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Meet Jim Koklas of Green St. Grille in Bensenville

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jim Koklas.

Jim, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
This specific project came about from a long time resident of Bensenville, and now Green St. Grille partner. The building was vacant for many years, regardless of the fact the building had a lot of history attached to it, as it was the old Post Office of Bensenville in the early 1900’s, and then much later was a successful restaurant. The Village of Bensenville approached us to take the building over and bring it back to life as a restaurant and bar to liven up the downtown area. We began construction just after the 1st of the year in 2017 and completed the project in early April 2017. Bensenville is a very industrial town and we wanted to bring that to life through our restaurant concept so the design is very industrial with lots of reclaimed wood inside and out, exposed steel pipes, exposed ceiling, polished concrete floor, etc. Our menu influences were hearty sandwiches for the common laborer in the area such as, Butcher’s Steak Sandwich, which is an 8oz NY Strip steak with provolone cheese, grilled onions, arugula dressed greens on an Asiago French Loaf, a Classic Rueben sandwich piled high with fresh corned beef, sauerkraut, 1000 island dressing on seeded rye bread. We also have hearty entrees such as, Fish N’ Chips, Chef’s Chicken Parmesan and Steaks off of the grill. Our bar features a great beer list of over 40 beers, 12 on tap and many other options in bottles and cans from the local, regional and national level.

All of this came to fruition because of the fantastic job the team and company did with our other property, Mistwood Golf Club. We did a multi-million dollar renovation on the golf course and rebuilt our clubhouse to feature a beautiful banquet facility and a fantastic restaurant called McWethy’s Tavern. The success of Mistwood Golf Club as a whole allowed us to be at the forefront of opportunity within the hospitality industry. It’s funny because we were not looking to add to our portfolio at the time the Green St. Grille project came about, but the board at the Village of Bensenville would not let us walk away from the opportunity. To date, we are currently operating multiple properties, starting with Mistwood Golf Club, McWethy’s Tavern, The Great Hall banquet facility, McQ’s Bar & Grill, our sports bar concept, The Grand Ballroom at Joliet Union Station banquet facility, and now Green St. Grille. We’re excited to see what the future holds, and as long as we’re able to provide the highest of quality products and services through our guests dining experiences, we will continue to look at new opportunities to expand.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The hospitality business, and restaurant industry to be specific, is never a smooth road. We came across countless obstacles, whether it was construction of the building, to the design and down to hiring, training and staffing. Consistency is the number one killer in the restaurant industry, and not just in food delivery and presentation, but staffing as well. If you’re constantly being a revolving door of staff your guests will never get the experience they deserve. We strive on providing a fantastic culture where our team enjoys coming in to work each and every day, which then translates to our guests and the bottom line. When we specifically we’re doing the Green St. Grille project we held a job fair at the Village Hall for 2 days where we only saw 11 people come through! This was certainly disheartening, but more so a wake-up call that we were in new waters we weren’t used to being in, in a town that was expecting so much out of us to perform. When we were ready to start our 2 1/2 week training program we were fortunate to have a stable group of new staff to begin training, except for the back-of-the-house. We only had 3 cooks and a dishwasher and wanted to start with 5-6 cooks and 2-3 dishwashers. Fortunately, as we were scrubbing through training over the next couple of weeks we began to see new faces applying and got us back into our comfort zone with staffing.

The next biggest struggle was getting our management team to sync together. We hired a very experienced General Manager to lead the team, however, we quickly learned that person was not what was needed for the Green St. Grille property and had to make a change. We ended up promoting our Assistant General Manager who was a very young and hungry Manager that still had a lot to learn. A huge struggle for that person currently is balancing the day-to-day operations, time management, etc. In conclusion, the moral of the story above is staffing playing a huge role in any new opening of a restaurant, and ensuring a management team that clicks well on the floor to ensure success.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Green St. Grille – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
The bread and butter of our company is Mistwood Golf Club. It’s a golf course that’s been around since 1998 and was taken over by our owner solely in 2003. He put in a multi-million dollar renovation to turn the golf course into a premier course in the Chicagoland area. We started with that renovation in 2012 where we ended up redesigning and building all 18-holes. The next phase of construction in 2013 was building a Performance Center (our “half-way” house) where golfers can grab a quick bite coming off of the 9th hole or working with our golf professionals on lessons, club fittings, driving range, etc. It’s a building that we’re very proud of and have won numerous awards for within the golf industry. The last phase of this massive project in 2014 was to knock down and rebuild the clubhouse. Within the clubhouse we have our Pro Shop, McWethy’s Tavern and the Great Hall banquet facility. On November 2015 we opened the new clubhouse. We quickly went into a class of our own with the addition of McWethy’s Tavern, a Scottish farmhouse feel of a restaurant that featured contemporary American cuisine and some European favorites like Sheppard’s Pie and Fish N’ Chips.

We are proud to vocalize that we’re a 90% scratch kitchen where all of our sauces, dressings and items are made in house. Our culinary team brings a skill set that has been recognized throughout the world. Our bar program features over 50 Scotches from all across Scotland and the world, 60+ domestic and craft beers from the local, regional and national level. The Great Hall banquet facility is a fantastic room that accommodates over 200 guests. This space was very much in demand where we sold out our entire 2017 calendar year.

In 2012, we had the opportunity to purchase an indoor golf dome and restaurant. The space is 60,000 square feet and features over 20 hitting bays for the avid golfer to work on their game through the Chicago winter months. The sports bar & grill that’s attached to the space features over 30 TV’s where we showcase all of the biggest games from the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and soccer. The menu features award-winning wings such as, Classic Buffalo, Hot Habanero, Buffalo Parmesan, and many more flavor options. Our chef-driven menu is “comfort food” done really well using quality products. We wanted to bring that Executive Chef quality to a sports bar concept where our guests not only get to enjoy the games, but experience a culinary cuisine that you wouldn’t normally get at a sports bar.

We have stuck by our culture of providing high quality products and services within our properties, and we’ll continue to lead in that fashion. If our staff continues to come to work each day in a positive manner that will always translate to the guests they’re serving, which in turn will lead to our profitability year over year.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Having secured our 3rd restaurant and 2nd banquet facility in as little as 5 years our focus now is to continue building our brands. We don’t have any major changes or planning coming along any time soon, but that’s never to say our owner doesn’t get an itch to do something else. We’re fortunate to be in the position we are and we’ll continue to strive for greatness with all of our brands. We’re certainly looking forward to the future of Green St. Grille and everything that will encompass at that property.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Green St. Grille
    120 W Green St
    Bensenville, IL. 60106McQ’s Bar & Grill
    730 N Bolingbrook Dr
    Bolingbrook, IL. 60440

    Mistwood Golf Club (parent company)
    1700 W Renwick Rd
    Romeoville, IL. 60446

  • Website: www.greenstreetgrille.com, www.mistwoodgc.com, www.mcqsbar.com
  • Phone: 630-474-1201 and 815-254-7001
  • Email: jkoklas@mistwoodgc.com
  • Instagram: eatatGreenSt
  • Facebook: eatatGreenSt
  • Twitter: eatatGreenSt
  • Yelp: Green St. Grille

Image Credit:
Jim Tsioles Photography, Brian Walters Photography, Leigh Loftus Photography

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