Philip Day prepares food at Root Food + Wine

Philip Day slices mushrooms at Root Food + Wine April 22 in Augusta. Day is the owner and executive chef of the establishment, which serves locally sourced cusine.

Day serving up new culinary adventures in local cuisine at local restaurant

When he was 16, Philip Day landed his first restaurant job as a dishwasher at Krieger’s Pub & Grill in O’Fallon.

Just over 20 years later, Day is now an executive chef and restaurant owner.

Day, 38, launched Root Food + Wine in Augusta earlier this month and now serves locally sourced meals to customers, who can choose to order a single entree at a time or their choice of three, five or seven courses.

“It’s almost like ‘Choose Your Own Adventure,’ ” Day said, referring to the gamebook series in which readers can pick their character’s storyline. “It lets the customer decide how they want to enjoy their evening or daytime.”

The table d’hote menu is like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series but in a rustic, elegant setting, according to the restaurant’s website. Customers can get a new adventure again and again because the menu items rotate almost weekly.

“I have some friends that I went to high school with that have an organic farm in Wentzville, and the majority of the produce that we get comes from their farm,” Day said. “Whatever’s growing is what’s going to dictate what comes on the menu.”

His friends’ Lucky Dog Farm is currently growing peas, gem lettuce, turnips, carrots and more, he said. He also locally sources his meat, with chicken from Buttonwood Farms in California, Missouri, and rainbow trout from Rockbridge, Missouri.

Root Food + Wine is located at 5525 Walnut St., the former location of Kate’s Coffee House owned by Randal Oaks, who described Day as “meticulous” and “amazing” in the kitchen.

Their relationship began when Day cold-called Oaks last fall. Day asked about organizing pop-up dinners in the conference center behind the coffee house, which Oaks also owns, and their working partnership grew from there.

Unbeknownst to Day, Oaks had been planning to sell Kate’s Coffee House and lease the space. The shop had become too much work, Oaks said.

“There are very few people that I would place this much confidence in to, after seven years, just close what really was a very good business,” he said.  But soon on, Root Food + Wine made the cut.

The transition wasn’t easy, the men said. Day has spent between $30,000 and $50,000 on the space and startup. He and his wife sold their house to fund the opening, so along with their two children, they are living with Day’s mother- and father-in-law.

“We worked out a timeline of when I would close the coffee house and when he would open,” said Oaks, who now works as a property owner and Day’s landlord. “We had basically two weeks to do the turnaround. I had a week to get out, and he had a week to get in.”

The timing worked out better than expected, Day said. “Obviously it was a big risk, but we decided it was time to take the chance, and the next week, all the Hoffmann stuff came out.”

In January, David and Jerri Hoffmann announced plans to build a $100 million winery development in Augusta. “I just think the more opportunity for people to come out here is a great thing,” Day said.

Staffed by seven employees, Root Food + Wine is open Thursdays through Saturdays with a capacity of about 30 guests. Thursday and Friday hours are from 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday lunch goes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. followed by dinners from 4 to 9 p.m. The menu is available on the restaurant’s website, rootfoodwine.com.