Krazy Steve’s Comfort Cuisine will launch a weekend brunch buffet this Saturday and Sunday as a way to reboot the business after an admittedly difficult start, according to owner Stephen Adelson.
Adelson, aka Krazy Steve, talked this week about some of the issues that arose after taking over the space at 1909 Seminary Rd. that formerly housed Armand’s Chicago Pizzeria.
Adelson started the Carnivore BBQ food truck business in 2010. It has since has grown to four trucks. The restaurant, which opened in mid-June, brings his barbecue to a brick-and-mortar location, while continuing to offer hearth-baked thin crust and pan-style pizza as well.
“I felt it was important for us to get branded and that, as great as the food is on the food truck, you can’t beat having the product come right out of the smoker,” Adelson said.
“I also feel that the future of food trucks is really in doing catering and special events, and has kind of had its product life cycle,” he added. So he decided to move into a space that had been a long-established restaurant location.
“Armand’s was here forever, but they had a loyal following and reliable clientele,” he said, adding that he had hoped to hang on to most of the staff and add barbecue.
One of the first issues he faced was the need for 11 months of work on the interior to get it “in a position to where I would feel comfortable serving my family.”
That delay, he said, killed any momentum Krazy Steve’s might have had to open quickly and try to keep the Armand’s customer base.
Another issue is the shortage of parking in front of the restaurant (he has three designated spaces, as he shares the lot with the other businesses). That’s coupled with an apparent customer reluctance to use the public lot directly across the street (which is free on nights and weekends).
Adelson also said it was a mistake in the beginning to try to run the production and service process similarly to the food trucks, which actually slowed service. So he had to restructure how they served customers to speed it up. And he admits he was extremely picky about the whole process.
“I’m kind of like a Chef [Gordon] Ramsay with no credentials,” he said, referring to the notoriously difficult celebrity chef. “That works great when you’re a celebrity chef, but it doesn’t work in real life.”
In other words, he admitted his own management style caused difficulties in training and keeping good staff—which is tough enough in the restaurant industry.
“I don’t suffer fools gladly, and in this business, you really have to,” he said. “That also shot myself in the foot.”
Another change Adelson made was to trim the hours of service, closing Monday and Tuesday and eliminating lunches, which in that area is a tough sell anyway.
In the end, Adelson said he really wants to be a neighborhood joint. He referred nostalgically to a restaurant his family went to regularly when he was growing up in Washington, D.C. (the barbecue there “was horrible,” he said, but he has fond memories).
Later, he was introduced to real barbecue cooked over wood and it was a revelation to him.
Adelson holds an MBA degree from the Wharton School of Business, but the world of real estate development and finance “didn’t really speak to me.”
Food, he said, “was something that spoke to me, that meant something to me.”
He got his start in the food service business about 30 years ago, when Adelson brought H&H Bagels to the Washington area. He also opened Planet Bagel in Rockville, and opened a Peruvian chicken restaurant in Owings Mills, among other ventures.
He started to learn about barbecue and eventually found a high-end smoker on eBay and bought it, converting from an electric smoker (“I felt like I was cheating,” he said) to wood fired. He also opened a food stall in Hollins Market in Baltimore, where he had a chance to develop his barbecue chops on the new smoker.
As a way of promoting the restaurant, he provides food samples at the nearby Snider’s market.
(“That’s what local, independent businesses do to help build a strong community. It’s meant the world to me, and I am eternally grateful for their generosity,” he told the Source via text.)
Now this weekend’s launch will provide a way to kick-start the business and, he said, perhaps fill a niche left after the recent closing of Woodside Deli.
The buffet’s opening special price will be $9.09 (regularly $19.09). The menu will feature “real New York water bagels and down-home Southern cornbread.” There will be barbecue and its traditional side dishes, pulled pork hash, and made-to-order omelets, among other dishes, including a kid’s menu.
In addition to traditional pizzas, the brunch menu includes specialty pizzas such as white pizza with bacon and eggs, and one with house-smoked salmon and eggs.
The buffet will be available from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Regular restaurant hours are Wednesday-Thursday 4–8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4–9 p.m. and Sunday, 4–8 p.m.
Photo by Mike Diegel