In 2003, Kevin Nashan had just moved his family back to St. Louis with plans of opening a restaurant from the ground up. Then he was approached by the McKinley family, who wanted to sell Sidney Street Cafe to someone who would be a steward of their beloved restaurant. It was a gamble for Nashan — in some ways, more so than starting a place from scratch. Sidney Street already had an established clientele and a reputation locally as the place to grab a well-cooked steak or a lobster turnover. It wasn’t exactly the type of cuisine Nashan wanted to do, but he couldn’t overhaul the concept too quickly or he’d risk losing customers. Instead, Nashan instituted gradual changes — some specials here, a tasting menu there — and eventually gained the trust of his patrons, challenging them to rethink what it means to eat a great meal. Fast forward to 2016. In just over a decade, Nashan has transformed this former meat-and-potatoes spot into a bastion of contemporary cuisine and earned a few James Beard Award nods along the way. There’s no question that the boom in the town’s restaurant scene coincides with his purchase of Sidney Street. If you ask any chef in town, even the biggest names, they’ll tell you it all leads back to Nashan. His move may have been a gamble, but it’s resulted in a full house. RFT photo.