Fine dining perfected: Celebrations takes pride in its offerings

Thursday, December 27, 2007
Celebrations chef Paul New wrapped a stuffed lamb's heart with bacon Wednesday, December 19, 2007, before the evening got under way. (Kit Doyle)

On the superficial side, you can't get much more low-profile than Celebrations Restaurant and Bar.

No large signs scream its name to cars and passers-by from its 615 Bellevue St. location. You won't hear, read or see ads touting the fine dining experience offered at Celebrations, one of only a handful of true fine dining establishments in Cape Girardeau.

But if Celebrations is somehow a secret, it's not too well-kept.

Those who can afford its menu (which isn't that expensive for fine dining, with entrees between $16 and $31) do. The place is already all booked for New Year's Eve, though you can get on a waiting list in case there are some openings.

Word-of-mouth alone has made Celebrations a success -- one that is now 10 years old. The word of mouth gets the true experience across to potential customers better than advertising, owners James and Pat Allen said.

Celebrations chef DeWayne Schaaf kept the bottle away from the flame while adding some flavor to a dish Wednesday evening, December 19, 2007, in Cape Girardeau. (Kit Doyle)

"If you didn't know what you were going into and you come in, you might not have a good experience," James Allen said. "Almost everybody that comes in, they know you're not going to get fried fish here, they know you're not going to get barbecue."

Local foodies might know the Allens as owners of another establishment, The Marquette Restaurant and Bar in Marquette Tower. But James Allen said the two restaurants don't compete -- the Marquette is a Bistro-style place where customers can get in and out fairly quickly. Celebrations, on the other hand, is a fine dining experience meant to be taken slowly. The reservation-only guests can stay for hours as they eat four-course meals.

In the beginning the naysayers would ask how a business built only on fine dining could make it in the rural area like Southeast Missouri, where southern treats like barbecue and fried foods are king.

Not that the Allens frown on fried foods and barbecue. "Too many places do that too well," Pat Allen said.

"That's their expertise," James said.

By fine dining, the Allens mean fresh, high-quality ingredients, with professionally trained chefs cooking everything to order. The Allens have networked with local agricultural producers to get the freshest ingredients. Duck and foie gras are on the menu.

And to accompany the food and service, the restaurant has an award-winning selection of 290 different wines. Wine Spectator magazine recognized Celebrations with one of its restaurant awards this year.

Celebrations is open for dinner only, Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations are required.

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