25th anniversary header
May 28, 2010

  We're Having A Party!
Come Celebrate With Us, Thursday, June 3rd at 5pm.
Special Appearance by Steve Sharp

steve sharpEveryone is welcome to come and help us celebrate.  Thursday, June 3rd from 5pm until we run out of stories and memories. 

We will be gathering at the bar to host a complimentary cocktail party for all of you, our closest friends!  Customers, past and present employees, family and friends.  Please join us to share memories, look over embarrassing pictures and just have fun. 

Steve Sharp will be playing for the celebration.  Stop in after work, we hope to see you there!

Uptown's 25th Anniversary
Chapter Four, Here's to the Present
by Ray

swcorner dining room pana

When I left off last week we had been in our new building about 5 years. It was about this time we were getting pretty settled in. I would always be looking for ways to increase the the quality of our products and to lower costs. Most of these things would include some form of us doing it ourselves. While buying things like carpet machines, steam cleaners, and drain jetters these tools would pay for themselves very quickly. Besides you know how much us guys love our tools.

Deb, the "laundry lady"
We also installed a complete laundry. On the food end we bought an industrial cryovac machine which would allow us to cut and portion our steaks and seafood. A vacuum tumbler allows us to "power marinate" our meats. All of these things gave us more control over our product. We also purchased a large walkin freezer for our basement which allowed us to even out our prep load from the busy months to the slow months. For example, we could keep our staff busy in November making crab rangoon and shrooms for December. This also allowed us to buy large orders directly from a manufacturer, thus skipping the middleman.

One thing that happened that drastically effected our business a few years back was a shift of sales regions by one of our nationwide food distributors. We had gotten to the point where we were buying 95% of our food products from one distributor. Things were working well for both of us for many years. Since they serviced all the downtown Chicago restaurants, the selection of products for us was the same as it was for the high end establishments in the city. Then with their infinite corporate wisdom, they decided to move all accounts west of I-39 (a mere .85 miles from us) to one of their downstate divisions. With that change we lost our access to many of the products that we would pull from the Chicago division.  Even after we stopped doing business with the company they would not alter their boundaries. This move was terrible for our selection, quality and prices.

Assortment of products from our Import House.
euro products
As in life, there is always a silver lining.  We found that there was good side to this move. We located a wonderful distributor that concentrated only on produce. We also started to order directly from an import house in Chicago. As it turns out, our pricing and selection has never been better. Also, around the middle of the decade we started to see small wine distributors forming and delivering to us down here in the boondocks. Where we once had only the biggest 2 or 3 liquor distributors to order wine from, we could now order wines from much smaller independent boutique wineries.

Ray Bonneville with Bernie and Ray
ray bonneville
In March of 2006 we had our first show at the "Playlist Theater". My friends Bernie Victor and Tom Ptak had been urging me for sometime to give this a try. We would go and see live music once or twice a month. This usually involved the "3AM death ride" coming home from the shows. Some of the acts that we would go to see were larger and way out of our league but there were many that would have as few as 20 or 30 people. Pieta Brown was one of these. We followed many of her performances in a 200 mile radius. Bernie and Tom would say to me "we can do this" and "there has to be at least that many music lovers in our area". I crunched some numbers and took the approach if we can just break even on the entertainment that would be great. Ray Bonneville just happened to be who I was listening to at the time. I looked on his website and kind of got an idea of the type of venues he played and when it looked like his tour would draw him near. It ended up being pretty simple. I think the next 5 people on my list I was able to get every single one of them. They were Pieta Brown, Tim Easton, Kelly Pardekooper, Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez, and Griffin House.

Chuck Prophet with Ray, Tom, Bernie
chuck prophet and gang
With about 5 years of shows under our belt now we have had a Slaid, a Ramsey and a Gurf. It all culminated in our dream show this past February with Chuck Prophet. I love doing the shows and hope it is perceived as something we give back to the Illinois Valley. I hope someone will pick it up when I have to stop.

winter signOver the years it has been interesting how some of the numbers have changed for our segment of the business. In the old days your labor costs would be 25% of total sales now it is getting close to 50%. Food used to be 50% and now it is 30%. Liquor is still about the same. We have gone from the "3 martini" lunch in the 80s, to the "let's do lunch" lunch in the 90s to the "no-lunch" lunch of the 00s. It seems like email and busy lifestyles have really put a dent in full service lunch traffic nationwide. Lunch used to account for well over one third of our sales and now it is less than a quarter. In the old days people would dress up to go out to eat, now they dress down.

