Springfield diners: Mark your calendars for summer 2019. Chef Drake Tillman, formerly of the Canvas pop ups, has announced plans to open a restaurant, Elkhart and The Robberson, at 300 E. Commercial Street in Springfield next year.
The historic space drew quite a bit of attention when contractors discovered a forgotten cold-storage area underground last summer. Until this past December, the 145-year-old building was the anticipated home for wine bar Ophelia's.
The name Elkhart and The Robberson is Tillman’s way of giving a nod to history. Dr. Franklin L. Miles, who originally occupied the space in years past, was from Elkhart, Indiana. Tillman decided to name the restaurant’s casual counterpart The Robberson in honor of Dr. E. T. Robberson, who helped found North Springfield.
We caught up with Tillman to learn more about his plans for Elkhart and The Robberson.
We recently talked with you about your future plans to open a restaurant called Indie with chef Hansel Herschend. Is that still happening? Hansel and I separated business-wise, but it was totally amicable and we are still friends. We were just at different points in our lives, so Indie isn’t happening anymore. In a way, this is still kind of the same restaurant we wanted to create with Indie, but it’s just in a more unique setting.
What drew you to the building on Commercial Street? Joe Hosmer, the owner of the building called me because Joseph Gidman, who owns Cafe Cusco and now Van Gogh's Eeterie, recommended me. I am forever grateful to Joe Gidman, and the whole Commercial Street area has been really supportive to me.
Why did you decide to choose two names for the restaurant? The two names help break the space up, and they are going to be connected by a staircase. The Robberson will be on the main level, and it is going to be where we serve lunch during the day. We will serve a really stripped-down, simple lunch menu with three or four main items and a couple of sides. We’ll also have fresh pastries and a really small espresso menu.
When that closes after lunch, we will reopen that space around 5pm as a bar with cocktails, wine and beer. Elkhart will be in the basement, and we won’t have a set menu. It will be really seasonal, and I’d like to change it once a month if I can. We are really going to focus on seasonality and working with local farms to serve seasonal food.
Can you tell us more about your plans for the menu? I would say it's new American. My food definitely leans on Italian, French and Nordic, with a bit of Asian influence, but I’m also trying to use ingredients that are native to Missouri. That’s a big long-term goal I have for myself. The plating will be more modern than some other stuff around town, but I am trying to make it approachable and keep the prices low.
Do you have any ideas for the underground dry-storage area? That space will be a wine cellar and private dining room.
Will you still be hosting pop up dinners after the restaurant is open? Once the restaurant is open, I don’t see myself doing pop ups. What I do want to do is a collaboration series with chefs around town and host them in the restaurant. I want to support other people who are trying to do what I was able to do. I will be doing some dinners throughout this year though, but I won’t be hosting Canvas pop ups anymore.
Elkhart and The Robberson, 300 E. Commercial St., Springfield, Missouri, 417.848.4360, elkhartsgf.com