After months of anticipation, The Hepcat will soon bring live jazz – and a mouthwatering menu – to downtown Springfield, Missouri. Co-owners Dylan Fox and Jimmy Rollins have spent the past year remodeling the venue’s massive space, transforming it into a 1930s-inspired jazz club and lounge complete with gleaming wood finishes and a twinkling chandelier. Although Fox and Rollins haven’t determined an exact opening date, The Hepcat will likely open within the next two weeks as the space undergoes its final health inspection and business license approval.
While the venue itself is impressive, the menu is just as jazzy. Fox’s passion for local produce shines in the cocktail menu, complete with offerings like Tomato Water, a twist on an Old Fashioned with Italian gin and a tomato-basil shrub. The duo describes the food menu as “approachable, classic rural American food,” revamping classics like smoked fried chicken, collard greens and mashed potatoes. Overall, The Hepcat promises a nod to the past with a passion for hospitality that’s very 2019. Everything old really is new again.
What’s your perfect day of eating in Springfield? I’d start with brunch at Progress with cocktails and coffee. Then, I’d take a nap and hit Sub Shop and order anything on the menu with Zapp’s chips. I’d have to end my day at Golden Girl with tacos and Daiquiris. –Dylan Fox
I’d start my day at The Order. I had their shrimp and grits last weekend, and it was the best choice I made all day. For lunch, I would go to Grad School – I’m going to stick downtown for my perfect day, since that’s where I live – and I’d grab a burger, fries and a PBR. From there, I’d probably take a nap or hit some golf balls; then for dinner, I’d also do Golden Girl. They have this new sandwich called The Big Dipper, and it’s amazing. It has peppers and pork belly on a really nice piece of bread, and you can dip it in ramen broth. –Jimmy Rollins
How has the local food scene evolved over the past year? It’s definitely growing. Restaurants like Progress offer such a unique dining experience – if you’re visiting from out of town, you absolutely have to go there. The Order’s new menu is also really excellent with Caleb [Stangroom] taking over as head chef. Overall, I think people are paying attention to the city’s creativity and competitiveness. Chefs are listening to their customer base and executing what the customers want to see. –J.R.
For me, the most notable shift is with younger chefs. Younger generations are getting into the kitchen and listening to the trends from halfway across the world, trying to implement those in Springfield. –D.F.
What’s your go-to cocktail at home or on your day off? I’ll go get a bottle of wine and sit in the bath with a bunch of candles. I do love to use chocolate if I’m making a cocktail, so I’ll use chocolate bitters, any kind of vermouth that has chocolate notes to it – I love sweet vermouth with rum or whiskey. –J.R.
My go-to is what’s called a “Hobo Negroni.” It’s a Miller High Life with amaro. –D.F.
What’s your favorite comfort food? We’re big cheeseburger fans over here. I find that a good burger with homemade fries cheers you up pretty quickly. –J.R.
It’s all about the meat – you’ve got to have plenty of grease – and a really good cheese. I love the Progress Brunch Burger. –D.F.
I tend to steer toward Grad School and Farmers Gastropub. The Order also does a really awesome burger for dinner. –J.R.
If you could tell home bartenders one thing, what would it be? My whole motto is to keep things simple. There’s this quote: “Be so courageous as to not intervene too much.” It really speaks to me. There are so many great ingredients out there; you have to trust the ingredients enough to let them do their thing. –D.F.
Having some nice tools really makes a home bar. Investing in some good tools and learning a few simple techniques can really elevate your abilities. –J.R.
What is your first food memory? My brother and I essentially grew up on our grandma’s farm. I was a really picky eater as a kid, and I still remember my grandma convincing me that little trees – broccoli – were actually really delicious. The importance of fresh, high-quality produce has really stuck with me over the years. –D.F.
I have a deep affection for pizza. Growing up, I learned to make homemade pizza dough with my mom. We’d keep it really simple. When I got to college, that’s how I paid my bills: I made and delivered pizza for four years. –J.R.
What inspires your cooking? How do you approach R&D at your restaurant, and what inspires that process? For me, it’s my friends and my fellow bartenders. That’s where I get my inspiration and the courage to explore new ideas. Meeting up at bars, bringing them samples, asking, “Guys, what works?” That’s really what inspires me the most. It’s kind of unreal because I’ll go into Golden Girl, and the second I walk in the door there’s four people shouting my name. That community drives me. –J.R.
For cocktail creation, my inspiration is definitely local farmers. Working with Urban Roots Farm for Cocktails on the Farm has totally changed my perspective. For example, I just learned what shiso is – it’s this cool herb that tastes great and is used a lot in Vietnamese cooking. There’s so much to learn from local growers. From there, it’s just trying to understand what works in Springfield; going to bars and seeing what other people are doing. –D.F.
The Hepcat, 220 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, Missouri, facebook.com/thehepcat