The Uptown Buzzards, 315 years of experience.
buzzard employees
Getting through this recession, which I do not think is over, has been very challenging. We were not hit nearly as hard as most restaurants across the country. Even with the temptation (and a good excuse to) we have not laid one person off or cut any benefits. Loyalty to my staff is very important to me. This was done mainly through attrition and more "do-it ourselves" changes as I mentioned previously.

Bus trip to Florid Inn for our Christmas Party.
xmas bus
Over the years our infamous Christmas parties have been everywhere from the Curl Inn to the Florid Inn (we even rented a bus that year), from Bogarts to Bartleys. We always kind of joke that no place wants to have us back two years in a row. As you can see many of these pictures are from our Christmas parties. 

Banquet staff for a formal dinner.
staff patienti party
I tried to estimate (that is the only thing I can do) how many people we served in 25 years. If we count people that actually ate an entree, sandwich or entree salad we guestimate some where around 2.3 million. That does not count the people that have just had appetizers, dessert or drinks. So in actuality I have to guess somewhere over 3 million.

Ray in chef's pants at our last Christmas Party
ray in cooks pants xmas
Some personal things......
If I could change one thing about myself it would be, to be better with matching people faces to their names. It is just something I have a very hard time with.

When you live this lifestyle you just have to learn TGIM, "thank god it's Monday". What's in the name of the day of the week anyway? One good point is that you don't have to fight weekend crowds. Any restaurateur that tells you he doesn't do the zigzag on the way home is a liar. I alter my route home every night just to see what the competition is doing. Speaking of competition I would have to say almost all of my competitors during the last 25 years have been true professionals. I consider many of them friends. Besides that, just ask my family how difficult it is to get me to eat here. It is the most un-relaxing thing I can think of. I need places to go and be myself.

Ray, Ryan and Jimmy New Years Eve
ray ryan jimmy nye
People always ask me why our area has so many good restaurants. People that travel say if you go anywhere in the Midwest to a community our size there are no where near the good dining choices. I shudder to think what life in the Illinois Valley would be like without a Monari's, Garzanelli's, Verucchi's, Big House or Bartley's. (Sorry I can't name all of you.)  How much longer will I be doing this? I don't know. I would like to start taking things easier. I have been working these 70-80 hours week since I was 18. That is a career in most circles. I hope Ryan and Jimmy continue to develop and are ready to embark on their own 25 year adventure.

"Thank You"
ray and rita xmas
I was at a seminar this past week at the National Restaurant Show. The speaker was Bill Marvin, The Restaurant Doctor. I can get pulled in by the motivational speaker just like most people do. Something he said really struck me. He was talking about hospitality. He said some thing to the effect that it is invisible, it shows up as a feeling. Just like the first time you feel love, you know it when you feel it. He went on to define the difference between service and hospitality. Service is technical, hospitality is personal. Service is a monologue, hospitality is a dialogue. Service is executing, hospitality is embracing. Service is systematic, hospitality is organic. Service is doing, hospitality is being. Unfortunately you can't teach hospitality like you do other job skills. Fortunately, you don't have to. It is an innate quality. I really hope this is what you feel when you are a guest here. Thank you for your patronage and the privileged to serve you over these 25 years.

If you have anything to add, comments, pictures or memories you would like to share please don't hesitate to contact me directly at     owner@uptowngrill.com

25th Anniversary, Chapter One

25th Anniversary, Chapter Two

25th Anniversary, Chapter Three
25th Anniversary, Uptown Christmas Parties
Group photo at Canal Port, 2007
group xmas

Group photo at the Curl Inn, 2005.
group curl inn

Rene, Karissa and Neleena take a ride at the Red Door 2002.
rene on harley

Ray and Betty at the Florid Inn
ray and betty

Trace singing with the band, and yes she can!
tracy singing

Sheila playing "chair guitar"

25th Anniversary, Uptown on New Years Eve
Ava helps with balloons!
ava nye baloons

New Years Eve before the mayhem!
nye group pre rush

New Years Eve during the mayhem.
Notice Jimmy holding the wall up while he takes a nap!

nye during rush

New Years Eve after the mayhem.
Or maybe the mayhem is just starting?

