no ordinary rabbit photo courtesy of google maps

No Ordinary Rabbit opening in former Nixta space in Botanical Heights in late summer 2024

No Ordinary Rabbit, a restaurant and wine and cocktail bar, is set to open at 1621 Tower Grove Ave. in Botanical Heights by Sept. 1 in the former home of Ben Poremba’s Nixta, a distinct and whimsical “tiled” building a few paces from Union Loafers Cafe & Bread Bakery.

Steve Gontram, owner of 5 Star Burgers in Clayton, is partnering with 5 Star general manager David Zitko, who will be a co-owner of this new venture. It’s a good partnership as, in addition to his management skills, Zitko happens to have a dextrous wrist with a cocktail shaker. “Steve seems to think I’m a whiz, but I’m not so sure I am,” said Zitko, who then went on to describe what sounded like whizzardry to us. "It’s fun to put things in front of people that challenge their preferences,” he said, and cited as evidence a delightfully motley drink called, yes, No Ordinary Rabbit, which marries a mesquited single malt with green chartreuse, marshmallow syrup and a chocolate liqueur. While this fancy bev was previously a seasonal offering at 5 Star (and is the origin of the new restaurant’s name), it will body-double to Botanical Heights as soon as it possibly can. Another drink formerly available at 5 Star uses gochujang, Zitko seemed to suggest he may – in the new location – get a little frisky with spicy Mediterranean things like bamba. (Whizzardry, indeed).

As for wine, Zitko and Gontram are favoring a smallish program which will swing pretty evenly between reds and whites, and won’t focus on any particular region. They plan, as well, to include kegged wine on tap. “I like the idea. You can keep it fresher for longer. And I want to play around with wine in cocktails,” Zitko said.

Although Gontram is an accomplished chef, he will not be running this kitchen. A head chef has yet to be secured, and the menu has still to be fully conceived. Gontram said he hopes dishes will be designed and ready for testing by the beginning of August. “Chef-driven, shareable Mediterranean plates, thoughtfully and artfully prepared,” Zitko said.

The new digs, between Union Loafers and Running Niche running store, were left vacant when late last year restaurateur Ben Poremba closed his modern Mexican eatery, which is soon relocating to the Delmar Maker District. The question on our lips is: What will Gontram and Zitko do with this exterior, mock-tiled in Nixta’s signature coral and ocean blue? “Easy. It’s not paint; it’s wrap. We’ll just pull it off,” Zitko said.

Interior designer Michelle Krauss, who had a key hand in 5 Star, as well as Gontram’s former restaurants – Harvest, Tejas and two other 5 Star Burger locations – is working with this main spec: casual elegance. For now, they’re all leaning yellows and greens. “We want to provide a place that’s comfy and fun. Quality service, excellent food and drink, and some nice surprises,” Zitko said.

The 2,200-square-foot space will seat 60 to 70 people inside (including the bar), with 20 more on the patio out front. The restaurant will likely open at 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The full menu will be available until 10 p.m., with a more limited selection served until midnight.