Crown Restaurant Group’s Anthony and Haley Sitek are very busy. With their flagship steakhouse, Losanti, not to mention Crown Republic Gastropub, Rosie’s Italian and the recently opened La Cantina, you couldn’t blame the couple for wanting to slow things down.
“I always laugh because it seems like right when we have our mind made up, like, OK, ‘we’re going to coast for a little bit and focus on X, Y, or Z,’ something new comes through,” says Haley, CRG’s director of hospitality and co-owner. “But that speaks to what Anthony is doing and the creative space that he wants to bring food-wise.”
The most recent example of CRG’s magnetic attraction for opportunity is Five on Vine, an elevated and reimagined old-school dining destination opening in the former Mercer OTR space, which is scheduled to open by early January.
“For us, it was just a good opportunity,” says Anthony, who also serves as CRG’s head chef. “Adam Gelter from 3CDC approached Haley and me when it first came on the market. We toured it once and said there’s no way we could turn it down.”
“We joke about it all the time,” Haley says, “but if Anthony could have a restaurant every month, he probably would. It’s really just depending on his mood and what he really wants to do. Normally, I’ll give a little bit of push-back, because he’s so pedal-to-the-metal. It’s a fast bus, and if you want on, you’ve got to hold on! But this was the one where I was like, this is awesome.”
The immaculate space made the Siteks’ quick “yes” a no-brainer, as did the invitation to be a part of what Haley calls “Cincinnati’s restaurant row” on Vine Street. And sussing out the dining details was an easy choice, too, as inspiration quickly took hold.
“The space definitely spoke to us, for sure,” Anthony says. “We didn’t actually know what concept to do there at the start. But it really ended up really showing itself once we sat in the space a couple more times.”
Five on Vine’s concept is a modern take on American comfort food, with a 100-percent from-scratch menu, in-house rotisserie, and thoughtful cocktail offerings.
“It’s stuff that you might have seen growing up or in everyday life,” Haley says. “We just elevate it in a way that you might not have experienced before. Just kind of re-inventing the classics with our own spin on it.”
While the dining experience will be high-end and sophisticated, the menu is designed to be engaging and familiar. One example Anthony is particularly excited about is the coccoli, a plate of pate a choux (fried puffed dough), prosciutto and stracchino cheese delivered to tables for diners to assemble into, essentially, really good ham and cheese sandwiches. The menu also includes such diverse (and comforting) fare as fried green tomatoes with a local pimento cheese, half an Amish chicken, smoked pork ribs and meatloaf. Oh, and pigs in a blanket.
“We call those OTR Wellingtons,” Anthony says. “We’re going to get a local honey mustard sausage and they’re going to be served with a puff pastry.”
As with all of CRG’s concepts, Five on Vine will feature from-scratch cooking, local ingredients, and an inviting customer experience.
“We really want to get discussions going. It starts with the servers coming over and starting the conversation with the greeting, then getting very interactive, getting the diners involved in the experience,” says Haley. “These days, people are in their phones all the time, and we really want to get people to look up and interact with each other. And food is really what brings people together at the end of the day. That’s our whole model—extending a seat at our family table.”
But after Five on Vine opens, the Siteks plan to take a break…right? (Spoiler alert: probably not.) “There’s really no end in sight as far as we’re concerned,” Haley says. “As long as the opportunities are there for Cincinnati—and they will be.”
“I definitely see Cincinnati keep growing,” Anthony adds. “I don’t know why it would stop.”