Restaurant Real Estate guy, I believe, has a good relationship with the building owner, and that may have influenced the deal the landlord gave us, which included a 20% discount off the current rent and 2 free months (rent "abatement", as I learn the lingo). Nice.
It's almost been a bit too easy, and I realize as I type that that I shouldn't even be typing that, but there it is, it's out there, I said it, no backspace key is going to allow me to pretend I'm not thinking it constantly. Which is another reason that I'm holding out posting about this place at any length and/or getting ahead of myself.
But, of course, I am picturing myself in the space, going over layout in my mind, as far as how the line appliances will be positioned, and the flow of the food from receiving to prep to the hot line. We're going to be moving through a lot of beef and potatoes.
If I haven't explained this concept at length here before, I might as well do it now. The concept is burgers and fries (we'll also sell dogs, sausages, and a few other sandwiches, as well as milkshakes). But, at heart, it's a celebration of burgers and fries.
First, for the burgers, we'll grind our own beef. I haven't started playing around with what particular mix on the cuts of beef I'll be using, but we'll start with a good amount of chuck, which has a natural 80/20 lean to fat ratio, and is easy to grind for burgers since you don't have to then go back and add fat. Brisket, short rib, and hangar steak are all options, as they generally add a really nice strong beefy flavor. The whole idea on the beef is fresh, fresh, FRESH. Very few hot dog stand type places use fresh beef, it's all either frozen hockey puck patties or previously frozen ground beef, thawed. That kills the texture and flavor of the meat.
So, beef ground fresh every day for the burgers. Pattied to order, only salt, pepper, and beef. The other thing on the burgers is that we offer two styles; you can order your thick 8 oz. burger cooked on the char-grill, rare, medium, whatever, and we're also going to be offering the thin, diner-style burgers that are cooked by smashing the beef down on the flattop with a spatula, the more Steak-n-Shake type style. These would only be 4 oz. each, so you're more likely to do a double cheese burger on this one.
Then the other thing is the fries. We're going to do hand-cut fries, cut everyday, fried to order, cooked and seasoned perfectly, and we'll have a little fun with some crazy toppings on the fries as well.
So this week, we're praying to the lawyer gods to make those guys work fast. My lawyers are drafting the purchase and sale of the assets of the current occupant, and the landlord (or his attorney) are putting together a new lease (current occupant's lease expires end of July) for us to look over. The plan is to get everything signed and then I could take possession in early August.
Once all that's taken care of, the next piece of the puzzle is the city. There's a requirement in Evanston that all "take out" restaurants--defined as any restaurant that does not have waiters, table service--must get a special zoning ordinance passed to allow them to run this sort of establishment. Even in this case, where the existing restaurant already got the special zoning, we have to re-file, to have the current occupant's transfered over to our name. Which can take 6-8 weeks, not to mention a few hundred bucks. I was down at Evanston's city offices a few times last week, working to get that in, and will be going back at least two more times next week to get the business license and health department all on board, fill out all the forms, and pay all the fees, so that everything is in motion as early as it can be.
If all goes as planned, it's quite possible that we could be ready to open, waiting for the city to grant us all the permissions and the licenses. Which wouldn't be a first, at any rate, but would be a pain, when we're geared up to get open and get a feel for how the business will be.