Restaurant profile: Balefire Brasserie

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Chefs for 16 years in Louisville, Kentucky, owners Todd Gatterdam and Angie Viebarth moved to St. Augustine in search of a smaller, quaint town on the coast to open their first restaurant and raise their now 2-year-old son.

Gatterdam, 37, and Viebarth, 30, along with their chef Anthony Massingill bring varied backgrounds to the kitchen, resulting in an eclectic rotating menu. Massingill’s Latin and Italian cooking roots with Gatterdam’s French-American mindset make for a unique take on what Gatterdam calls “New American Cuisine.”

They take their name, though, from local influences. Balefire refers to the guiding bonfires fishermen would burn to safely guide ships to shore before the lighthouse was built.

The casual fine-dining restaurant, located on Anastasia Island, seats 45 in the dining room and 24 on the patio. An 18-foot bar provides additional seating for eight guests.

Balefire Brasserie is open for dinner only, and though the restaurant doesn’t have a special kid’s menu, it does serve kid’s fare upon request.

Gatterdam said their signature Kentucky Hot Brown, an open faced turkey sandwich with thick cut bacon and mornay sauce, has been the biggest hit since opening July 1, 2015. But visitors can find anything from a pork sandwich to steaks, salmon and pork chops on a small, ever-changing dinner menu.

Beer is also on the menu as is wine with light white selections from Germany, Italy, Portugal and South Africa. California wine offerings include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sirah and a number of red blends.

For Gatterdam and Viebarth, food has always been about friends and family, and with Balefire, they just want to bring people together to enjoy great food, while adding to the community that has supported them so far by sourcing local as much as possible.

How would you describe the restaurant’s atmosphere?

Upscale casual. We have dark, woody paneling on the inside. It’s small, but bigger than it looks from the outside. There’s no dress code, you can come in your bathing suit or a suit and tie, it’s very laid back.

What is your food philosophy?

Food has always been about friends and family, and we just want to bring people together to enjoy great food. We’re big on recycling the community dollar, even down to our coffee, which we get from Grower’s Alliance down the street. We shop for produce at the Amphitheatre Farmer’s Market and buy microgreens from Microgreens of St. Augustine.

What type of cuisine do you specialize in?

New American cuisine. “We can do the best version of any dish,” Gatterdam says.

What is your signature dish?

People are really enjoying the Hot Brown, an open-faced turkey sandwich on sourdough with mornay sauce and thick cut bacon.

What would you recommend for a first timer?

Anything. We have a pulled pork sandwich, steaks, a pork chop, fish and chips, salmon, and more, plus appetizers and rotating soups.