By Sue Barry
It was a few days before the Log Cabin was to reopen under new management, and the excitement was palpable: after a four-month hiatus, Steve Painter was returning to the restaurant as the Executive Chef. The former proprietors were not able to secure a lease renewal in October 2016, after running the restaurant for six years.
Steve was actually the last chef under Charlie DiSantis, the owner of the Log Cabin when it closed in 2008, after 50+ years in business.
With the renovations near completion, Steve gave me a tour and explained what was changing at the Cabin and what was staying the same. He views both as positive moves for the business. Remember that baby grand piano that was in the bar room? It now resides in a dining room that was turned into a lounge. “Here is the speakeasy,” Steve says as he refers to the new lounge, likening it to the former Log Cabin days when the restaurant operated during the Prohibition. “It has a casual vibe,” he continues. Upholstered furniture and undressed table tops add to the comfy, laid-back atmosphere in the lounge. “We brought the bar back!” Steve exclaimed. Finishing touches were being made on the soapstone-topped horseshoe-shaped bar mimicking the size of the bar during the DiSantis days. In addition to a fully stocked bar and fine wine, Steve was very pleased that eight new draft beer taps have been added, featuring craft and domestic beers, the first time draft beer has been offered there.
The bartenders are sporting 1930s era attire and whipping up cocktails that were popular during Prohibition, like the Ward 8 with Bulleit rye whiskey, the Sidecar with cognac and Cointreau and the Delilah with gin, Cointreau, and champagne. All of the syrups and bitters for the cocktails are made in-house. USB ports and receptacles are easily accessed by patrons at the bar and there are two TVs for viewing. Small tables and high tops complete the bar area. In both the bar and the lounge, a bar menu and a mini-dessert menu are offered as well as the full menu.
The main dining room has been freshened up and has the familiar log walls and artwork hanging but, now it sports a wood burning fireplace. The Garden Room, which has been expanded and has more windows, opens up to a patio and is available for private functions as well as dining. The original booths, under which they stored the liquor during Prohibition, remain in the Booth Room, and pin lighting has been added. Throughout the Cabin, more beams have been exposed, flooring and lighting redone and fresh paint applied. A climate controlled wine locker is a new addition, where patrons can get a membership and store their own selections of wine for future dinners. The upstairs dining room and bar will be updated at a later time as will the Wine Cellar in the basement.
Diners will find the new menu to have many of the old standbys, such as tenderloin filet, dry-aged steaks, and double-cut lamb chops. “It’s still a steak and chop house,” Steve said, “but I’m bringing in a lot more fresh fish, like barramundi.” And he is serving the white, flaky fish with lump crab fondue, spring pea puree, roasted beets, shellfish Bordelaise, salmon caviar, pea tendrils, and wilted greens. “I like to do fun, creative things with fish,” he noted.
The new menu also features a raw bar with oysters, jumbo crabmeat and avocado salad, jumbo shrimp cocktail, and king crab legs. There is also, a lot more variety and at various price points. For the first time, there is a burger at the Cabin. There are a number of small plates and house-made charcuterie. “It is a seasonal, well-balanced menu,” Steve said. He understands current dining trends.
Steve was only at the Log Cabin for a brief period of time when DiSantas decided to close, and now he is back to carry on his dreams. Steve honed his skills in the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF) Apprenticeship Program. The ACF is the premier professional chef ’s organization in North America and it is the national accrediting commission for culinary education programs. After that, he spent six years at the sprawling luxury resort The Green Briar outside of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The much more intimate and exclusive Boca Grande Resort on Gasparilla Island in southwest Florida came calling next. After leaving the Log Cabin the first time, he spent time at the stoves of Bent Creek, Lancaster and Lebanon Country Clubs.
His inspiration to choose the culinary field as a profession started when he was a child. He grew up on a small farm where he canned vegetables and butchered livestock. His family had an orchard on their farm, too. He plans to bring herb and vegetable gardens and fruit trees to the Log Cabin property. Steve is currently raising a number of dwarf fruit trees at his home that he will relocate to the grounds. “I am really excited about what is going on here,” he said, and his excitement is contagious.