Local House Bistro now open in Wildwood

When Tim Huelskamp was looking for an area to open a second location of his popular restaurant, The Local House Restaurant & Bar, he had a few important details in mind. He wanted it to be in an area that was not already saturated with restaurants. He wanted it to fill a need for the neighborhood. And he hoped to find a relatively turnkey space.

Now that his sophomore effort, The Local House Bistro (16524 Manchester) is open in Wildwood, though, he understands the biggest key to success. “The community,” says Huelskamp. “The people in this community have been absolutely amazing. Everybody has been so nice… They really want us to succeed. I’ve already had people tell me they are regulars, and they’re right—I’ve seen them five or six of the eight days we’ve been open. The support this community has given us has been overwhelming. We are very fortunate for that.”

The new restaurant, which opened May 1, is located at the intersection of Manchester Road and Highway 100, in the former Craft space. Here’s what to know before you go.

The Concept

Huelskamp describes The Local House Bistro similar to how he summarizes its sister restaurant in Arnold: a neighborhood restaurant with elevated takes on American and Italian classics; a solid bar; and a welcoming, comfortable, family-friendly atmosphere.

“We’re not a loud sports bar; we have coloring pages for kids and want to see families in these seats,” says Huelskamp. “Our patio will be covered this summer, and we will have televisions and ceiling fans out there. We have live music every Friday and Saturday and are going to add trivia next week. We’re just trying to be a local gathering place where everybody can come—the place where you can go when you don’t feel like cooking after a long day but you still want to have a good meal that’s not going to break you.”

The space evokes that vision, outfitted in black and pale yellow paint, as well as exposed brick. The restaurant is filled with wooden tables and black leather upholstered chairs. The space is divided into two rooms. To the right of the entry vestibule is the bar, filled with high-top tables and a few black leather booths. A long, angled bar provides additional seating. TVs are visible from every seat in the bar area and always tuned to popular sporting events. This aesthetic carries over into the dining room, which receives good natural light from a wall of windows. Guests can also choose to dine on the front patio, which will soon have additional features, including a TVs, fans, and landscaping.

The Menu

To execute his vision for approachable yet elevated fare, Huelskamp enlisted the help of industry veteran Heather Roberts, whose resume includes culinary school at Escoffier Culinary School in Boulder, Colorado, private events for high-profile clients, concepts in Minnesota and New York, as well as The Walt Disney Company, where she worked as corporate executive sous chef over the Orlando parks. (Roberts sold 15 of her original recipes to Disney, 12 of which are still being used by the company worldwide.)

After returning to St. Louis a few years ago to care for an ailing family member, Roberts landed at Eclipse Restaurant at the Moonrise Hotel before joining the Local House team a few months ago. “The reason I love this company is that Tim is the most hands-on manager I have ever worked with,” says Roberts. “When we are busy, he is the first person to jump on the line and help us out. You don’t see that a lot. Having that support here is amazing.”

Roberts, sous chef Travis Severtson, and the rest of the culinary team run a mostly scratch kitchen that turns out a large menu of well-executed Italian and American favorites. Spinach artichoke dip, for instance, is not simply a delicious version of the classic appetizer but is elevated thanks to a lemon, paprika, and marinated artichoke garnish. A primavera pasta is an exceptional take on a classic, with mounds of assorted vegetables and fresh herbs tossed with lightly sauced al dente shell noodles.

A salmon entrée is equally impressive, glazed with a sweet bourbon sauce that Roberts notes is a secret Local House recipe. Another house specialty is the spiedega, a hybrid of chicken spiedini and chicken modega that features hunks of lightly breaded, tender chargrilled chicken smothered in cheese and a delectable white wine mushroom sauce. It’s proven to be one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.

Some of the best St. Louis–style pies in the area are also on the menu. Roberts sources her shells from a purveyor on The Hill. The thin crust comes out perfectly crisped around the edges and across the bottom, so it can support hefty toppings, which is helpful for the restaurant’s Local Pizza (a version of a supreme, covered in locally sourced sausage, pepperoni, bacon, mushrooms, and green peppers).

“We try to make as much in house as possible so that it gives our food an identity,” says Huelskamp.

Huelskamp is also proud of the restaurant’s cocktails, which include several riffs on the mule. A basil strawberry version is particularly popular. He also touts the Local Beer, a shot glass–size beer mug filled with the sweet Spanish liqueur Licor 43 and topped with heavy whipping cream. The owner has been known to walk around the dining room and bar on weekend nights, handing out the drink as a way to create a festive atmosphere.

The Backstory

An entrepreneur at heart, Huelskamp started his career on the food distribution side of the business. He launched his own company at age 19. When he was 31, he took a corporate job at Mastercard, where he worked his way up to a vice-president role before leaving last November to step out on his own again.

Huelskamp was not set on a particular industry; he was simply looking to own a scalable business and was open to a variety of fields. When he came across the opportunity to buy The Local House Restaurant & Bar in Arnold, however, he realized that he had found something special. “Before I bought it, I went in to have the food and saw a line of people standing out the door,” says Huelskamp. “The food was so good, I kept ordering more. I came back for five more items with five different groups, and we couldn’t find anything we didn’t like. This was so important to me, because if I was going to own it, it had to be good.”

Huelskamp bought the Arnold restaurant last November, with an eye to expand the concept beyond its original location. Now, with the new Wildwood spot, he can’t wait for his new neighbors to see what the buzz has been all about in Arnold during the past decade.

“We want people to come in and try us out,” says Huelskamp. “I think if they do, they will be back.”

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