Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez-Denton—the dynamic duo behind Ox and SuperBite—have a word of advice for all you aspiring restaurateurs out there: Don’t open a restaurant while simultaneously promoting your new cookbook.
That’s the predicament they found themselves in a year ago, when they were putting the finishing touches on SuperBite, which was set to take over the old Grüner space.
“We never asked our editor, ‘How is the book going to sell?’” Quiñónez-Denton says, adding that they found out the hard way: lots of travel.
So in the days leading up to opening their new restaurant, the couple found themselves flying all over the country to guest chef at restaurants to promote the recipes they’d authored for Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting.
These days, one year in, they’re still busy. Last week, when we caught up with them by phone to talk about what they’ve learned during SuperBite’s maiden year, they were in New York, having just cooked at the James Beard House. The week before that, Denton was honored by the Oregon Beef Council as its chef of the year. And on May Day, they’ll be in Chicago cooking for 1,200 people at the James Beard Awards ceremony, where’re they’re hoping to take home a shared award for “Best Chef, Northwest.”
When SuperBite first opened, it’s ambitious goal of packing as many flavors into two- to four-bite-sized dishes was met with some very favorable reviews—Merc food critic Andrea Damewood’s was notable for describing the lamb T-bone “a lady on the plate, but a freak in your mouth”—but since then, Denton says the menu—and the concept—has evolved.
Those “super bite” amuse bouches are still very much part of the menu, but the couple has peppered in new details to their business plan: SuperBite now takes reservations; it initiated a happy hour program, it resurrected a burger inspired by Denton and Quiñónez-Denton’s old Metrovino days, and it started offering a tasting menu that provides a few of those “super bites,” as well as more heartier dishes.
“Customers might not want to pay $15 for a beef tongue starter, but they may be willing to drop $3 for a taste,” Quiñónez-Denton says. Still she asks “Will the concept of the ‘bite’ withstand the test of time?” before answering affirmatively, that it just might, thanks to the introduction of that tasting menu. “We’ve been surprised how successful that’s been. It really takes the pressure off.”
Denton says the service concept where chefs deliver your dishes to the table to explain their creations and to answer your questions has been dialed in, too, and is now much more streamlined. And they’ve been examining the our collective eating habits in an effort to eliminate food waste.
And, he adds, he’s also not too proud to get back into the hamburger game—even though SuperBite’s version is a blended one, made with beef shoulder and shiitake mushrooms. “People just feel safe when a burger’s on the menu.”
By bringing back that burger, beefing up the menu and offering happy hour and a reservation system, Denton says, “We’re open to changing for the clientele.”
SuperBite: 527 SW 12th Ave., 503-222-0979