Tory and Kristine Miller announce new food concept within Estrellón
Miller Family Meat & Three born out of financial necessity and passion for Southern-style food
On Nov. 9, Tory and Kristine Miller and the Deja Food Group team announced a new food concept — Miller Family Meat & Three — which will operate out of Deja’s West Johnson Street restaurant, Estrellón. Tory Miller says the idea was born out of financial necessity, but also because Tory and Kristine have a passion for Southern-style food and the family-run lunch counter concept. “Kristine and I, we’ve done so many Southern food tours,” Tory Miller says. “At home I cook like this all the time.”
The “meat and three” concept is a Southern cuisine type that allows customers to pair a meat with three sides of their choosing. Some of the classic proteins Miller is thinking about are fried chicken, roast beef and smoked meats. Expect traditional sides, like mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, Tater Tot casserole and collard greens. But, of course, the James Beard award winning chef is excited to bring his own flair to the menu. “Thinking about a Meat & Three concept, it just speaks to who I am as a person, but also there are kind of no limits,” he says. “If I want to do Korean braised ox tails or gochujang ribs and my braised red cabbage from my German grandma, I can do all that depending on the week.”
Miller Family Meat & Three (which isn’t the first Miller family spinoff idea) will operate as a carryout- and delivery-only business starting in December. But the food venture is not a temporary COVID-19 operation. Miller hopes that once a vaccine becomes available and it’s safe to dine out again, Meat & Three will take over Estrellón’s bar space that’s never really found its footing, he says.
“When we designed Estrellón, that area was supposed to be a separate little taparia — just tapas, wine, beer and cocktails,” he says. “But it never really worked, and the rent just is what it is. We have to make every part of the restaurant make up for paying the bills.” He says he hopes to match the interior of the bar space with the Meat & Three concept post-COVID-19.
Miller and chef Abby Hampton have focused on comfort foods since they launched L’Etoile’s family meals (they’ve done 31 different menus in 31 weeks), but Meat & Three allows for a bit more flexibility and might appeal to families like his own, he hopes. “If there are a lot of families out there like mine where they could come to one place and spend $22 and get a box of food that has a meat and three side dishes — maybe one is a biscuit, banana pudding, mac and cheese and chicken — I know my son Miles would be super happy with that.”
The idea has been brewing for a while as the food business, like so many others, figures out how to survive winter. “To me, it was also like thinking about how much I wanted to try to connect with that neighborhood a little bit as far as students and people who are walking by who aren’t necessarily going to come into a nice sit-down dinner when we reopen,” Miller says. The Deja team considered other ideas to flip Estrellón, but all required a total departure from the Spanish tapas restaurant’s core elements. Miller says he definitely wants to see Estrellón continue to be what it is currently on the dining room side. But Meat & Three will allow them to utilize the kitchen space and equipment for the time being. “We need to make money and we need to survive and also have something that’s going to be something that I can be super passionate about post pandemic,” he says.
It all comes back to family for Miller, who notes that if he had to identify one positive outcome of the pandemic, it would be that he’s been able to spend more time with family — making dinners at home, being there in the morning and reading stories to his kids at night.
“Of course I want to get back to putting food on plates and helping people celebrate their milestones and all those things, but I also love just making dinner,” he says. And Meat & Three’s menu will feel a bit like an extension of the meals he serves at home, and the kind of food Miller gets excited about making.
“For me, I really have been thinking about what I want to be doing,” he says. “I’m 45. I’ve been doing restaurants for so long, I’m in a pandemic for crying out loud. These things you never thought you would go through make you realize what you actually want to be doing.”