With a small number of weeks of service now behind them, the owners and workers at VISTA Ramen no longer operate the newest restaurant in St. Louis. But they remain as the closest, newest, ramen-centric restaurant that can be seen from Nebula’s side door. (Really; that fact is indisputable.) A great addition to the Cherokee streetscape and already a popular, lauded after-work stop for Nebulites (among plenty of other folks), the restaurant’s praises have been sung by all the local press, a testimony to the vision of chef/operator Chris Bork and owner/operators Casey and Jeremy Miller.
GM Aaron Stovall, who, like the Millers, came to the project from the nearby Mud House, says that the expectations were building feverishly. It wasn’t a big secret as to what was coming to the space behind Foam, itself the former home to a Grateful Dead tribute band and a pita factory, among its most-recent uses.
“We were working on this site for the past year-and-a-half, almost two years,” Stovall says. “There were a lot of expectations from the neighborhood. There was that hitting of brick walls at certain points, lots of nights of no sleep or no food. But after months-and-months of work, to have a finished product, food and drinks to serve to people… it’s really satisfying.”
When people arrive at the space, they’ll obviously be drawn to the well-appointed, thin interior, which fancies the winning design style of Casey Miller. Some of the fun elements might even be missed, if not pointed out directly.
For example, Stovall notes that the size of the menus themselves were adapted to the tables, which are thin; even the fonts used on those menus are also reflective of “the Japanese aesthetic” that was pursued.
“Casey talked a lot about this,” Stovall. Says. “This restaurant’s so particular to the street. It’s shallow and long, rather than being super-deep.”
The largest design element may be the huge VISTA sign hanging above the semi-exposed kitchen. It was a piece secured through local signage dealer, who’d rescued it from the bones of a dead movie theater in Centralia, MO. The sign, once purchased, gave the restaurant a name and helped shape the identity.
And while patrons will be able to see the kitchen at work, a lot of the activity takes place in a basement prep kitchen. Built completely from scratch, it’s an eye-popping, hyper-clean transformation of what Stovall refers to as a classic “scary South City basement.” It’s no longer that, as the gleaming, tile-adhered walls and new equipment hint at the freshness of the operation.
The compact bar, too, is worth a look when you’re there. Stovall’s aiming for a fun beverage program from that tiny space, one that highlights simple-ingredient cocktails and some items that are pretty specific to their space, ala Japanese whiskeys, and, as one would expect, a few sakes.
“We want to keep things at the bar interesting and fun,” Stovall says.
For information on hours and specials, see the VISTA Facebook page.
(Photos by Nate Burrell.)