Open Society Public House
Best New Restaurants 2017 winner
At a time when artistically uncompromising chefs can find themselves niche-marketed right out of business, Open Society owner Brian Baker refuses to make that mistake. The business school grad and restaurant industry jack-of-all-trades proudly declares his desire to be all things to all people.
Open Society buzzes with coffee lovers and telecommuters on laptops in the morning, business lunchers and athleisure disciples midday, and fashionable plate sharers in the evening. When Baker tosses out phrases like “capitalize on every daypart,” he means it. It’s the rare operation that can make a showstopping espresso drink in the morning, and then provide an alluring date-night backdrop for bone-in ribeye steaks and craft cocktails.
Picking a place for group meals these days often entails thorny conversations about who’s avoiding what food group. Forget about that. Baker’s big-picture plan means everybody—carnivores, vegetarians, and the gluten-free brigade—gets what they want. “We hate saying no to a customer,” says Baker.
When the original chef, Tim Brater, left at the end of 2016, Baker and company didn’t miss a beat. They also didn’t hire a replacement. Instead, the management team, including Baker, opted to take on kitchen oversight themselves, spreading out the workload and redirecting the money. “Since we’re not paying for a chef, I’m able to pay my line cooks more. They’ve gone from having to worry about getting a second job, to having a full schedule at my restaurant.” The big test comes when the brand-new menu launches this spring under the revamped system.
There are plenty of restaurants out there following the rules of business, even as they churn out a mediocre product. Baker’s heart is in the food. After graduating from IU’s Kelley School of Business, he went to New York City and worked every odd job in the restaurant business, from line cook to general manager, in places ranging from a humble taco joint to a Michelin-starred Thai restaurant. So, yes. The use of rice flour in his batter may be a business decision, but the gluten-free waffles with fried chicken are legit.
4950 N. College Ave., 317-999-8706, opensocietyindy.com