James E. McNellie’s Public House, closed for renovations since Sept. 9, will reopen this week in time for its popular Burger Night.
The 15-year-old restaurant-pub, 401 E. First St., will reopen at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Burger Night, which features a burger and fries for $3.99, is 5-11 p.m. every Wednesday.
“A lot of people probably will walk in and not notice anything different,” owner Elliot Nelson said during a tour of the two-story facility Monday.
That is because many of the most costly renovations are not visible to customers.
The kitchen is twice the size of its original 600 square feet, and new draft lines for beers have been installed from the keg room to the taps.
“On nights we turned out 1,000 to 1,500 tickets, it was unbelievably tight in the old kitchen,” Nelson said. “We had to improve conditions for our kitchen staff.
“Technology has changed quite a bit since we installed our beer lines, and it was time to catch up. The lifespan of the old rubber hoses probably was near the end anyway.”
What will be more noticeable are a snug in the side dining room, foot rails around all of the bars, new bench seating next to the fireplace in the side room and a new no-smoking policy in the large upstairs dining room.
“The percentage of smokers is going down, and a lot of regular smokers these days don’t like to smoke where they eat,” Nelson said. “Also, we needed the additional dining capacity.”
The upstairs bathrooms have been spruced up a bit, and the pool table and two shuffleboard tables will stay.
A snug is a small, enclosed private dining area served by a dedicated pass-through to the bar. The snug, which holds up to eight diners, also is a feature at McNellie’s South City, 7031 S. Zurich Ave.
The snug and general seating now can be reserved through the OpenTable system.
“Most tables still will be available to walk-ins, but consumer trends show people want to go somewhere they know they have a table,” Nelson said.
Six whiskey barrels will be stationed on the sidewalk for outside beverage consumption. No food will be served outside.
Nelson said a new menu also will be launched within a month.
McNellie’s Pub was Nelson’s first foray into the restaurant business. Since then, McNellie’s Group has opened El Guapo’s Mexican Cantina, Dilly Diner, Yokozuna, Fassler Hall, The Tavern, McNellie’s South City, Elgin Park and Dust Bowl Lounge & Lanes.
McNellie’s Pub regular hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday.
“It has been strangely emotional, to tear some of the original apart,” Nelson said. “This place is special to me.”