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September 13, 2013 in Business

Owners of Elk, Moon Time, plan next project

Geno’s is latest endeavor for restaurant entrepreneurs

Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

From left, Brad Fosseen, John Grollmus, Jeff Meagher and Marshall Powell laugh as they make plans for their sixth bar renovation project, Geno’s pub near Gonzaga, on Friday.
(Full-size photo)

The Spokesman-Review

Anyone watching Spokane’s Restaurant Monopoly game board will notice one already successful player continues to expand and buy properties.

That would be a Spokane-based partnership that recently bought Geno’s, a north Spokane restaurant that closed this year, damaged by a fire that started in a nearby building.

The acquisition of Geno’s helps the group of four partners earn the title of Neighborhood Pub Conglomerate of the Inland Northwest.

Their foray into restaurant ownership started 17 years ago, when the original three partners pooled their savings to buy a funky Coeur d’Alene restaurant that was converted into a hip restaurant and pub.

That restaurant, Moon Time, is still doing well. Over the next 15 years the partners acquired five more eateries, including Geno’s.

The original three partners – Brad Fosseen, John Grollmus and Jeff Meagher – this year invited Marshall Powell, a restaurant manager, to become part of the group.

While they carefully structure their business as a series of limited partnerships, the group prefers not to have a business name or brand that would apply to all six restaurants.

“From a business viewpoint, (not having a common business name for all the restaurants) is considered a drawback,” Grollmus said. “But that’s our plan,” he said. “We won’t change that approach.”

Their business plan is based on finding locations where neighborhood residents can get good food and a pleasant place to hang out, said Powell, who’s been the manager at two of the restaurants for several years.

In addition to Geno’s and Moon Time, the group operates the Elk Public House and the El Que in Browne’s Addition, the Porch Public House in Hayden and the Two Seven Public House in the Lincoln Heights Shopping Center.

That geographic diversity is by design, said Grollmus.

Grollmus said the partners are cautious about taking on more than they can handle. For instance, they’ve eyed possible sites in either the Garland neighborhood or the South Perry District. But they’ve held back, not seeing a good investment opportunity.

They’re in the process of remodeling Geno’s and expect to open in early October. The one variation from their other restaurants: Geno’s has a fryer that lets them make french fries.

The partnership has a website,

Matt Goodwin, who operates a pair of Spokane restaurants, Fast Eddie’s and Press, said the four partners’ success stems from making each location intimate and distinct. “Each of their places feels like it’s a new place and fits into the neighborhood,” Goodwin said. “They don’t feel like they’re part of some chain.”

Their initial restaurant was Moon Time in Coeur d’Alene. The three partners lived in North Idaho and sometimes visited the business, which was a hybrid of restaurant and antique shop. They paid about $60,000 for the building and spent $30,000 renovating it, Grollmus said.

In 1999 the partners took over the Elk, remodeled it and revised the menu, offering a wider selection of food such as pulled pork sandwiches and gumbo.

They began discussing the Geno’s deal with previous owner, William Webster, before the fire in June that slightly damaged the restaurant.

Webster told the partners he wanted to focus on other food service businesses, Grollmus said.

“We’re always looking for new locations,” Grollmus added. “The neighborhood there is a good place to be. It’s close to the University District corridor.

“Plus,” he added, “since it was remodeled by William (before the fire), it’s in good shape. We don’t have to do a lot of work.”

Grollmus said the restaurants they’ve acquired are all growing and remain profitable.

Fosseen said the partners embrace a philosophy of customer focus he adopted after working for William Bond, one of the owners of South Hill restaurant Luna.

“When people come to your restaurant, don’t forget to treat them like they’re coming to your house as guests,” Fosseen said.

With local and neighborhood eateries now a trend, the partners are often asked if Spokane and North Idaho have too many food establishments.

Their answer is no, not yet.

“I think there’s always room for good ones in any town,” Grollmus said. “As long as you’re doing better than others, you’ll be successful.”

Add this to the “are you sure we didn’t write about this spot already‽” file.

We like The Elk well enough, but could live without the attitude some of the staff tends to have. Sure, they work in a pub (very hip) in Browne’s Addition (so very very hip) where people line up to get a table (hipness running all over my face), but really, we could live without the attitude.

