LIFE

Food + Drink, artisan pizzeria that closed in June, set to reopen for takeout

Food + Drink in Midtown Reno will reopen under new ownership but with the same menu favorites.
Evan Haddad
Reno Gazette Journal

A Midtown Reno eatery that abruptly shuttered in June is making a comeback — along with the same gooey desserts, artisan pizzas and social media shenanigans that locals grew to love during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Greg Buchheister of Reno-based coffee chain Coffeebar told the RGJ that he had acquired Food + Drink on St. Lawrence Avenue from Aaron Foster, who opened it just one month before the pandemic hit the Reno area. 

Food + Drink reopens for takeout on Thursday and will fully resume in-house dining in early September.

As part of the deal, Buchheister has hired Foster to train staff and maintain the company's unique social media presence that had helped Foster and his restaurant succeed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Aaron’s pies were hands-down the best in town,” Buchheister said. "I said this is too good to let it close." 

Buchheister said he had long thought about integrating pizza into Coffeebar, and even had a friend in Colorado build and deliver a pizza oven to his home, where he experimented with making pies from the dough Foster sold at Food + Drink. 

As a fellow restaurateur, Buchheister said he admired Foster's grit and creativity, which had helped the pizza man weather the economic fallout from the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Through Food + Drink's Facebook page, Foster maintained a social media presence that touched and amused locals during the pandemic. A serial entrepreneur and actor who once had his own HGTV series, Foster was a natural in front of the camera. 

In Buchheister's telling, a "culinary bromance" had begun. The two stayed in touch throughout the shutdown, sharing strategies and comparing notes about how their businesses were faring.

“I kept tabs on him and was really impressed,”  Buchheister said. “He did a really good job being super honest and raw.”

Greg Buchheister, owner of Reno-based coffee chain Coffeebar, has acquired Food + Drink on St. Lawrence Avenue from Aaron Foster.

Foster spent two years and most of his life savings trying to open Food + Drink before the pandemic forced him, practically overnight, to convert it into a take-out only operation. By late May 2021, it seemed that he had weathered the storm, surviving an economic downturn from which many restaurants never recovered. 

But while Foster had expressed frustration at being confined to the kitchen, away from the customers who devoured his pesto "Grasshopper" pizzas and gargantuan ice cream sandwiches, it still came as a shock when he announced Food + Drink's abrupt closure in late June. 

Foster was tight-lipped about the reasons behind the shuttering, though burnout and on-going staffing shortages across the restaurant industry were likely factors.  

"Just don't really know what I can tell you beyond just being very, very tired," Foster told the RGJ in a June interview. "I know that's likely an unsatisfying answer." 

Like many in town, Buchheister didn't want Food + Drink to disappear forever.

"I really just wanted to see his brand live on. He kinda got dealt a (bad) hand," Buchheister said. "When you’re so in the trenches, like I’ve been before, you can’t see a way out.”

Buchheister, a competition ski racer who grew up in Colorado, has indeed been in the trenches.

Aaron Foster will stay on at the reopened Food & Drink in Midtown Reno to train staff and maintain the eateries' unique social media presence that he cultivated during the pandemic.

By 2019, Coffeebar had opened nearly 10 locations, won awards for its interior design and was even named in Inc Magazine's 5,000 Fastest-Growing Companies in the U.S.

But one day in November 2020 changed it all. Buchheister's healthy, 3-year-old son, Zephyr, died unexpectedly from flu complications. 

In a gripping, emotional story posted on the Coffeebar's website, Buchheister revealed the deep gloom and grief that enshrouded him after Zephyr's death. He emerged from the experience having learned that the past is "a dream" and the future "a mirage."

"All we have truly have is the present moment — nothing else is guaranteed," Buchheister said. "Fortunately, hospitality is all about living in the moment."

It's that sort of mentality that led to the Food + Drink acquisition. A deal was, rather spontaneously, struck when Buchheister and Foster met for coffee the week after the pizzeria closed. 

As per the deal, Foster is mentoring the new staff in his culinary arts: ICSOUS (Ice cream sandwich of unusual size), meatball gigante (very big meatballs) and the "fig+pig" (a white pizza with mozzarella and asiago cheese, fig preserve, arugula, a poached egg, and more). Customers can expect the same menu and quality as before.

So far, Buchheister has only planned minor tweaks, such as overhauling the time-slot ordering system that Foster had used for takeaway orders. Starting Thursday, takeaway will be the only way customers can get their pies until Food + Drink fully reopens in early September.

Both men are excited about the venture.

“I’ve always loved Coffeebar’s hospitality,” Foster said. “Their people are consistently amazing.”

“Pairing Food + Drink’s incredible product and the Coffeebar team’s decade of operations experience will be magical,” Buchheister said. “I’ve dreamed about adding pizza to our offerings for years, and Aaron has just given us that opportunity.”

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