nye after rush
Bart and Ray on New Years Eve.  No there is no "miracle birth" however, to the best of our recollection, there have been 28 babies born to active Uptown employees.  Many of the girls worked right up to their due date.
bart and ray

Ray, Rita, Rene and Mike on New Years Eve.
ray, rita, rene, mike nye

25th Anniversary, Playlist Theater Pictures
Stage for the first show.
small stage

Current set up for shows.  What a difference!
playlist room panaramic

Jim Lannen's daughter Ava with Carrie Rodriegez.
ava and carrie

Chip Taylor, Carrie and the gang.
chip carrie and gang

Carrie, Tim Easton and another gang.
carrie and tim eaton

Rita with Dan Hicks and
The Hot Licks

dan hicks and the licks

Uptown Graduates
Class of 2010
by Kris
Each year we like to take a moment to salute our graduates. This year we have three college grads.  Typically we have 3 or 4 high school students also, however, this year our high school staff members are all underclassmen.  Just like the college sports teams, it's nice to hold on to a winning team for another year.

Let me introduce you to the "Class of 2010"

annaAnna Marini
Anna started her employment here in March of 2006 as a bus girl during her high school years.  After graduating from St. Bede Academy in 2008 she quickly rose to her current position of Hostess.

She continued her education at IVCC and has just graduated with an Associates in Art.   Anna's immediate plans are somewhat unsure. She has applied to Americorps and is currently an alternate in the program.  While awaiting the outcome of that, she has also applied to Warren Wilson College in North Carolina to study Anthropology and Peace studies. Anna is our resident humanitarian.

Many of  you know Anna from working our Playlist Theater door.  As she says "I look forward to all Uptown shows because like Ray, those are my favorite artists too."
Anna's other interests include hiking and biking. 

jennaJenna Moore
Jenna has worked with us since May of 2002.  She started her employment with us as a bus girl.  We soon found that she was capable of much more and she moved to a Hostess position during her high school years. 

After Graduating from LP High School in 2005 she worked full time and added both waitress and bartender to her list of jobs during her IVCC years.  After graduating from IVCC in the summer of 2007 with an Associate of Science degree, she moved to Decatur to attend Millikin University.

Jenna has returned to work each summer and holiday season throughout this time.  She has just graduated from Millikin University with a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training.  During her time at Millikin, she did Internships at DMH Sports Enhancement and St Mary's AthletiCare in Decatur, both during her senior year.
This fall she will be attending Eastern Illinois University as part of the Masters Degree Program for Kinesiology and Sports Studies with emphasis in exercise science.  She has been granted a graduate assistantship with both the football and golf programs which will allow her to work one-on-one with the school athletes.

rene gradRene Anderes
Rene is, of course, Ray and Rita's daughter.  She has grown up in this business as did her brothers and like most of our college staff, Rene has returned to Uptown to work as a hostess, server and bartender on all of her college breaks.

She graduated from Hall High School in 2002 and continued her education at Southern Illinois University. Graduating with a Bachelors Degree in Food and  Nutrition with specialization in dietetics in 2006.  Still not quite sure where she was headed in life she continued on with her education attending Hungtington College of Health Sciences receiving a diploma in Comprehensive Nutrition in 2008.  

From 2009 to 2010 she participated in a Dietetics Internship at the Universisty of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.  After her graduatuation on June 11th, she will be eligable to sit for the national registered dietitian exam. 

Rene will be working locally as she has accepted a postition at Illinois Valley Community Hospital as a Clinical Dietitian.  On a side note, her father is hoping that after all of the money spent on her education she may offer some insite into a nutritional menu.

We wish all of our graduates the best of luck in all of their future endeavors.
Behind The Bar
Masciarelli Trebbiano d' Abruzzo
By Jimmy

mascarelliItaly is home to some of the oldest wine producing regions in the world.  The country contains more than 20 wine regions, dating back to before the 2nd century when Romans started developing their own vineyards. Two thousand years later, the country even out-produced France in the amount of wine produced in a year, making over 6 billion liters. The Italians love their wine and they are good at making it. The geography has excellent growing conditions.

About 10 years ago, the Pinot Grigio grape from Italy became very popular among the wine drinking world, including all over the United States. Sales of this wine rose 40% in 2002. This light, crisp white wine with the funny name seemed to be ordered more and more. Once people knew how to pronounce it, they loved to sound sophisticated and fashionable while dining out with friends. There was a time on our glass list that it was the most selling wine we had, even out-selling white zinfandel. There for a while, it almost seemed unacceptable not to have a pinot grigio on your wine list.

