Steve Gaudreau, owner of Dempsey’s Burger Pub locations in Lawrence and two other cities, recently completed a deal that will bring the restaurant concept to Westport in Kansas City.
Gaudreau drew inspiration for the original Dempsey’s concept from Ernesto Peralta, founder of Blanc Burger. Gaudreau respected how Blanc was “the first in the Midwest to do upscale burgers.”
“I’m a fan of Blanc and sat down to talk with Ernesto,” says Gaudreau.
Peralta mentioned that he wanted to sell the Westport Blanc space. Gaudreau pounced on the opportunity to expand into the thriving entertainment and dining district. Dempsey’s will take over the space formerly occupied by Blanc Burger (4120 Pennsylvania Ave.). Gaudreau will buy assets from Blanc, assume the lease and begin light renovation. He anticipates opening later this summer, pending approval of Missouri liquor licenses, but hesitates to announce a firm date.
Gaudreau opened Dempsey’s Irish Pub in 2008 in Lawrence. He later introduced an upscale burger menu to the business and changed the name in 2011 to reflect its new focus. Gaudreau opened the Lincoln location in 2013 and another in Wichita a year later.
Dempsey’s distinguishes itself from other gourmet burger-driven restaurants in a few ways. First, the Irish pub’s atmosphere and operations are as equally important as the burger side of the business. Second, Gaudreau emphasizes quality ingredients without sacrificing value in order to reach a broad audience.
“We bring a fine dining concept to create burgers at a reasonable price point,” Gaudreau says. “People that enjoy food know the difference. A small percentage of the population understands.”
The burgers and other menu items are also cost-effective for customers that care more about value than foofoo ingredients and trimmings. In fact, the plain burger on the menu is the best-seller. To distinguish his business and menu, Gaudreau chose to work with a trained chef that could help develop a from-scratch menu and produce high-quality food. Gaudreau hired Chef Matt Lawson, who worked with Wolfgang Puck, to beef up the initial menu concept for the local chain.
“Matt oversees all of the kitchen operations,” Gaudreau says. “We do nearly everything from scratch.”
Burgers are made with 100-percent chuck. They’re cooked on a flat griddle versus charcoal grill so the meat cooks in its own juices. Whole salmon is brought in, skinned and boned to make salmon burger patties at Dempsey’s. Farm to Market supplies the bread. The pub’s kitchen makes its ketchup, mustard, hand-cut fries and other dishes in house.
“We don’t use preservatives,” says Gaudreau. “When you eat a seven-ounce gourmet burger at other places, you finish feeling full and bloated. That doesn’t happen when the ingredients at farm fresh and made from scratch.”
Dempsey’s will offer several Kobe beef burgers including a rotating weekly special. The Hot Hawaiian Kobe comes with pineapple jalapeno chutney, applewood bacon, bibb lettuce, and spicy sriracha aioli on a pretzel bun. The Westport location will also offer an expanded roster of salads and appetizers and feature homemade desserts. Gaudreau is also leaning toward offering weekend brunch.
The Westport venue will have a slightly different pub feel and larger footprint than its sister locations. Gaudreau says that he will update the restaurant’s decor template that dates back to 2011 trends. Other Dempsey’s locations use reclaimed wood, exposed pipes and other features now common to similar establishments.
Gaudreau only hints that he’s “trying to tweak the model” and design a look for the next generation of upscale casual restaurants. He says, “I’ll add new things to update the look.”
Meanwhile, Gaudreau is excited to open a Dempsey’s Burger Pub location in Westport.
“I’ve been in the Kansas City area since 1991,” he says. “I’ve seen Westport go through many changes. It’s vibrant. You couldn’t ask for a better demographic of 25-35 year-olds that want to spend money on quality rather than cheap beer. There are a strong group of businesses already in Westport. That will only help to bring in more people.”[Images via Facebook: Dempsey’s]