BEVERLY — Bleary-eyed drinkers might think the "Irish Death March" got more dangerous when a new brew pub opened along the infamous do-it-yourself pub crawl route in Beverly.
But Neil Byers, purveyor of Horse Thief Hollow, wants binge-boozers taking the 16-block Western Avenue bar walk to oblivion to know he’s not running that kind of joint.
“This place isn’t about drinking,” Neil Byers said without a hint of irony. “It’s about enjoying good food and a couple good beers. We’re not offering shots to people at the bar. It’s a restaurant and a brewery, not a place of overconsumption.”
Byers, a Beverly native with a Mount Carmel pedigree, even closes up hours before his liquor license allows so late-night drinkers don’t get the wrong idea.
And when the 29-year-old rookie restaurateur says the neighborhood pub is a family place, he’s not just talking about a place parents can bring their kids for supper.
“My mom stained the wood. My cousin and I built the walls. My dad made the tabletops. My friend the carpenter built the bar,” Byers said.
And his sister, Meredith, tends bar.
Plus Byers made the place authentic Beverly down to it’s name, Horse Thief Hollow — a nod to the neighborhood's origins as a wooded stop for bad guys headed Downtown to sell horses stolen in Missouri.
“The entire place is basically a representation of me and what I think works. Things I believe in — not in an arrogant way — I’m just really into beer. Craft beer brewed on-site and poured right into your glass,” he said. “And good food. Quality ingredients. Everything made from scratch. A place you can go have a good meal and not worry about breaking the bank.”
Since the place opened — even during Tuesday’s snowstorm — Horse Thief Hollow, 10426 S. Western Ave., has been so packed that on a few nights they’ve run out of house beers and the signature pulled-pork sandwich.
“We’ve been doing triple the business what we thought we would do,” Byers said. “It’s been overwhelming because you want everyone to come in and have the experience that I want them to have. The trouble with the menu is barbecue takes 10 hours to make and beer takes two weeks. Everything is made from scratch. And I take it personally when the experience isn’t what it should be.”
When I went there for lunch last week the sandwiches I wanted to order — the Cuban and pulled pork — were sold out. And our waitress was, well, still learning the ropes. But she served up a couple of free beers to make up for it.
And Byers says he’s working out the kinks. He hired more staff — boosting his payroll to 35 employees working two shifts. And for at least four days running they haven’t run short on the homemade pub-grub — tasty beef chili, shrimp po’boy sandwiches, gumbo and pulled pork for Cuban sandwiches, Byers’ favorite.
It’s important to Byers that the food he serves and beer he pours is made in-house. He says that extra touch adds to the growing “craft-micro scene” emerging in Beverly, a street better known for boozing and, of course, the South Side Irish Parade.
He’s talking about places such as BevArt, a craft beer and winemaking store, and Hardboiled Coffee Co., where the beans are roasted in house.
“Maybe it’s early to say this, but the goal is to bring back some of the energy Western had and work with others to turn it into a craft mecca. A lot of the liquor we sell is from Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. We partnered with Jimmy Jamm to sell their sweet potato pie. We get our mead from BevArt and sell Hardboiled Coffee. Those are all local businesses where we get our supplies and support the stuff they make. You can’t do that in Tinley Park, where everything is a corporate chain.”
Despite his plan to cater to drinkers who believe in moderation and a hearty sandwich, Byers still plans to open up on Beverly’s booziest day of the year — parade day.
“I’ve already hired security. We had a meeting with police and know what to expect,” he said. “We’ll have food. A limited menu, corned beef and pulled pork. It’s going to be a busy day.”
Kind of like every day so far — only with way more drunkards.