For four years, La Bête has been serving its patrons “food that we like to eat without pretense or limitations.”
That food “without pretense” has included perfectly seasoned falafel, tender-yet-firm agnoletti, and one of the best Mexican brunch dishes in town.
But, alas, those days are coming to an end.
La Bête, or “the beast,” has finally devoured its chef and owner, Aleks Dimitrijevic. Last month, he announced on Facebook that he wanted a change and needed to do something more financially viable.
“There is nothing easy about running a restaurant,” he wrote. “Keeping track of all the variables involved can exhaust even the most hardened of the industry’s veterans, especially when variables change. So if the variables don’t add up to a positive after the first round, go back to your corner for a fresh breath, rethink your strategy, regroup, and come out swinging again.”
He says while La Bête certainly chomped away profits, and money factored into his decision-making process, it definitely wasn’t the only reason for the change.
“Deep down it’s also a more personal/spiritual/philosophical reason that I want to get away from that name,” Dimitrijevic wrote. “’The beast’ doesn’t need any more advertising than he already gets, not in this day and age anyway. Believe me, I feel better already just knowing that this little story is coming to an end.”
Don’t worry, though, Dimitrijevic hasn’t been completely defeated by La Bête: he’s just shutting it down so he can open a new restaurant with a different name, menu, and look.
“I am really excited about doing something new,” he wrote. “Turning over a new leaf, and starting the first chapter in a totally new book, with new characters and a fresh ass script.”
I got a chance to talk to him about his new “fresh ass script” as I ate that fabulous Mexican brunch I mentioned above.
“To really do the amount of change that I’d like to see happen, it’s just easier to start over,” Dimitrijevic said. “Way easier.”
That Dimitrijevic desires change didn’t surprise me after spending even a few minutes with him. He’s a ball of energy, uses great adjectives, talks with his hands, and is incredibly passionate about injustices he sees in the world. An artist, he not only is the Chef of the restaurant, but also does most of the design work himself, hand-building much of what you see.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with these tables,” he told me, fidgeting and looking around. “There’s a lot to do. It’s going to be a crazy time when I shut down and redo things. And I’ll basically do it by myself. I’m going to be doing a lot of tweaking aesthetically.”
So what will the new restaurant be?
“It’ll be like a throwback to the kitschy, classic American-Italian type stuff,” he said. “And BBQ worked into it. It’ll have a retro spin on a particular genre that I’ve been intrigued by. It was one of the things my grandfather really liked too, so it has a small family connection. The new name will be a nice umbrella for everything.”
Dimitrijevic wouldn’t tell me the new name or any particular dish, but he did mention a new hand-built smoker would be installed in the back of the restaurant. He also says the new restaurant will have a much more focused menu than the one at La Bête.
“It’s my fault this menu was so difficult because I don’t like to cook only one type of thing,” he said. “I like to cook everything under the sun. I’m a pretty well-trained international cook in general. I just like learning about all of those things. I don’t like to be bored. It’s hard for me to focus.”
Luckily, the new, focused menu will still include some old favorites from La Bête.
“The burgers and rinds aren’t going anywhere,” he said. “Nor is the mousse. A lot of people have been worried about that!”
Towards the end of the interview, Dimitrijevic admitted one more reason why he knew he needed to shut down La Bête, and focus less on the beast.
“I realize, I guess, I need to have some kind of a life,” he said. “I work 70, sometimes 90 hours a week. It’s too much. I know this, so I need to make a change. I need something easier to manage.”
If you want one, final meal at La Bête, you need to hurry. Dimitrijevic is closing the doors on August 16th. The new restaurant will likely open toward the end of October.
1802 Bellevue Ave