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Denise Lane’s latest restaurant concept is something she has been thinking about for the past two years or so and it has an autobiographical twist to it.
“I was raised in Louisiana and the south,” Lane said. “I had a French grandmother, who had a real French influence when it came to food. And I also had a grandmother who grew up on a riverboat and she really knew how to have fun and had quite the New Orleans Cajun influence.”
Lane envisions “Dixie Girl,” which is scheduled to open for lunch in late May in the space formerly occupied by the Central Avenue Grill, to have that kind of influence.
“I see it having some wonderful French influences and also have an atmosphere of fun and frivolity — kind of like the French Quarter. The food is going to be great and the price is going to be reasonable.
“People can come in and be casual and get a drink at the bar and have an appetizer or people can come in have a four-course meal. People can spend $12 or $40 and have a great experience. Los Alamos has always needed a place for people to socialize,” she said.
Over the years, Lane has compiled two binders of recipes and she will work with her chef Greg Hoch to refine the menu.
Lane already has been in contact with the Seattle Fish Company that makes three flights weekly to Albuquerque.
“They fly in fish three days a week, two from the West Coast and once from the East Coast,” Lane said. “The fish then is on a truck to Los Alamos within an hour of the flight arriving.”
The menu will depend on what kind of fish they get and “will change daily,” Lane said.
Other staples on the menu will include soft-shell crabs, oysters, clams and mussels along with various types of seafood.
Lane also said the bar will run full-length with a big, flat screen TV on the wall.
When asked how big the television would be, Lane said, “Probably a 72-inch flat screen.”
When the bar opens, “there will be a lot of innovative and interesting cocktails as well as a separate bar menu. We will serve some good drinks at a reasonable price,” she said.
Lane has compiled a local team to run her restaurant.
Two of the managers will be her two adult children. Jake is a Realtor in Santa Fe and Caitlin is a manager at the Hill Diner, the other restaurant in town owned by Lane.
“I’m excited for the community,” Jake said. “The town is dying for a place like this that is fresh and new.”
Caitlin said, “I am so excited and I can’t wait. I can’t get this kind of experience anywhere else. I am 23 and I can help my mom run the restaurant. It will give me experience so one of these days I can open one on my own.”
Other members of Lane’s team are local architect Steve Shaw, local builder Trevor Orr and local designer Cheryl Sowder of The Finishing Touch in Los Alamos.
In addition, Lane said there is a long list of people who have inquired about working at the restaurant including those that used to work at Central Avenue Grill.
“We met the landlord earlier this week and he could not believe how local of a team we have,” Lane said. “Everybody is a really excited and there is a lot of positive energy.”
Now, that positive energy is being directed to get the restaurant ready for a “soft” opening in May. Lane said they will open for lunch, but no alcohol will be served.
She said it usually takes about 100 days to get the liquor license. Since she took over the lease April 9, it will not be until July when full-bar and dinner service will be available.
There will be 40-50 bar seats and 100 dining seats.
“The dining room will be more intimate and romantic, with some big cozy chairs,” Lane said. “You can come in and choose your experience. You can sit at the bar or go to the dining room.”
There also will be outside seating and a permanent overhang that will have a heater so people can sit outside even in the late fall and early spring.
The restaurant is now in the middle of a complete renovation. The floors are torn up, walls are getting knocked down and light fixtures are being removed.
But Lane also other plans.
The bar in the back of the former Central Avenue Grill will be used as a private dining facility, which can be rented out for special occasions.
And in the space behind that, Lane is planning on installing a gourmet store where people can pick up various bistro items as well as woodstove-baked pizza and wine.
“On their way home from work, people will be able to come in and pick up a nice gourmet meal for their family at a reasonable price,” she said.
Lane said they also will work with Ruby Ks on various aspects of the restaurant.
“We are totally going to renovate that hallway and make it much more fun and lively,” she said. “Ruby Ks said it was going to put in a window so people can see them at work in the kitchen.”
But for now, work has begun to transform the restaurant to Lane’s vision — “Dixie Girl.”
“We are going to have an eclectic menu,” she said. “The menu will change daily, weekly and seasonally. It’s going to be the place to be in Los Alamos.”