This leads to what we feel is the problem with pinot grigio, it is so mass produced that it is hard to find one of great quality. This gives us reason to introduce another Italian light white varietal. Trebbiano d'Abbruzzo is a white grape that is very similar to a pinot grigio. (pronounced) "treb-ee-ano d' ah-brew-zoh", say it a few times so you feel better when ordering next time you are in.

We offer Masciarelli Trebbiano which is light to medium body and crisp, just like that pinot grigio you can not seem to stop ordering.
On Special
Roasted Lamb and Arugula Flat Bread Salad
By Kris

lamb flat bread salad

Is it a salad or is it a sandwich? Actually it's the perfect combination of the crunchy flat bread to be eaten along with the tender arugula salad.  Ad the tang of the feta cheese and olive tapenade with the roasted lamb and the combination is outstanding.  Kudos to Chef Chris on this one!

Moon Report
Flower Moon
by Kris
full flower moon

This months Full Moon is named after the abundant flowers in bloom during this time of year.  It was Thursday, May 27th at 5:07 pm.  It is the second of three full moons during the Vernal Equinox.  Some Algonquin tribes knew this full Moon as the Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon. 
Holiday Hours
Memorial Day
by Kris

fresh fruit flag

Not Your "Everyday" Specials

seafood trio newFriday Nights, Seafood Mixed Grill
It includes a  4 oz lobster tail with drawn butter, 4 oz salmon filet with basil cream and 4 oz whitefish parmesan with lemon caper butter.  All for only $19.75

steak diane
Monday Nights, Steak Diane
Last, but definitely not least... Starting Monday, May 17th we will be serving Steak Diane for $13.75.  This will be just like the Red Door Inn.  With Victor's stamp of approval.

fajitasSunday, All Day, 
Sizzling Sunday Fajita and Margaritas

You get a chicken fajita for two with a 64 ounce pitcher of margaritas for only $20! Imagine this on a Sunday afternoon on the patio or at a sidewalk table with the sunshine and a nice breeze!  No, your not in Cabo, but it sure feels like it! 

On Our Special
Blackberry Point Oysters on the Half Shell
Blackened Duck Breast
Panini Sandwich with Mortadella, Provolone Cheese, Roasted Red Peppers
Roasted Lamb and Arugula Flat Bread Salad
Jumbo Soft Shell Crabs   
Lemon Sole Bonne Femme
Bowtie Pasta with Imported Italian Tuna and Capers
Three Way Filet
Fresh Broccoli with Tillamook Cheddar Cheese
Win a Free Lunch

Foodie Fight Free Lunch Contest
by Kris

foodie fightEach week in the newsletter we will ask 3 questions from the Foodie Fight cards.  The first person to email us (see link below) the correct answers to all three questions will receive a complimentary free lunch.  The winner has to have the correct answer for all three questions, no exceptions.  The following week we will publish the correct answers and the winner from the previous week.  So come on in and have a drink, study the cards, test each other and have fun.    Good Luck!

1. What is the Spanish toast to health?
2. Who was the first president to hire a French chef for the White House?
3. How many large whole eggs yields 1 cup?

Fine Print...
You must be the first person to respond with all three correct answers.
The response must go to the email address in the above link.
You must reply within 24 hours from the time the newsletter is published.
Participants are eligible to win a limit of 3 times a year.

Last Week questions and answers....

1. What herb has a downy silvery-green leaf, a potent, earthy flavor, and is often used with pork and in turkey stuffing.  Sage
2. What stadium food of today did Julius Caesar introduce to Rome in 48b.c.?  Sausage
3. What neighborhood restaurant chain, headquartered in Atlanta, has a 68 percent male customer base?  Hooters

Last weeks winner of the free lunch ... Chris Kieffer
Playlist Theater
 Tickets on sale now.            

Upcoming Shows    

griffin house 1Griffin House
June 4th

roy davisRoy Davis

August 13th
Tickets on sale now

Uptown Grill
601 First St.
La Salle, Il 61301
Mon - Thur 11 am to 10pm  - Fri & Sat 11 am to 11 pm
Sun Noon to 10 pm
Join Our Mailing List
You can read all of our past UPtown UPdates by clicking the link below.
UPtown UPdate Archives
Email Policy
Uptown respects your privacy and will not sell or distribute your personal information.