For the past few months, two Roanoke couples have been sneaking around the former Lipes Pharmacy building in South Roanoke, unwilling to divulge what’s going on behind those brown-papered windows.
Now, Whit and Lauren Ellerman, and Lee and Karri Atwood are ready to let me unload their secret: They’re opening a restaurant in the venerable Crystal Spring space, and they’ve hired Aaron Deal, a 29-year-old executive chef with a 4-diamond restaurant rating and a James Beard award nomination under his toque.
Keeping the project under wraps has been difficult at times, they said, especially considering the number of curious folks who pass through South Roanoke Village every day.
“We’ve had lots of occasions of standing outside, sort of whistling and then darting in,” Whit Ellerman said.
But the owners are confident that their surreptitious behavior will be worth it when The River and Rail opens about spring 2012.
“This is an idea that came out of a lot of conversations,” Whit Ellerman said, “but also because of shared values.”
Check out Aaron Deal’s recipe for Autumn Sunchoke Au Gratin here.