Chris Elsey picked a good time to pull something from his back pocket, which he had been holding on to for a while.
The Elmhurst resident already had been involved for more than 20 years in the Francesca’s Restaurants and was a managing partner of the popular downtown Western Springs Italian eatery, Davanti Enoteca.
“It was a concept I had,” Elsey said. “ I love sports, beer and great food, and I had it in my back pocket to open up a place that fit that concept.”
That concept became reality 2 ½ years ago when Elsey and business partner Scott Harris opened Hillgrove Tap around the corner from Davanti Enoteca.
“It’s a great location. It’s right here off Wolf Road in downtown Western Springs, and it’s right off the Metra line,” Elsey said. “People come off the train and grab carryout all the time, and we also have quite a few pub crawls, where people ride the train and get off in different towns along the way.”
Elsey expected that a casual restaurant with top-notch food and an offering of more than 80 beers, 24 on tap and 60 in bottles and cans, would bring people in. But he has been pleasantly surprised by the response.
“It’s better than I thought it would be,” he said. “I had a business plan, and our business has surpassed the numbers in that plan.”
Elsey said he believes the success is due to offering quality food on the menu at reasonable prices, great service and a comfortable, fun environment.
“We’re very kid friendly,” he said. “There are a lot of young families in Western Springs, and we get a lot coming in here. About 6:30 or 7, the families are usually pretty much finished and we have more adults who come in to have a good time, watching sports, visiting, enjoying a beer and getting some good food.”
Elsey said the different burgers on the menu are always popular, as are a variety of specials.
“We change up the specials and sometimes it’s seasonal, like adding some salads during the summer,” he said.
He said some offerings are a little different than most places, such as a sausage platter nacho bites instead of a nacho platter, and poutine, which is waffle fries, milk-braised pork shoulder, gravy, cheese curd and scallions .
Todd Worster of La Grange said he has tried several of the menu items, and always finds the burgers good.
“Sometimes, I get a little adventurous and try something new, and it’s always really good quality, even if it’s something I probably wouldn’t have again,” Worster said.
Elsey said business has been strong since Hillgrove Tap, which employs about 25 people, opened, but picked up when space was added on the west end about a year later.
“We were able to expand and turned it into a party room, which has seating for 50,” he said. “We do a lot of parties in there, and when we don’t have parties, it’s great for overflow.”
Elsey said Hillgrove Tap’s 55-seat outdoor patio area also is popular when the weather is nice.
“We have a lot of regulars who come in, and we have people come from other areas,” he said. “I think the comfort factor is huge in having regulars.”
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