A pandemic silver lining born out of necessity, curiosity – and buttermilk – Ernie and K.B. LaBrecque’s uber popular Beaunuts pop-up is officially moving into a permanent space this winter.
In the heart of Old Town Petersburg, Beaunuts will serve Ernie’s crispy-on-the-outside, cakey-on-the-inside biscuit-doughnut brainchild plus specialty hot dogs, breakfast sandwiches, coffee and beer.
Like all good things, the Beaunuts storefront came without warning, K.B. says. “In this climate, to strap on rent – we weren’t looking for a brick and mortar.”
But when a Petersburg entrepreneur – and ardent Beaunuts devotee – approached them with an opportunity to move into a space he was already outfitting, the two couldn’t say no. The LaBrecques say they hope to open before the end of the year, but they’re not rushing anything.
“To be honest, we keep getting anxious to get in there but then we see the next new thing they’ve put in,” Ernie says.
The restaurant’s remodel includes a back bar made with repurposed ceiling joints from the building, with the saw marks lined up just so to make a wave. The front bar is made with poured concrete and patrons will be able to peer into the open concept kitchen as Ernie glazes his beaunuts. An array of eclectic instruments adorns the walls and midcentury furniture ties the space together, Ernie says.
“I’ve got a bunch of photographs of turn-of-the-century bakers with handlebar mustaches and I ran them through a Warhol filter. It’s kind of like our building – an Old World meets New World aesthetic.”
From itinerant sweet shop to beautifully outfitted permanent fixture in fewer than nine months, Beaunuts came together through a little ingenuity, a lot of hard work and a dash of sweet serendipity.
After being furloughed from his job as chef de cuisine at Upper Shirley Vineyards at the start of the pandemic, Ernie tapped into his grandmother’s Alabama roots and came up with his now famous (well, at least Old Dominion renowned) Southern-inspired biscuit-doughnut recipe.
With a culinary school degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Pittsburgh, Ernie plans to serve not only his beaunuts at the new restaurant, but elaborate fried hot dogs, too.
The dogs, like the doughnuts, will be inspired by place, imbued with memory. That means pork hot dogs with sausage gravy as an homage to Virginia, a pimento cheese sauce and slaw dog for the Carolinas, a “Hotlanta” topped caviar dog for Georgia, and a play on a Cuban for the Florida dog.
The star of the restaurant’s menu will of course be the inventive beaunuts: a recent evening pop-up at Nota Bena featured flavors like gingerbread cookie, eggnog frost, peppermint latte and banana pudding.
It will also have coffee and canned beer, but don’t expect a full-service espresso bar or vast booze menu. “We don’t want to pull away from any dinner spots, bars or the coffee shops here,” Ernie says.
Beaunuts will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., “the best schedule a chef can hope for.” The couple, who live 10 minutes from their new restaurant, say they’re excited to be a part of the town’s revitalization.
“I’ve worked in a lot of different neighborhoods with restaurants competing with each other,” Ernie says. “But everyone has come together here to rebuild Petersburg, it’s such a cool, old town with so much history.”
Although they’re not opening their brick and mortar in Richmond, the LaBrecques are quick to credit the River City’s loyal patrons with their success.
“We don’t want to abandon our Richmond folks,” K.B. says. “They’re the ones who made it possible for us to open in Petersburg.”
The couple says it’ll continue to host pop-ups in the city and cater weddings and corporate events: “We aren’t taking any weeks off,” Ernie says.
Follow Beaunuts on Instagram for updates about their Petersburg grand opening and for updates on its next pop-up event.