deep experience in Asian cuisine and regional American cooking, with an emphasis on sustainable sourcing. Hotel Management magazine recently named Verstegen to its “30 under 30” list of rising industry stars.
Katofsky held his son’s bar mitzvah 11 years ago at Chef Wolfgang Puck’s famous Los Angeles restaurant Spago. He recently ran into a guest who raved about one of the appetizers at the event — creamed corn ravioli.
“I told Chef Jacob that I want people talking about his food 10 years from now,” Katofsky.
Verstegen will emphasize a farm-to-table approach in 1926, highlighting local produce, meat and fish wherever possible.
“He’s out meeting with local farmers today,” said Katofsky.
Verstegen is bringing with him LondonHouse’s Samantha Santiago Torres.
“She’s a topnotch pastry chef who’ll knock your socks off,” said Katofsky.
The Prohibition bar — the former Coach Room — sits between the kitchen and reception desk and will have a speakeasy feel.
Prohibition will be the only restaurant or bar on the premises without a water view. Out-of-town guests will likely favor the dramatic vistas of the St. Clair River. Residents might prefer the darker, quieter Prohibition Bar.
“I think it will be the local hangout,” said Katofsky.
Verstegen and his crew are working on signature drinks and dishes for each outlet. At Prohibition, expect the star beverage to be “a little extra harsh and a little extra dirty,” said Katofsky.
The Fireplace Lounge, immediately east of the reception desk, with its twin fireplaces and 200-year old wood floor imported from England, will be a place visitors may enjoy a martini and listen to some music, Katofsky said. Between the Fireplace Lounge and the big curvaceous stone and brick riverside deck, sits the Sapphire Room, where high tea will be served.
Singular details will include private label St. Clair Inn chocolates, teas and soaps.
“We’re even trying to get our own blue salt,” said Katofsky.
The Community Foundation of St. Clair County will manage the St. Clair Inn fund and Katofsky is planning to hold a fundraiser for veterans and children on Oct. 25.
On Oct. 26, there will be an opening party for the public “even though the hotel won’t be open yet.”
Visit the inn at https://www.facebook.com/stclairinn/.
Jim Bloch is an award-winning freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. He writes about the environment, local politics, art, music, history and culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.