RGJ: Heritage in Whitney Peak to Become Roundabout Grill
By Johnathan L. Wright
Heritage Restaurant in Whitney Peak Hotel is reinventing itself — again.
The restaurant is being renamed Roundabout Grill in connection with a 10-year agreement the hotel recently entered into with Roundabout Catering to assume food and beverage operations for the downtown property.
In addition to Roundabout Grill, the agreement, announced May 16, covers room service and the renovated banquet and event space scheduled to debut this summer on Whitney Peak’s third floor. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
The restaurant will continue to operate as Heritage until Roundabout Grill receives its licenses; the new spot (including new creative comfort food menus) is expected to open by July.
Roundabout Grill marks the return of the Smiths to the restaurant business. From 2006 to 2010, they owned Roundabout Bistro and Roundabout Catering, closing the restaurant so they could concentrate on the catering side that just celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Overtures from Whitney Peak and the resulting agreement — worked out in only two weeks — proved fortuitous, the chef said.
“We had been looking for a space for some of our functions. We had also been looking for a restaurant for a couple of years now, a creative outlet because the catering was not scratching that itch,” Colin Smith said.
“When this hit, it felt so organic, so natural,” MaryBeth Smith continued. “It gives us a great place for a restaurant and for events.”
The latest change comes just six months after chef Ben Deinken assumed the helm of Heritage, instituting extensive menu changes that were well received, according to local culinary buzz. Deinken said he could not comment on the circumstances of his departure, but he acknowledged that Whitney Peak executives “let me be creative, and I’m really thankful for that.”
Deinken, whose last day with Whitney Peak is May 16, will become chef de cuisine on June 1 at West Shore Cafe and Inn, a well-regarded property in Homewood, Calif., on Lake Tahoe.
For the hotel’s part, Deinken’s departure came as something of a surprise, said Niki Gross, Whitney Peak’s managing director, but she praised what the chef accomplished at the restaurant in the six months he was there.
“We are 150 percent better than before he arrived,” she said.
Heritage has undergone several tweakings and reworkings since opening in 2014. This latest change, Gross emphasized, is something more substantial.
“This is a 100 percent new product, a totally new product. Colin and MaryBeth, it’s going to be their restaurant, and we are going to collaborate on branding. This ended up being a really good synergy.”
Over the next six weeks, Colin Smith said he would begin “building the team, putting in place certain functions, evaluating what works and what doesn’t, figuring out what to do to make this a profitable endeavor.”
Smith added he would continue to create and oversee the catering menus originating in Roundabout Catering’s main offices in Sparks.
Christian Flores, who has been with the Smiths for nearly a decade, will run the kitchen day-to-day at Roundabout Grill, “but I intend to be fully immersed in the restaurant for a long time,” Colin Smith said.
The question now, as it has been before at one of Reno’s most watched (and most beautiful) dining spaces, is this: Will the latest incarnation take?