Opera House Bistro becoming a signature landmark for Red Bud

RED BUD -- There's history from basement to roof at Opera House Bistro.

Located at the corner of Main and Market streets in Red Bud, the restaurant opened in October of last year, but the building - which also houses the Red Bud Area Museum on its second floor - was built in 1860.

"About 15 years ago, a gentleman by the name of Ken Voges rehabbed the building completely and saved it from falling in the street," said Opera House Bistro owner David Dannenberg. "They re-tied the building back together, redid all the floors and ceilings and even went out to old barns and old farmhouses to find reclaimed wood to keep it as time-era as possible.

"We came in last summer and we did some work on the cosmetic end to kind of make it our own a little bit."

Dannenberg said the building, which is owned by Voges, has been a lot of things over the years and has several rooms that are named after the chapters of the location's history.

"The One-O-Eight Room, this is labeled for its address (108 Main St.), but this room was not originally connected (to the rest of the building)," he said. "There's been everything from a grocery store in here, I think there was a hardware store in this room and even a restaurant/bar in this room.

Dannenberg took the Herald Tribune to the Saloon Room and to the sun-washed Texaco Room, which used to house a single-pump Texaco station around the turn of the 20th century.

"Around the turn of the century, this was the gas station here in town," Dannenberg said. "The patio here, and the overhang, is where the single-pump station was at.

"As you can see, our decor is around cars of that era."

Next to the Texaco Room is The Warehouse, which used to house an auto repair shop, but now features fine dining for groups of 10 to 12 people.

On the second floor, the Red Bud Area Museum features small rooms dedicated to different categories.

"They have one room on Veterans, one room on old businesses, a women's corner, farming, stuff like that," Dannenberg said. "It's nice to have the double attraction inside the building.

"It's something to stop and eat, something to stop and look around. It's really great for the community as far as someone two or three generations back can go in there and probably find their family name somewhere in there."

Next is the Shoe Factory Room, which produced 40 pairs of handmade shoes per day in the 1930s. It now seats 80 for banquets and large gatherings.

"There's a lot of history in the building and a lot of different entities over the years," Dannenberg said. "I probably know only a small fraction of them."

On the top floor is one of the Bistro's signature features - the Grand Hall. The Grand Hall seats 200 for dinner (160 if you want a dance floor) and is rated for up to 400 people.

A stage, which gave the Opera House its name, occupies the far end of the room.

Overall, Dannenberg said the Bistro is "very much something for the community."

"We want to find that happy medium where it's a place for all," he said.

As far as signature dishes, the Bistro menu includes a variety of dishes from various regions of the world and the restaurant makes its own bread and desserts.

"We're kinda in the middle of a menu change right now, we're trying to keep it seasonal," Dannenberg said. "At the opening, some of our popular dishes were things like duck poutine - which is our version of a smothered cheese fry - but it's just the work that we put into it such as house-made French fries, the duck confit, the bacon lardons, to try and make it stand out."

Five months after opening, Dannenberg was asked what he has learned in that time.

"There's definitely a lot of angles of owning and operating a restaurant," he said. "You got to work to get people what they want, but you also have to find your own market too that makes you stand out.

"The biggest things about Opera House is A, the building itself. It just has a lot to offer and a lot of history and a lot of unique things."

Dannenberg said the other thing is his culinary history. A Red Bud native, he has worked at various restaurants in Florida, Kentucky and St. Louis and is a graduate of the Orlando (Fla.) Culinary Academy.

"I'm trying to bring a little bit of that down with some unique items and just trying to stay true to the culinary arts," he said. "We away from processed foods and we try to keep everything fresh.

"We hardly have any freezer space in our kitchen because we do everything fresh."

The Opera House Bistro is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and has a Sunday brunch special menu.

The restaurant is closed Mondays. For more information, go to or call 618-282-1861.