April 8, 2008
Eppie's Back in the Saddle

After an absence of about 10 years, legendary Sacramento restaurateur Eppie Johnson is returning to food service. Johnson, who during his 35-year career in hospitality owned 27 restaurants as well as hotels and tennis clubs, has leased Horseshoe Bar Grill in Loomis and hopes to have it reopened by mid-May.

"I kind of miss the business," said Johnson this afternoon. He's bringing in as the restaurant's manager his nephew, Richard A. Bruce, who he first hired as a 13-year-old to police the parking lot and tend sprinklers at his Eppie's Restaurant at 30th and N streets in midtown Sacramento. After that, Bruce became a fry cook, went off to study at the Culinary Institute of America (he graduated in 1972, the last year the school was at Yale University before moving to Hyde Park, N.Y.), and launched his own restaurateuring career, which has included startup roles and high managerial positions with such chains at Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, Elephant Bar, Hilton Hotels and Muriel Hemingway's group of Sam's restaurants.

For the past nine years, Bruce has been involved in restaurateuring in Las Vegas, but now is relocating to Roseville. Horseshoe Bar Grill will be rechristened New Horseshoe Bar Grill, with a "California bistro" atmosphere and a menu that features "recognizable, sustainable, seasonal and organic" ingredients. "It will be good, basic, hearty food," said Bruce. His executive chef will be Robert Facciani, who has been working in Minnesota and Colorado, but more recently at Sacramento hotels.

Over nine years, Horseshoe Bar Grill evolved from casual bistro to destination dinner house, but two years ago, the owners, Dave Rosenaur and Karen Fox, who still own the building, closed the restaurant after they found themselves spending more time in San Diego County. "Running restaurants long distance is not a smart thing to do. It's difficult enough even when you are there," Fox said at the time.

This will be a busy spring for Johnson, who also is gearing up for the 35th running of Eppie's Great Race, "the world's oldest triathlon," to be staged July 19 on and along the American River.

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