EGYPTIAN: Congratulations on the opening of The Grove! Can you tell us a little bit about your restaurant and what inspired you to open it?
SAM: Thank you for inviting me to discuss our restaurant! We’re called The Grove Modern American Tavern and we specialize in perfecting classic midwestern dishes while adding a unique twist. We also offer new items, not commonly seen in DeKalb that we’ve been carefully curating over the last few years. We take pride in using fresh ingredients to make everything from scratch, so nothing is frozen.
About three years ago, I decided to leave the corporate world to pursue my own real estate-based ventures. Although I had always thought about opening a restaurant, I never expected it to happen so soon. Luckily, I have exceptional business partners, Jason Engstrom and Steve Gackowski, who are lifelong friends and share the same dream and confidence to jump in. Jason and I have complementary strengths that helped us decide to open; he has extensive industry experience and guides us on the menu and operations, while I oversaw site selection, buildout and financials.
E: How would you describe the atmosphere and cuisine of The Grove?
S: Our aim at The Grove was to design a relaxed and bright atmosphere that encourages socializing and shared plates. To complement our Tavern name, we incorporated a spacious reclaimed wood bar and made sure the space was inclusive to all. We wanted to provide our guests with the option of enjoying an affordable beer and excellent burger or indulging in upscale cuisine for a special date night, all within the same venue.
E: What makes The Grove stand out from other restaurants in the area?
S: In DeKalb, there are plenty of great food options available, but we believed that there was a need for lighter and shareable dishes, served a la carte. We made sure that our menu offers healthier options, with the only thing going in the deep fryer being fries and fish fry. Our cocktail menu, curated by Jason, is exceptional and not to be missed.
E: Can you tell us about any signature dishes or drinks that customers should try?
S: Our signature dish is The Grove Burger, which is made up of two 4oz patties with American cheese, fried in duck fat, onions, pickles, and garlic aioli. It’s a unique take on a burger that you won’t find anywhere else west of Chicago. Even those who usually stick to classic ketchup, mustard, and onions won’t be able to resist its appeal. Additionally, the Chicago Beef Grilled Cheese with giardiniera aioli is a tasty spin on the classic Midwest dish, Italian Beef, and has been a hit with our customers. As I said before, it is very hard to pick out just one of Jason‘s signature cocktails but I know that when the patio is open the “Everything’s Gucci” with prosecco, vodka, citrus zest and a scoop of blood orange sorbet melting in the hot sun is going to be a very popular.
E: How do you plan on engaging with and contributing to the community of DeKalb through your restaurant?
S: As we settle back into DeKalb, we recognize that community engagement will be a continuous learning experience. We’ve already contributed to several good causes, such as sponsoring youth soccer teams and donating gift cards for non-profit auctions, as well as the adult prom at the Egyptian. We look forward to partnering with more businesses and nonprofits as we become more involved in the community.
E: With the neighboring Egyptian Theatre hosting events such as plays, concerts, and stand-up acts, how do you plan on attracting those patrons to dine at The Grove before or after events?
S: We’ve established a great relationship with the Egyptian, who welcomed us to Dekalb with open arms. Dinner and drinks go hand in hand with a show so we are going to make sure we accommodate the patrons of the Egyptian. I look forward to working with the Egyptian team to come up with some good ideas on how to best market and entice your patrons to our establishment before and after a show.
E: How do you see The Grove evolving and growing in the future?
S: Our menu at The Grove will be dynamic, with regular updates to keep things fresh and exciting. We’ll retain our signature dishes while also introducing new specials and seasonal rotations. We’ve designed our space with the potential for expansion into new markets and we’re already considering the need for larger party accommodations. Stay tuned for updates on our future plans!