WILMINGTON — After serving gourmet grilled cheeses to downtown diners for four years, CRUST Kitchen and Cocktails will close Wednesday, Nov. 23.
“Covid definitely had a large negative impact on our industry as a whole — and especially CRUST,” Brian “Wes” Westlye of PROOFhospitality wrote in an email to Port City Daily.
He and his partners, John Bradley and Travis Weiss, own and operate Rebellion on Front Street and the soon-to-be-opened Commodore Public House and Kitchen in the Brooklyn Arts District. The three make up PROOFhospitality, which started Rebellion and Commodore in the D.C. area almost a decade ago before bringing the concept South.
When they took over CRUST — at the corner of 2nd and Princess streets — in October 2019, the partners renovated the bar and added more items to the menu, such as specialty mac-and-cheeses and a tempura-fried cauliflower bowl. They also peppered in more vegan options and began serving breakfast.
CRUST had been operational for more than a year, originally founded by Emily Luther, Stacey McPherson and Brian Di Giorgi in spring 2018. The trifecta of restaurateurs created a space that highlighted a throwback to the ‘90s, from lyrics of the era framed on the walls, as Mobb Deep, David Bowie and Nirvana streamed overhead.
It honed in on expertly made craft cocktails also befitting of ‘90s songs, like “She’s Crafty” a la the Beastie Boys — featuring Old Forrester’s Rye, bitters, and orange blossom honey syrup. Ooey-gooey sandwiches, made with fresh ingredients, were created in homage to the era, such as “Ghostface Fillah” (shaved ribeye, arugula, provolone and mozzarella, grilled onions and horseradish), named after Wu Tang’s Ghostface Killah.
“We liked the concept and thought we could take it over pretty easily with minimal change,” Westlye wrote.
On Nov. 10, the owners posted to CRUST’s social media the restaurant would officially close ahead of Thanksgiving:
“We have made a lot of amazing friends and will be forever grateful for the opportunity to serve you,” it stated. “It’s been fun slingin’ grilled cheese in this location, but we are looking for a change.”
By Friday this week, the PROOF group will be demolishing the interior to transform CRUST into a traditional pub and saloon. Westlye said it will follow in the footsteps of the group’s other concepts, offering “elevated bar food.”
The new spot will be called Fox’s Hole in the Wall, with a focus on traditional New England-style roast beef sandwiches. Known to be slow-cooked and shaved, served on an onion roll and slathered in BBQ sauce, Westlye said Fox’s will be different and have its “own ‘culinary spin’ on the traditional.”
He hopes to have Fox’s Hole in the Wall open in the first month or so of the new year.
The other PROOF-owned restaurants will continue operations as normal.
“Rebellion isn’t going anywhere,” Westlye indicated, though it will be closed a week in February for renovations and additions to the kitchen.
“Commodore is still a work in progress,” he added. “Getting permits on a building that was never a full-service restaurant is proving more challenging than we had anticipated.”
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