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Owners of Elk, Moon Time, plan next project
Geno’s is latest endeavor for restaurant entrepreneurs
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.
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, wedonthaveone.com.
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.”
http://thebackkitchen.blogspot.com/2006/06/elk-in-metaphor.html Metaphor HyperExtension Warning: This post will involve an early bird beating a gift horse in the mouth with a worm in the hand not two in the bush.
With that said it is time to talk about The Elk. The explosion of local restaurants in Spokane in the last two years there has been something that I feel all of the businesses have in common. They are all off the mark.
The Elk is a much loved establishment that rides against the receding tide of business that is the standard in our industry. One of the dirty secrets of the business is that restaurants start with high sales and go down from there. The mark of a successful restaurant is how slow the decline is. In order to better illustrate why I feel this way I am going to bring in today’s bicycle metaphor.
The Elk is a not a fancy bicycle, it is a workhorse, a touring bike. Built without expensive frills, designed to operate efficiently with little our no maintenance day in and day out. The Elk is built for comfort and reliability not for speed. Lots of fancy racing bikes will fly past The ELK cruiser but as time passes those rockets lose there appeal. During foul weather the Racing bikes sit at home unused, The Elk with it’s fenders and wide tires handles the variety of conditions without concern.
The Elk is not old and broken down, in fact over the years many nice quality parts have been added to it, new seat, new wheels, some clipless pedals but at it’s core it is still the same bike.
Many people have seen The Elk riding around town, day in and day out putting in the mileage. They want to be like The Elk. At the bike shop you don’t see many Elk bikes you see row after row of fancy 14 pound carbon fiber Tour de France edition Super Bikes. Surely this would be a better choice than The Elk Model, it has twice as many gears, the latest frame geometry and eliptical chainrings. And when that bike hits the street it goes flying. Whizzing here and there and grabbing lots of headlines winning this race and that. Meanwhile The Elk keeps going, quietly making the daily commute without complications and without any hype.
So do you see where I am going with this? The non-cycling version is this: over and over again I have been in conversations with people where they say “we want to do something like The Elk”. yet nothing like the Elk has come along. The problem is that in every case, the owners make it nicer than it needs to be. I understand how it sneaks up on them. When you are taking the huge gamble of opening a new restaurant you want to make sure that people like you. You become consumed with this desire to impress people. Every detail of the place is decided from the point of view of how people will react. “What does this salt shaker say about us? ” Piece by piece, the owners choose components a little nicer than they need, worried about not being nice enough. In the meantime the overhead is getting bigger so the price point has to rise to meet it and without warning somehow that pub has creeped closer to fine dining. The kind of place that you go for a birthday or anniversary but not after a bike ride or gardening all day.
Am I wrong?
Elk Home Made Sauerkraut
5-7 heads of cabbage
4 cups hard apple cider
1 cup malt vinegar
1 cup water
3 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons pepper
Combine all ingredients, mix well and cover and cook over medium heat until soft. Serve on toasted rye bread with corned beef, melted Swiss cheese and 1000 Island dressing.
-We use Tauton’s Blackthorn Cider, but any hard apple cider will do.
-This recipe makes enough sauerkraut for about 25 ruebens.
ROASTED CORN PASTA SALAD
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.
Smoked Onion Dip
4 cups mayo
4 cups smoked onions
2 cups sour cream
1 cup milk
3 Tablespoons Worchestershire
2 Tablespoons pepper
1 Tablespoons salt
1/2 Tablespoons liquid smoke
-Combine all ingredients and let sit over night
-This recipe is a full batch and makes about 2 quarts
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
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