La Petite Auberge owners Raymond Chenault (left) and his wife Jessica are teaming up with chef Justin Cunningham on a new restaurant called Legume Kitchen and Bar in downtown Fredericksburg.

Customers at two downtown Fredericksburg restaurants often ask for vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free options.

Now Raymond and Jessica Renault, owners of La Petite Auberge Restaurant, and Justin Cunningham, former chef at Spencer Devon Brewing, are teaming up to open Legume Kitchen and Bar, a vegan, vegetarian and seafood restaurant, at 715 Caroline St. in early September.

“It’s not going to be strictly vegetarian, but the soul of the restaurant will be vegetarian,” Raymond Renault said.

He said he decided to go that route because there’s a growing segment of the dining public that want meat- and gluten-free options, and it will help Legume stand out from the competition. Few downtown restaurants have many offerings for that demographic.

According to a poll Harris Interactive conducted last year for the nonprofit educational organization Vegetarian Resource Group, 36 percent of American adults eat vegetarian meals, and 10 percent eat vegetarian meals more than half the time.

“We both want this to be a place where meat-eaters and non-meat eaters can go,” said Renault.

He’s already working with Cunningham to create the menu, which will feature locally grown produce from such farmers as Emmett Snead and an emphasis on nutrition and a healthy diet.

Cunningham said he hopes meat-eaters will dig into the food and exclaim, “Wow! I can live off of this!”

“If people want sweetbreads and foie gras,” Renault added, they can go to La Petite.

Legume will be open for lunch and dinner every day but Monday, and brunch will be served on Sundays. Customers will be able to order appetizers to share, as well as soups, salads and entrées featuring such things as risotto, pasta and polenta served with vegetables as well as regional seafood.

There will be desserts and the kid’s menu will go beyond the typical fried chicken fingers. Healthy offerings for children are particularly important to the Renaults, whose two young daughters will be the taste tasters, Jessica Renault said.

Entrées will be in the $14 to $20 range, and the bar will serve craft beers and craft cocktails as well as sustainably grown wines. Cunningham said that he wants to look into sources for gluten-reduced beers.

“They have small traces of gluten, but not as much as normal,” he said. “Stone [Brewing’s Stone Delicious] IPA is pretty good.”

Raymond Renault said that he’s wanted to open a second restaurant for some time, and had been looking for the right space when 715 Caroline St. became available for lease. Blarney Stone, an Irish restaurant, is closing there at the end of June.

He said that he asked Cunningham, who is a friend, a few weeks ago to join him in the venture as Legume’s chef while he and his wife continue to run La Petite.

“I’ve looked at his career and respected what he does as a chef, and I thought that if I ever did another restaurant, I’d want to involve him,” Renault said. “He’s a chef that I can trust to put out great dishes and consistent dishes.”

Cunningham, who notified Spencer Devon this week that he’ll be leaving, said he jumped at the chance to try something new and bounce ideas off another chef.

“You get a lot of creativity going back and forth,” he said.

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

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