For those of you breathlessly anticipating the grand re-opening of Gray’s Mill downtown, your wait is almost over.
The restaurant at 211 N. River St. will officially open its doors for lunch at 11 a.m. Friday, according to General Manager Debra Metzinger. It will be the first time Gray’s Mill has welcomed customers since 2007, but unlike previous attempts to open a restaurant in that location, this one is the brainchild of the mill’s owner, Tim Ivers.
And Ivers’ plan is simple—offer good, affordable American food. He’s teamed up with My Chef Catering of Naperville to provide that food, and attracted talent like Metzinger, a 30-plus-year veteran of the hospitality industry. She recently served as director of operations for the Herrington Inn and Spa in Geneva, and received AAA’s Four Diamond rating several years in a row.
Metzinger said the restaurant’s executive chef, Robin Corbitt, is committed to making all of the menu items from scratch. The menu features a variety of American meals, from burgers and fries to pork chops to pot roasts to surf and turf, with most items $15 and under.
Metzinger said Corbitt and his staff are doing everything by hand—grinding their own chuck for burgers, for instance, and brining their own pickles, a process that takes weeks (and may not be done in time for the grand opening). And Metzinger, a certified sommelier, promises great wines to go with the meals.
The new restaurant will make extensive use of its patio and a 200-seat outdoor tent for weddings and other functions, Ivers said, and with My Chef Catering on board, can handle different types of food for events. My Chef has been in business for 23 years, and has catered more than 100 weddings, including several at Gray’s Mill.
Though Ivers initially said he would like to start slow, opening only a few days a week, the current plan has the restaurant opening at 11 a.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, and closing at 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and 8 p.m. on Sundays. (The mill will be closed on Mondays.)
The hope, Metzinger said, is that the menu and Americana setting will be versatile enough to attract a wide audience.
“We’re hoping to be the restaurant you bring your family to on Tuesday, and then go to for date night on Saturday,” she said.
Ivers’ plan has received enthusiastic support from village officials and trustees, and those hoping for a revitalization of downtown. The corner of River and Mill streets, where Gray’s Mill sits, has been hard hit recently, with the closing of Boca Burrito II and the shuttering of The Mill Tavern after the death of owner Alice Sutcliff in May.
Ivers has owned Gray’s Mill since 1984, and has completely renovated it, for which he won an award from the Illinois Landmarks Preservation Council in 2001. A number of tenants have opened restaurants in that space, most recently Jason’s at Gray’s Mill, which closed four years ago.
The new Gray’s Mill has a website, though it is under construction, and a Facebook page. The staff plans a soft opening on Wednesday, with a full opening on Friday at 11 a.m. Check out the menus by clicking on the PDF files above.