MacLeans buy Russo’s space; will expand Circus Café


Christel and Colin MacLean, the owners of Circus Café, have announced they have purchased the space adjacent to Circus Café, formerly known as Russo’s Restaurant. The new space is to be named The Crown Grill at Circus Café and will represent an expansion of Circus Café.

“The Crown Grill will be upscale casual, and will offer guests a separate and distinct dining experience from Circus Café,” said Colin MacLean. “While Circus has a fun, whimsical French Circus theme, The Crown Grill will have more of a Polo Ralph Lauren feel with rich fabrics, oriental rugs, decorative wall coverings, leather seating and ambient lighting.”

Although there will be some crossover between the Circus Café and The Crown Grill menus, each will have its own signature dishes. Instead of popcorn on the tables and the homemade cotton candy dessert found at Circus Cafe, The Crown Grill will serve flatbreads at the start of the meal and will be announcing its own special signature dessert. Lunch features at The Crown Grill will include gourmet farmstead grilled cheese sandwiches and a select short list of signature burgers, as well as creative salads, pastas and sandwiches. The dinner menu at The Crown Grill will focus on fine hand-cut steaks, roasted vegetable entrées, fresh seafood and a selection of handmade pasta dishes, among many other offerings. An extensive wine list composed of well-priced selections by the bottle and glass will be available. A lively bar with martinis, single-barrel bourbons and whiskeys will also be a focus.

In preparation for the expansion, the MacLeans hired Executive Chef Steve Kerzner, who most recently held the Chef de Cuisine position at Prime at Saratoga National. Prior to that, Kerzner was with 677 Prime, and Prime Bar and Grill, all part of Mazzone Hospitality.

Christel MacLean said, “Steve’s excellent culinary background, stellar training, terrific personality, and ability to connect with both the casual dining and upscale casual dining is remarkable. Steve is a great fit, and we are thrilled to have him with us.”

The MacLeans and Kerzner plan minor tweaks to the Circus Café menu as well, including the addition of new items that guests enjoyed as specials.

“This is something we do every year on at least a couple of occasions,” she added.

The two spaces will be accessible to one another via several openings, including an eight-foot-high arched pocket door in the rear of the restaurant, which will be opened for catering, large parties and special events.

“The concept of an expansion into an adjacent space that has its own identity and shared kitchen facilities is one that is tried and true, and offers guests and the restaurant increased flexibility and also cost efficiencies,” Christel MacLean said. “What is great in this case is that the Russo’s space has a very large, updated kitchen that is about three or four times the size of the kitchen on the Circus side.” She added, “We will likely use the Circus Café kitchen for prep, salads and homemade desserts; and also for the very busy nights in town like Victorian Street Walk, First Night, Hats Off and Final Stretch.”

It is anticipated that The Crown Grill will be open by May 1. The MacLeans said they were grateful to their landlord, Jim Hogan, who held the space from the time Russo’s closed in November until they wrapped up negotiations to purchase the majority shares of Circus Café and sell their shares in Sperry’s. That transaction was finalized last Wednesday. Key staff additions to Circus Café and The Crown Grill are: Ronnie Bever, general manager; Melissa Fantasia, director of media relations and graphic design; and Bart Stephens, operations manager. The Crown Grill will share the same hours as Circus Café, and will be open for lunch, dinner and late-night bar seven days a week. For more information about Circus Café, located at 392 Broadway, and The Crown Grill, located at 390 Broadway, please visit www.circuscafe.com or call 583-1106.



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