Rumplings Slurp Shop steamed its last noodle bowls this weekend after partners Dustin Staggers and Griffin Paulin closed the restaurant after a seven-month run.
Dustin Staggers, chef and co-owner of Roux, and partner in Rumplings, will team up with Eric Morris to open Epic Sammich Co.
Morris, who last served as chef at the recently closed Loop 22, will operate Epic, which will specialize in creative, piled high, New York deli-style sandwiches.
Though Rumplings’ closure surprised some, Staggers said he and Paulin knew its end was near for some time. He said Rumplings “did make some money, but it was not the smash we thought it would be.”
What surprised both, he added, was the fact that the ample talk among Louisvillians about the need for a noodle shop in town didn’t equate to true desire of one.
“What people say they long for and what they go spend their money on aren’t necessarily the same thing every time,” Staggers said. “Ideally, we thought Rumplings would be a monster success and we’d open another place somewhere else in the city.”
Louisville.com first reported on Rumplings’ closure in a post Monday afternoon.
Rumplings was red hot when it opened late last year. Lines routinely snaked out the door to the sidewalk at 2900 Highland Ave. But as business leveled off, Staggers said the labor-intense concept’s legs weakened.
Acknowledging that “hot summer weather isn’t always the time everybody craves a steaming dish of noodles, we decided to make a change to another concept, which is always what we thought we could do with this place.”
Staggers said that when the former Baby D’s Bagels location became available in 2014, he envisioned the space as a proving ground and “incubator” for other restaurant ideas. He said the location’s modest size and flexible set up allowed for experimentation and easy change when necessary. Ideally, successful concepts would be duplicated elsewhere, and a new concept would open at the site.
“It’s a perfect location for that because the building is small and the rent conducive to playing with ideas,” Staggers said, adding that Rumplings may reappear in the future at another site. “Since Rumplings wasn’t a smash, the plan became to move something else into it. Still, it might happen again.”
Both Staggers and Paulin said the two parted on good terms and, per usual, they worked their usual Monday night Ten Tables gig together with Morris and Roux chef Ethan Ray.
“I love Griffin,” Staggers said. “He’s one of my best friends on Earth.”
Through Facebook, Paulin said he’s already fielding job offers and that his post-Rumplings rest period “won’t last long.”
The timing of Epic Sammich’s opening was good for Morris, who said recently he’d declined offers for a pair of chef positions to partner with Staggers.
“I’m definitely glad I waited this out to join up with the Roux guys,” Morris said. “This will definitely be the right fit. Dustin and I cook very similarly, and that is what will make this concept fun.”
According to Morris, the two have their work cut out for them to meet Staggers’ aggressive June 16 opening goal. The menu has yet to be finalized, and Morris is scrambling to source specialty proteins and bread for the concept.
He’s knows the kimchi Reuben and hot chicken he served at Loop 22 will be on the menu, and a namesake Epic Sammich, a Southern-fried play on the New Orleans po’ boy, is certain, too.
“It’s going to be made up of fried, crispy chicken livers with a sauce of horseradish honey mustard,” Morris said. “We’re also testing a Cordon Bluegrass sandwich” that’ll feature multiple cheeses and a fried egg.
Staggers called himself a “sandwich fanatic” on all levels, loving equally simple set-ups of cheese and bologna as much as classics like the Philly cheesesteak.
“I love going to Morris’ Deli a couple of times a week and just getting a ham and cheese sandwich,” he said. “But I want to rework our sandwiches our way. You don’t have to change much to make them better.”
That means Epic’s BLT sandwich will use two types of Woodlands Pork bacon in addition to Benton’s smoked bacon. Its Cuban sandwich will be built on Cuban bread shipped from La Segunda Central Bakery in Ybor City, Fla. (near where he grew up in Tampa), and po’ boy bread will come from Leidenheimer Baking Co. in New Orleans.
“That bread is what makes a Cuban sandwich, but what I think isn’t great about most Cuban sandwiches is the ham,” he said. Woodlands Back Bacon will replace the ordinary boiled ham in the recipe. “We want people to notice little touches like broccoli rabe, fried kale, Grateful Greens and smoked mozzarella curds on our sandwiches. And for great sandwiches, you get the right bread, not a Pepperidge Farm roll.”
As fond as he is of Morris’ Deli prices, Staggers said Epic’s will be higher.
“But the sandwiches will be much larger — as in expect to take some home larger,” he said. “When you get a great sandwich in a deli in New York, you look at it and think, ‘No way I’m eating all that!’ Ours will be that big, that good and that different.”