After nearly a decade in the making, the historic Kaufman Tavern in Zelienople reopened in late January.
Jason Eisenreich, who owns the restaurant, which was built in the early 1900s, said its winter soft opening saw an “overwhelming” reception. That, he said, signified the meaningfulness of the establishment in the borough.
“Always, it was the crown jewel of Zelienople,” Eisenreich said.
Ravaged by fire in 2010, the Belle Epoque-era eatery required extensive rehabilitation. Fireplaces, granite and murals were touched up or redone, but always with an eye on the past, Eisenreich said.
The new owner said he “did a lot of research” to keep the establishment as true to the original as possible while bringing in modern elements and keeping the building up to code. The building now has sprinklers and elevators, but it also has LED lights in vintage-looking chandeliers and the railings, which had to be raised, were kept in the original style.
“We made replicas of the original as perfect as we could,” Eisenreich said.
The murals are also placed in the Victorian age, with parlor — or, more fittingly, parlour — games taking the spotlight. Before boxed, board and video games were popular, parlor games such as blind man's bluff, I spy or tiddlywinks were en vogue, played with groups of people in the reception area of an upper-class home.
All of this was to “try and bring back the feel” of the era of the original Kaufman House, Eisenreich said.
That authenticity extends to the drink and cocktail menus as well.
Madeira wine, which now is more frequently used for cooking than for drinking, takes a prime spot in the Kaufman well. The wine, which varies in usage from a dry aperitif to a sweet dessert wine, comes from the Portuguese Madeira Islands.
The cocktail list is “Victorian-themed” as well, Eisenreich said. More common drinks such as mules and negronis are served alongside a “Victorian lemonade” and a sangaree, the precursor of sangria.
The entrees are a bit more modern, although equally eclectic. Eisenreich described the menu as “American-fusion,” with dishes varying from southern barbecue, Cajun and Creole to Asian-inspired cuisine and portabella linguini.
“Nothing's off the table in American-fusion,” Eisenreich said.
The soft opening of the restaurant was intentional, Eisenreich said, as it takes time for the new employees to learn the food and drinks.
“You need time to train,” he said. “We're not a cookie-cutter chain.”
Even with the strong reception, Eisenreich said, he knows the restaurant has big shoes to fill.
“We're Kaufman Tavern,” he said. “But they're always going to call it Kaufman House.”