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Sage Bar & Grill has successful opening in Calera

By SCOTT MIMS | Special to the Reporter

CALERA – Just a glance at Sage Bar & Grill’s menu will pique your curiosity, if for no other reason than to make you wonder what a “pepperoni pimp ball” is. But once your taste buds encounter Katie Troncale’s original recipes, you’ll likely leave with a few new favorites.

The restaurant, which seeks to integrate a family atmosphere offering an upscale twist on Southern cooking with a late-night entertainment venue, complete with live music and a full bar, is as much an extension of Troncale’s philosophy as it is a restaurant.

Sage, which bears its name due to Troncale’s love of the word’s meaning, also happens to be the name of her son. But the restaurant is not named after her son—Troncale explained.

“Sage means wise and it rids negativity, and so I was doing a lot of smudging when I was pregnant, and I figured, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if this kid’s about to rid a lot of my negativity?’ It changed my whole perspective on life,” she said.

That positivity and creativity comes alive in her dishes—beef brisket meatloaf, hand-breaded chicken fried chicken, smoked turkey tetrazzini, bougie collard greens with filet and rib eye trimmings, or the “sexy BLT” featuring a slice of fried green tomato and Troncale’s trademark “pimp pimento” cheese.

“Now we’re executing some really cool dishes and coming up with some new things,” Troncale said. “We don’t mimic anybody; we create.”

Case in point, when faced with what to do with leftover pepperoni from bloody Mary drinks, Troncale suggested stuffing them into pimento cheese fritters, deep frying them and serving with marinara sauce—instantly creating the “pepperoni pimp ball.”

If that sounds a bit too daring for your taste, perhaps you’d like the Philly cheesestreak made with IPA onions and beer cheese, peppers and mushrooms; or the redneck chicken—a marinated chicken breast basted in ranch, topped with mozzarella and bacon and served with fresh, diced tomatoes. It’s all Troncale’s version of comfort food, and she wants everybody to try it.

“We want to be a place where people can just come eat and have a good time and feel good. You should feel good walking in, you should feel great leaving,” she says, noting that those on 30-minute lunch breaks can come in and expect to dine in a timely manner.

“We’re giving the blue collar men what they want. We’re giving you a big portion. We’re giving you meat and veggies. We’re giving you some great tasting food, but we’re giving it to you really fast. You’re not going to have to wait,” Troncale said.

Now fully staffed, Sage reopened for lunch on Aug. 27, and Troncale has four key people in her kitchen with a combined 60 years of experience—Eric Olsen, Jenny Donelson, Brad Cunningham and pit master Todd Koone, while her business partner is Maged Alammari.

Troncale also credited one of her chefs, Michelle Flemming, with helping to build Sage into what it is.

Although Flemming soon will depart to open her own food truck, “The Boss Bogg,” but she has Troncale’s full blessing.

Perhaps surprisingly to some, Sage currently does not offer curbside service; instead Troncale encourages people to come in and experience the total package for themselves. To her, it’s all about the experience—high-quality dining in a high-quality atmosphere. Staying true to the name, the essence of Sage is positivity and good vibes.

“There’s no room for the negative,” Troncale said. “We’re real positive around here. If you’re not in our vibe or you don’t mesh, it usually gets found out really easily. We teamwork, we work together, we’re everybody’s friends, the staff is amazing, but that’s what makes it amazing is the trust that it builds and it bonds. We’re a family.”

As for the live music, she hopes to start hosting acts very soon, but the dates are not set it stone just yet. But the Sage late-night menu is already in place and features plenty of appetizers and fried food offerings.

“If people are still in here and it makes sense, we’re going to stay open till midnight, and that’s every day of the week,” Troncale said. “This culture out here is not used to staying out late anymore. They’re used to things shutting down, and we just have to keep being consistent and proving to them that we’re going to be here and we’re going to be open, that our food is good, that every time they come in they’re going to be satisfied, and that’s what’s going to make people keep coming back.”

Sage Bar & Grill is located at 4979 U.S. 31, Calera. To learn more, visit Sage’s Facebook page or Google page. A link is available for online ordering. Hours are currently 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (lunch and dinner menu) and 10 p.m.-midnight (late-night menu). The late-night hours will be extended until 2 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for live music.

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