by Chelsea Alward
The first week of December is the hopeful goal for Alice’s Champagne Palace to reopen its doors, complete with a brand new menu, fresh paint and a variety of 16 beers on tap. Since closing on the building midsummer, owners Todd Boling and Matt North, have been working tirelessly to bring the beloved venue back to life.
“The details create the experience,” said North. “We’re not reinventing the wheel and making everything new, we’re just giving a little love to the old stuff.”
The historical building remains structurally the same, but North and Boling — alongside head chef Ryan Lee — have spent hours sanding, painting and cleaning the eatery from the ground up. Significant changes include a complete remodel of the kitchen and bathrooms.
“I think that everything together will be very noticeable,” Lee said. “There was an atmosphere here; people liked to be here. My feeling is, make good food and they will come.”
A new focus on fresh local ingredients is a key difference faithful patrons can look for upon the reopening of the establishment.
“That’s really going to be the pride and joy of this place – the food,” North said. “The beer is the easy part.”
Lee has been in the food business for more than 20 years.
“I’ve been a chef my whole life: A private chef, a caterer, an executive chef,” said Lee. “In Homer, most of my cooking has been at sea.”
Lee worked six years as a research vessel cook, as well as helping Two Sisters begin their evening restaurant. Now, he says, Alice’s is where he will stay.
“This is my complete focus now,” he said. “Alice’s is my new baby. As well as, I also have a baby on the way. That was a big deciding factor in staying in Homer year-round. I wasn’t going to miss a second of that.”
Fully invested in providing fresh and healthy food, Lee says there will be no mozzarella sticks from a bag, or jalapeno poppers or corn dogs from a box.
“It won’t be your typical out-of-the-box-and-into-the-fryer food,” he said. “It will be wholesome and tasty, and showcase as much local food as we can.”
Despite rumors about what the menu will look like, offerings will include both vegan and vegetarian options, as well as carnivorous meals. Alice’s plans to use “local vendors almost entirely,” with nationwide vendors utilized only for certain items needed because of availability limitations or cost.
Patrons can expect specialty items such as root beer made in-house, and and international favorites that aren’t found elsewhere.
“We want to do things that aren’t your standard appetizers,” North said. “Ryan (Lee) has a great eye for fun things to try, and Todd and I have traveled quite a bit. I want to try to offer things I have had in other places.”
North recalled having tried french fries and mussels while in Belgium and how popular the appetizer was.
“Those things are just fun, and where can you get those kind of things?” he asked. “No where (here) that I’ve seen. And we can do that here.”
Lee said a local focus is not only about supporting the local community, but also about knowing more about what we eat.
“If I don’t agree with how it was cultivated and harvested, then I don’t want to support it,” Lee explained. “It’s really important to know where your food comes from and to get to know what it takes. Everything we can possibly do from scratch, we’re going to do from scratch; nothing artificial, no preservatives, no stabilizers.”
Both Lee and North said these views are key in laying the food foundation for the restaurant.
“Those are the kinds of things we want to offer to try to be as local and as mindful of the environment and the community as we can,” Lee said.
As far as entertainment is concerned, North said there will be music and dancing every Friday and Saturday.
“We heard loud and clear when Todd put a poll out on Facebook, that people feel Alice’s is ‘Homer’s Living Room,’ and we want this to be just that,” North said. “Whether it’s football on Sunday or bands on Friday and Saturday, as much as the town supports it, we’re going to give them what they want.”
North said dancing was an overwhelming response to the survey.
“We heard that loud and clear,” he said. “So we’ll bring bands in, and if people have an idea, just come by or send us a message on Facebook.”
Lee said that by providing good food and music, along with a safe and clean environment, all elements walk hand-in-hand to create the experience Homer residents are eagerly waiting to enjoy.
Though customers can expect prices to be a little higher, Lee says the quality will reflect the difference.
“With increasing the quality, it takes more time and it takes more people,” he said. “To make our soups, breads and homemade fresh dessert everyday, there is a lot of preparation involved. The quality will be absolutely worth it.”
As anticipation grows for Alice’s to once again come to life, North and Lee expressed equal excitement about local interest.
“There is a buzz, and I think that’s great,” Lee said. “It’s been closed for a long time, and there was a buzz about what was going to happen with it last winter, when nothing was even happening with it.”
North recalled the emotional reaction of faithful patrons when dirt was being leveled in the parking lot.
“People were almost crying and thinking, ‘they’re going to tear down Alice’s!’”
But rest assured, Alice’s will be up and running in no time.
“We want it to be a fun experience, coming in here,” North said. “If people want to come in a try some neat things, try a couple of beers, have fun with their friends in a safe clean environment, we want to offer that.”
Boling was out-of-town during the interview, but shared in the excitement over a phone interview.
“I think we are hoping to recreate what, for Alice’s, was a long history,” Boling said. “A venue for entertainment; ‘Homers living room’. We want it to be a community center, a hub. The food is going to be fabulous and it’s going to be really fun.”
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