Issue 26

SamFam, Herbe Sainte Team Has Their Sights Set on More

SamFam, Herbe Sainte Team Has Their Sights Set on More

SamFam, LLC, the team behind recently opened New Orleans-influenced restaurant and bar, Herbe Sainte, has their sights set on two more concepts that will make their debut in Omaha in the coming year. Della Costa will open in Midtown Crossing (in the former Brix space) in May, while Mode de Vie will open at Regency in August.

SamFam is comprised of former M’s Pub partner and restaurateur, Ron Samuelson, and his nephews Aaron and Justin Halbert, who are brothers.

“Our mom was his big sister and some of our earliest memories are watching them cook together. They were the adventurous ones,” Justin said. “I remember the music, the wine, the cooking. It’s something we’ve been around our whole life.”

Herbe Sainte, located in Aksarben Village, was the first concept put together by the team to see public eye. Herbe Sainte delivers on being a New Orleans-influenced restaurant and bar, but not one that is strictly defined by the term ‘Cajun’.

“We wanted to make it feel like New Orleans is, not what the rest of the country thinks New Orleans is,” Justin explained. “We wanted to find some fun and interesting food items that you don’t see outside of New Orleans.”

“It’s not a yard of beer and gumbo,” Aaron added. “(The concept) boiled down to what can we not get in Omaha.”

The team was actually working on their other concepts when the opportunity for Herbe Sainte presented itself.

“Herbe Sainte came out of nowhere. I don’t think people realize that,” Justin explained. “When Jay Noodle approached us we had just had another deal fall though. He told us what he wanted to see and so we went back to the drawing board.”

“We didn’t even realize this was going to be an option for a business, but it came up faster than any other restaurant I’ve ever seen.” Aaron added.

Despite its ‘on-the-fly’ roots, Herbe Sainte has quickly found a home in Omaha’s restaurant community behind head chef Jeff Owens playful take on New Orleans’ food. It’s been lauded and praised from the beginning, even if that beginning was intended by the team to be more of a strictly bar concept, with some food, rather than a full-service restaurant concept.

“The thing about this place that has taken us by surprise is how insistent people are to eat here,” Ron explained. “The whole thing was laid out to mostly be a bar. We had no idea it was going to work like this. It’s worked out really well. We weren’t even planning on being open for lunch, but we’ve had some really good lunches here.”

While Herbe Sainte has quickly made a claim for being the top New Orleans’ style restaurants in the city, Della Costa and Mode de Vie will embrace entirely different concepts.

Della Costa, while initially envisioned as an Italian restaurant, developed into more of costal Mediterranean concept. The restaurant, set to open in May, will focus on seafood. Whole fish, roasted fish, fish en papillote (fish cooked in paper) and crudo will all find an ongoing spot on the menu.

“It was a very specific idea that we really fleshed out. First and foremost we wanted to focus on the seafood aspect,” Justin said. “The idea of crudo being a section of the menu. We want that to be something we focus on.”

Della Costa will highlight that crudo with flavored oils, vinegars, peppers, salts and herbs. Chef Owens will take over as head chef with Justin Gipe, formerly at Omaha Country Club, taking over at Herbe Sainte. Tina Tweedy, formerly of M’s Pub and Vivace, will come on as pastry chef for all of the group’s restaurants and Shawn Phifer, previously at Vivace, Grey Plume and Jams, will be chef de cuisine. Scott French, also from Vivace, will run the dining room.

Mode de Vie will be a French inspired restaurant that will capture many flavors from around the world and focus on wine. It’s set to open in August.

“The idea we started with was the wine program and we built around that,” Justin said. “The food is wherever the French had influence on cuisine around the world. That means Vietnam, North Africa, the Caribbean, Louisiana and regional French.”

While the food will be French-inspired, it won’t have the feel of many French restaurants. The restaurant will have lighter fare with a menu that is accessible at both price point, and a variety of dishes that will work to share or as an entrée.

“It won’t be a stuffy French place. It’s going to be really fun and playful,” Justin said.

“We’re trying really hard to get authentic flavors and products that can be presented consistently,” Ron added.

With the team working on such diverse concepts, being able to go with the flow and adjust has been critical.

“Adaptability is key,” Justin said. “We go into it with an idea, but we’ve really tried to adapt to what the space and neighborhood needs.”

With a team that is made up of all family members, they stressed the idea of letting each member focus on what they are good at. Justin concentrates on the business side of things and deals with the leasing and contractors, while Aaron is the beverage director and takes on the role of directing operations. Ron, as might be expected with his depth of experience, has his hand in all aspects and has sense of the pulse on every level.

“It’s fun to see the ideas go back and forth,” Justin said.

Erik Totten

Erik Totten

Erik Totten is the founder and publisher of Food & Spirits Magazine in Omaha, Nebraska. He's worked in publications for the last 21 years at all levels. As well as serving as a writer, designer, photographer and editor, he's also founded two publications which have allowed him to grow into being a publisher, which he would describe as his 'true calling'.


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