The expression commonly used to describe the amount of weight new students gain their first year of college might be batted around a bit more when the owners of the Country House Restaurant reopen Gilhooley's Grande Saloon at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The university owns the restaurant and bar at 3901 W. 103rd St. in Mount Greenwood, and students have long been able to use their "Cougar Card" to buy food at the establishment just off the main campus.
The owners of the restaurant in suburban Alsip became the university's food service provider on June 30, said Paul Boundas, owner and executive chef at Country House Kitchen. The restaurant dates to 1972, and Boundas took over in 2005.
Gilhooley's Grande Saloon in Mount Greenwood will serve a variety of pub-grub favorites, including buffalo chicken wings (bottom) and sriracha honey wings (top). [DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig]
The restaurant also handles breakfast and lunch at a variety of other South Side schools including Morgan Park Academy, St. Rita High School, Mount Carmel High School and Brother Rice High School. Boundas began expanding the cafeteria side of the business soon after buying the Country House.
"The difference between us and other food companies is a lot of other food companies rely heavily on frozen foods," Boundas said last week. "We treat our cafeterias like restaurants."
He said Saint Xavier's students seem to have recognized this difference, as sales in the cafeteria and elsewhere throughout the campus have already increased significantly compared to last year. Classes resumed Aug. 22 at the university at 3700 W. 103rd St.
Boundas said he approaches each school cafeteria like a restaurant with a focus on made-to-order items. Likewise, he said one of the complaints about Gilhooley's was that the previous owners treated the establishment as though it were merely an extension of the cafeteria.
The decadent chocolate cake at Gilhooley's Grande Saloon in Mount Greenwood is expected to be a regular birthday treat. The moist cake is individually baked at the restaurant at 3901 W. 103rd St. [DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig]
Conversely, he said Gilhooley's will return to its roots as restaurant under his leadership — regardless of the fact that students can still pay for food using their meal plan. He believes this will not only improve students' experience, but it will also draw in nearby residents.
"We are hoping to bring [Gilhooley's] back to being a neighborhood restaurant," said Boundas, a resident of south suburban Frankfort.
Jim Terri of Mount Greenwood will manage Gilhooley's for Country House. He spent the last 16 years working for the Chicago Board of Trade before having an epiphany 1½ years ago that led to a career change.
"I had this moment when I said, 'I need to go to culinary school,'" said Terri, who will graduate in December from Chicago's Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
The 8-ounce house burger at Gilhooley's Grande Saloon in Mount Greenwood comes with lettuce, tomato, onion and choice of side for $9. Free toppings include chipotle mayo. pickles, house-pickled jalapeños, caramelized onions, crispy fried onions and grilled mushrooms. [DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig]
Gilhooley's has been closed since June 25. Terri said the shutdown was necessary as the restaurant was thoroughly cleaned. The bar and floors were also refurbished, and new paint was added throughout.
Still, Gilhooley's looks largely the same, keeping with the late 19th century theme. But the management change, improved customer service and better food should have diners feeling the new vibe, Boundas said.
Highlights of the new menu include the "103rd St. Stuffed" burger ($11), which is filled with bacon and grilled with crispy cheddar. The burger is topped with fried onions and an egg on request. There's also the buffalo mac and cheese ($15) and a jumbo bourbon glazed pork chop ($17).
Some of the menu items might seem beyond what a typical college student would buy with his or her meal plan. But Boundas said the menu is a reflection of what is selling well in Saint Xavier's cafeteria.
In fact, he said a recent lunch on campus saw sales of cornmeal-crusted white fish far outpace pizza and burgers.
Gilhooley's Grande Saloon will reopen under new management Saturday. The restaurant and bar is owned by nearby Saint Xavier University in Mount Greenwood. The new managers also operate the Country House Restaurant in suburban Alsip. [DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig]
"I see that more in all of our schools," Boundas said. "The palates are out there now."
Gilhooley's will be open from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 4-11 p.m. the rest of the week through Nov. 1. Then the restaurant and bar will be 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.
The establishment has a 2 a.m. license, so it can stay open later for private parties or special events. But generally speaking, the bar will shut down well ahead of its mandatory closing time, Boundas said.
He added that he hopes his business continues to add restaurants and cafeterias. That said, he has no plans to change his approach to accommodate more volume.
"We are still the small guy, and we want to stay the small guy," he said.
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