I went down to Lincoln Square today to close the bank account that we had opened down there when we thought that's where the restaurant was going to be. They were nice enough about it, totally understood. Whoever ended up buying the space is already open. Looks like they did a quick facelift on the dining room with new tile floor, new drywall, and a paint job, and opened the doors. It's called Mediterranean Grill and appears to be serving just about the exact same menu as the previous entity, which was Skewers Grill, and the one before that, Egypt Kabob.
Not sure why they think they'll suddenly be able to make a go of it with the same concept that's already failed twice in the space, but good luck to them, I guess. I'm feeling some sour grapes, but don't really have time to care, and I honestly think our location is better. It all works out in the end. I still think that location would be great for this concept. Maybe for our second store.
From there, I headed up to Evanston and got busy. Had a meeting with the Vienna folks to discuss marketing, signage, and lots of other stuff, including this huge framed-out section of wall that I'm hoping to have a mural done for. I was thinking I could use some of Vienna's artwork, particularly that one sign you always see where a giant hot dog is on Navy Pier and it's got the Chicago skyline behind it, but they said they don't have the original of that in a computer file and that it couldn't be done.
I chatted briefly with about 10 different sales reps from bread, meat, produce, and all-purpose vendors, filled out a ton of credit apps, faxed them all around, fielded calls to clarify info, and all the fun stuff that's involved in getting a company to sell you stuff with terms. In between all that, I kept painting, received a big delivery of smallwares (including my fresh-cut fry potato ka-chunker gizmo), and, since Vienna was no help with the mural, placed an ad on Craigslist seeking an artist to do it.
The response I got was amazing. At least a couple dozen replies within a few hours of the ad going up. I thought at the price I was offering, I would get art students and the like, but I got lots of replies from people with degrees and many years of experience, including plenty of portfolios to look at.
One guy came by and threw a bunch of ideas at me, some of which were good, and I considered hiring him on the spot. I didn't, though...figured it's best to sleep on it a bit and see who else applies. It's nice to have this many options, but kind of depressing that all these talented people are so desperate for work that they immediately pounce on an ad offering $500 to do a huge mural inside a hamburger and hot dog place.
I guess it's a good thing that I've got the work to give. The end result should be something striking and interesting on the wall, at any rate. Should be cool.
The next couple days should be pretty crazy. I've got a few artists coming by tomorrow, my guys Carlos and Rodolfo are coming in to help me paint the shoe moldings because I'm burnt out on painting and don't want to lay down on the floor to do the moldings, I've got a Quickbooks consultant coming by in the morning to help me set up my bookkeeping and payroll software, and then, after my meetings with the muralists, I'm supposed to meet some friends down in Wrigleyville to celebrate a buddy's 40th birthday. He's in from New York and is taking a bunch of us to the Cubs' game on Saturday as well, so no work that day. I'm going in on Sunday for a while to compensate for the lost time.
I'm excited because with the menu boards and mural starting to come together, things in the front of the house are really starting to look good. Once the painting is done, I'll really be able to focus on getting the kitchen up and running and then I can order FOOD. And start COOKING. Yay! Can't wait.
Last night I got home around 8:30 and even though Wendy and the kids had already eaten, I started making burgers because I had four different buns I wanted to sample and I really felt like it was best to check them out when they were fresh. I had a pound of ground beef, so I divided it up into four quarters and did four smashed-on-the-griddle style burgers, serving up two as singles and one as a double on one of the larger buns.
It was a fruitful exercise, because I did eliminate one of the buns and managed to hone in a bit more on what I liked about the other two, but even moreso, because the burgers were just juicy, crispy, sloppy, cheesy, and nicely topped with grilled onions and ketchup, I was reminded of what this whole thing's about. I was also STARVING, so that made them taste particularly good.
Oh, yeah...that's right. This opening a restaurant thing is about cooking tasty food. Sometimes I forget, what with all the mundane chatter about grease dumpster service, alarm systems, professional references for lines of credit, and all the other crap I'm devoting 90% of my time to.
I'm determined to have the ability to cook by the end of next week. In order to do that, I've got to figure out my line configuration, get my equipment guy in to do the hookups and repairs, get the hood people out to bring the exhaust up to speed, and get the fire suppression people out to ensure that the Ansul system and fire extinguishers are working properly.
Then...when all that's done. There *will* be burgers cooking. And fries. Can't wait.