In Good Taste

Chef Winston Blick Discusses Reopening Clementine

After closing for a year to focus on catering, the chef/owner says it’s time to “fill the void.”

Though chef Winston Blick and his wife, Cristin Dadant, have been running their catering business out of the kitchen of their restaurant on Harford Road since it closed last summer, it hasn’t been the same without a crowded dining room.

“It’s weird,” Blick says. “We used to do catering tastings on Friday evenings when it was loud and bustling, and now we do them for people in an empty restaurant.”

After making the decision to close in July of 2015 to focus on their catering services, the husband-and-wife owners are now vowing to reopen Clementine—the homey comfort food spot in Hamilton-Lauraville known for its generously portioned, locally sourced dishes.

The owners have established a GoFundMe campaign with the hope of raising $40,000 for replenishing inventory and upgrading the interior, and plan to reopen by Thanksgiving.

“You can feel the void,” Blick says. “We can feel it in us, the community feels it, and we need to fill it. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed feeding the community. It’s really satisfying, and it’s one of the few ways to make people really happy and content.”

Blick says that part of the reason for Clementine’s closure was financial, mentioning that, this time around, he has hired a chief financial officer and restructured the restaurant’s business plan in order for it to be more profitable.

“In the restaurant world, places are either opened by chefs who don’t know money or people with money who don’t know food, and that’s why they fail,” he says. “I’m not a business man, I’m a food guy. So having that help gives us great hope.”

Though the 75-seat restaurant will be still be a hub for locals to enjoy carefully curated charcuterie plates and comfort cuisine sourced from area farms (some of Blick’s classics include bacon-wrapped meatloaf, Asian-braised pork cheeks, and gouda mashed potatoes), the owners are eager to implement a few upgrades.

Among them will be the addition of a retail section up front, showcasing a growler-filling station and prepared foods similar to the comestibles at Blick’s nearby Green Onion Market.

He also wants Clementine to be more of a nightlife destination in its second phase. He plans to put more of an emphasis on the bar program—highlighting craft beers, ciders, wines, and spirits—and offer extended evening hours with trivia and live music.

The renewed focus on the bar also means that Clementine will downsize its portions, offering a more casual menu of small plates.

“We’ve been known as the big plate place for a long time,” Blick says with a laugh. “Now we’re just going to offer smaller versions of the classics. It’s a way for us to change with the times without changing our core philosophy.”

As the dining scene in Hamilton-Lauraville continues to grow (the in-the-works SoHa Union development is slated to debut a new spinoff from the owners of Maggie’s Farm in 2017), Blick is excited to pick up where Clementine left off.

“It’s going to look and feel like Clementine, we just want to freshen it up,” he says. “There’s only one second chance, so we want to be smart about it and serve the community right.”