This may or may not be why we prefer The Elk’s more laid-back cousin, The Two Seven Public House. While The Elk wears thick rimmed 80s glasses and a 15-inch v-neck shirt, the Two Seven prefers the button-ups and quite possibly also an ascot. It’s like The Elk, but slower paced and more quiet.

The menu, also, is just different enough to make it worth the trek to the mean streets of the South Hill. The salpicon, for example, is pretty unique to this region. The beef comes shredded, covering a layer of jack cheese, and is served with a good spicy sauce. As opposed to the trainwreck that was the taquitos at Savory, here the meat is perfectly prepared, and the whole dish has a breeze of freshness blowing from it. The rice might not be the most exciting thing on the planet, but sprinkle some of the accompanying lime on it, and all gets better. As for the flour tortillas… Well, dull is dull, and there’s not much more to say about them.

The red wine risotto, a special for the day (or possibly week), also holds a good standard. We’re not talking Sante quality, but as far as pub grub goes, it’s better quality than what we had expected. A bit more salt wouldn’t have hurt it, but the mushrooms are fine, if, again, not super exciting. Overall a good special.

Really, all the food in The Elk Empire has kind of a particular flavor to it. I’m not sure I’d use the word “theme” as that is just a bit too Applebee’s-like, but I’m sure you get what I’m saying. There’s a familiarity through all of these pubs, and that’s great. It works.

Beer selection, at all location, is also pretty excellent, and the Jubelale on cask is something everybody should try before they die. Add it to your Bucket List.

The Two Seven Public House is recommended. Of course, you already knew this, but it never hurts to hammer home the point.


1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
½ cup diced red onion
1 ½ cups frozen corn
4 ½ cups uncooked fusilli
1 cups mayo
1 bunch cilantro roughly stemmed
2 Tablespoons chipotle puree
Salt to taste

1) Combine corn, onions, butter and oil and roast in a 400 degree oven until onions are translucent and tender. Remove from oven and cool in refrigerator.
2) Cook fusilli as directed and cool under running water.
3) Combine cilantro, chipotle and may on food processor and puree.
4) Mix fusilli, corn/onion mix and puree ingredients. Add salt to taste.

-Chipotle puree is canned chipotle peppers usually found in the Mexican section of most grocery stores. Before using place the contents of the can in a food processor and puree well.

-This recipe is a downsized version of the restaurant version so some amount may require slight adjustments.

74th St. Gumbo

8 cups flour
2 cups canola oil
1-1/2 cups olive oil
3 tablespoons each: oregano, thyme, chili powder, chill flakes, file (powdered sassafrass leaves), black pepper, salt
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup garlic, chopped fine
1 gallon warm chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 cups tomato juice
2 cups clam juice
3 yellow onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 green peppers, chopped
3 red peppers, chopped
9 Anaheim chiles, chopped
5 large tomatoes, chopped
8 bratwurst, roasted at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, cooled and cut into chunks
2 whole chickens, roasted at 400 degrees for approximately 80 minutes, then cooled and shredded
3 cups bay shrimp

Combine flour and oils and heat in a large stockpot over low heat for approximately 4 hours, stirring regularly to ensure the mixture doesn’t slick or bum. Once it’s reached a dark caramel color, add the spices and garlic. Stir.

Remove from the heat and slowly add the warmed stock. Stir until smooth, thoroughly mixing the roux and the liquid. It should be the consistency of a thick pudding.

Add the tomato and clam juices. Add the chopped vegetables and roasted bratwurst. Add more stock or water if the mixture seems too thick.

Cook over low heat until vegetables are soft and translucent, about 5 hours. Cool overnight in the refrigerator.

To serve, reheat and add shredded chicken and bay shrimp. Taste and adjust for seasonings- Serve over steamed rice or Dirty Rice (recipe follows)

Yield: 24 servings

Dirty Rice

1/4 cup canola oil
4 caps white rice
8 cups cold water

2 tablespoons each, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, chili flakes, salt

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add rice and fry until golden, stirring frequently. When rice is browned, add the spices and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Add cold water, bring to a boil and cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook until rice is tender, approximately 20-25 minutes.

Yield: 12 servings