For the past 14 years, Ria Pell has had her eye on the building on the corner of Edgewood and Waddell Streets in Inman Park. With its jauntily angled plate windows and geometric midcentury modern lines, it looked just a bit — if you squint — like a vintage piano store or maybe the Jetsons’ rec room.
About a year ago she took the lease over from its former tenant, 11:11 Teahouse, and on Christmas night opened Sauced restaurant as a gift to all the retro design buffs in the city.
The Look: With its glossy black naugahyde booths and incandescent light emanating from vintage lamps, Sauced gives off a vibe that at once brings to mind Graceland, that gloriously divey tavern your friend took you to in Philadelphia, and the best finished basement on the street you grew up on.
“It was a ton of hands-on work with carpenters and metal workers,” says Pell of the build out. Woodworkers recycled the bar top from the building’s roof rafters, and the warm wooden paneling — so in line with the basement speakeasy theme — was already on the walls, buried under paint.
The Food: Pell, who has a following for her breakfasts at Ria’s Bluebird in Grant Park, brings a retro touch to the menu, as well.
“I wanted to do something that’s a little different and special and like me, but not an extension of eggs,” she says with a laugh.
Menu items include a Beef Wellington, though Pell’s version features braised short ribs rather than roasted tenderloin under its pastry crust.
Yet Pell also keeps her vegetarian clientele in mind with a number of veg-friendly items, including Southern dolmas made with collard greens instead of grape leaves. She also makes her own seitan — wheat-gluten protein — which she playfully calls “Nauga bone.”
“The name is kind of a shout out to the kalebone at Soul Vegetarian,” Pell says, “but also my play on the whole farm-to-table thing. There was so much naugahyde in the space, that this was my joke, my way of saying I’m using the whole animal.
Pell wasn’t prepared for the intensive process of making seitan.
“It’s a lot of work,” she sighs. “First you make a dough just like you’re making bread. Then you have to wash off the starch and finally boil it in vegetable stock. Those hippies have their work cut out for them!”
But Pell is thrilled with the results, which she both skewers and fries for an appetizer, and tosses into a creamy mushroom pasta dish.
“It comes out with that spongy, awesome texture,” she enthuses. “It’s just like a Swanson’s Salisbury steak!”
Know Before You Go: Sauced only accepts cash, but there’s an ATM on the premises. “It’s an interesting way not to have Visa suck you dry,” says Pell, who passes on the savings to her customers. “My fellow business owners are watching this and want very much for it to work.”