Food Network features Roadhouse on travel show

Guy Fieri, the host of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” visits with Bill Kunz, owner of Roadhouse. PHOTO COURTESY OF BILL KUNZ

Chef Guy Fieri, host of the TV show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” travels the U.S. in search of unique places to eat. On his journey, he found a restaurant on Webster Groves’ Old Orchard Avenue called Highway 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen. The Roadhouse is located at 34 S. Old Orchard Ave. in  Webster.

According to Roadhouse owner Bill Kunz, the restaurant celebrates a variety of food and music related to Highway 61. The famous highway, built in the 1930s, bisects the country from north to south, extending from New Orleans to parts of the Canadian border and Grand Portage, Minn. The segment of the highway from New Orleans to Missouri is known as “The Blues Highway.”

Kunz opened the Roadhouse in October 2006.

“We have blues, jazz, classic rock and an overall wide variety of music to celebrate the historic highway,” Kunz said.

Kunz received a phone call from the producers of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” who wanted to schedule an interview with him after he was referred by Tom Coghill. Coghill’s restaurant, Iron Barley, was featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” in 2008. Iron Barley is located at 5510 Virginia Ave in South City.

As host of the show, Fieri travels around the country, visiting locally-owned diners and restaurants. He chooses dishes off the menu that he would like to sample and interacts with the chefs as they prepare them. Fieri then tries each dish. Each episode usually has a theme, such as “comfort food.”

The show, which premiered in 2006, is in its 13th season.

Kunz said the interview process for the show was nerve-racking, but beneficial. During the interview, the show’s producers asked questions regarding food preparation and ingredients.

“I was very nervous,” Kunz said. “I mean, you know there are a lot of great restaurants in St. Louis to choose from, and we were only one of them they’ve ever chosen. That’s pretty special.”

The Food Network recorded the show segment over a three-day period in June, which meant Kunz closed his restaurant during business days from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. On the first day of shooting, footage was taken of Kunz, pit master Josh Johnson and former assistant manager Nick Wiese prepping in the kitchen.

On the second day of shooting, Fieri came to St. Louis. The team reprepared the dishes chosen by Fieri. The dishes were red beans and rice, barbecued spaghetti and Cajun pot stickers. On the last day of shooting, employees invited their family, friends and customers to enjoy the food.

“(Fieri) was really amazing to work with,” bartender Tara Seidel said. “He would help assist with making the food.”

Restaurant owners Kunz and Coghill used to work together at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown St. Louis. They said they have been good friends since 1991. At the hotel, Coghill was chef of the Kosher Kitchen and Kunz ran Powerhouse Billiards and Diner.

“They are close to being best friends,” Seidel said. “They can really depend and rely on each other.”

Together, Coghill and Kunz run a series of barbecue competitions. They organize a group known as St. Louis Occasional Barbecue Society (SLOBS). The organization hosts six barbecue events and donates proceeds to charity.

One of the SLOBS’ last events, hosted by Tom’s Bar & Grill on July 22, stretched from South Euclid to Laclede Street. The Ronald McDonald House and Lambert Field USO were two charities that benefited from the event.

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