Sage, a soul food fusion restaurant, will open in the old Oshi space at 94 S. Main in the next few weeks
Eli Townsend in front of his upcoming restaurant, Sage
Eli Townsend, who's worked with Kaleidoscope Kitchen and Caritas Village, hooked up with some investors who were interested in something different Downtown.
Townsend says he's wanted to open a restaurant for a couple years now, but the partnership with the unnamed investors gives him creative freedom.
His work with Kaleidoscope inspired the fusion idea. His students are mostly immigrants and refugees. He says they taught him as well.
Sage will start off with a menu of Asian-soul fare. We're talking fried green tomatoes with a kim chi salad, cauliflower rice, and "soulful" Bento Boxes for lunch with a side salad, Teriyaki meatloaf, and sautéed bok choy.
Townsend says his cooking journey started in Frayser at the Bookmobile. He gravitated toward the cookbooks and spent his allowance at thrift stores on pots and pans. His first meal, at 8, was fried chicken and spaghetti. "I wanted to help my mom," he says. "It was a disaster." His mother was unhappy because he was ruining food, but after a while she recognized his enthusiasm and started to teach him things.
He chose Sage as the name of his restaurant to represent both the herb used in cooking and the idea of sage as a way to revigorate a space. He wants to cleanse the atmosphere, create a neutral space that's open to positive vibes and energy.
"You won't think of Oshi when you walk in," he says. The new restaurant will still have the bar in the back, but a long family-style table has replaced the booths.
As far as luring people into Sage, he says, the plan is to "really focus on stellar service and great food."
After Asian-Soul, Townsend will change up the menu. He plans on Sudanese- and Syrian-Soul fusion.
"It's a voyage around the world," he says.