Bismarck native Stephanie Miller recalls the flaky butterhorn pastries she made with her grandmothers as a little girl.
“That was like my first childhood culinary memory and how I fell in love with food,” she said.
The Le Cordon Bleu educated chef and former “Restaurant Startup” competitor, will give a nod to her family in starting a restaurant, Butterhorn, opening in her hometown later this fall.
Miller returned to Bismarck early this summer with her husband, Shane Cornelius. The pair had planned to open a catering business but, when they saw the space at 210 E. Main Ave., ‘we figured what the heck, let’s go for it.”
The couple walked by the building while strolling downtown, with it’s tall ceilings and old wood floors, and asked if they could go in.
“It was everything we wanted for our first restaurant,” she said. “It just had character.”
The couple signed the lease and started construction this week.
"I can't tell you how incredibly excited I am for her," Miller's mother, Brenda Miller said.
Brenda Miller said her daughter has developed quite a resume, including working as head chef for the opening of Minneapolis’ Italian Eatery in 2015 — a job that led to her appearance on CNBC's "Restaurant Startup" reality television show.
Brenda Miller said it was eye-opening hearing world-renowned chefs on the show talking up her daughter's abilities. And the next spring, the restaurant was voted the No. 1 Italian restaurant in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Stephanie Miller said the menu at Butterhorn will have a Midwestern flare with fresh ingredients and everything homemade.
“The stuff that grows here, I’m going to use,” she said of sourcing as much of the ingredients locally as possible. “We want people to come in and feel comfortable with what they’re ordering.”
The restaurant will start by serving dinner, with a Saturday and Sunday brunch in the future.
Some menu items will include Miller’s take on Medora’s Pitchfork Steak Fondue, Indian tacos and chicken and dumplings.
“But they’re not going to look like typical chicken and dumplings,” said Miller, adding that she plans to use some ingredients people may not have previously tasted.
Miller said she and her husband have worked at some amazing restaurants over their years in the food industry. Miller’s and Cornelius’ experience has led them to develop their own standards for quality foods, customer service and how they treat their staff.
“We want to make food and drinks we would want to eat,” she said.
Brenda Miller said her daughter, almost immediately after moving back to Bismarck, had an herb garden growing on the back porch.
"Everything she cooks tastes so fresh," Brenda Miller said. "Bismarck has some good places to eat ... but I haven't tasted anything like her food."
Miller’s husband will manage the front of the restaurant, running the bar and overseeing servers, while Miller runs the kitchen. The two have never worked in the same restaurant together, so owning and operating their own together will be an adventure, Miller said.
When customers step into Butterhorn, they can expect a 1920s, art deco style, with features such as leather couches, antique mirrors and an antique bar, according to Miller.
“I really enjoy those kind of places,” she said. “It’s like a step back in time.”
There will be seating for 70 on the street level and seating for 30 in the basement, which also can be booked for private parties. The downstairs will also have that Prohibition-era feel, with exposed lighting and brick.
Miller said they also wanted the restaurant to be kid friendly, so families, including their own nieces and nephews, can come to eat.
Opening is planned for mid-November and the couple is interviewing staff for the 25 to 30 positions they’ll need to fill.
The couple is making a $750,000 investment into the building. They’ve also applied for $21,600 in state income tax relief through the Renaissance Zone program to help get started.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Miller said of starting a restaurant in her hometown. She said many family and friends have encouraged her. “To actually do it is pretty special. We’re excited.”