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Prairie Rock closes after 13-year run

28 February 2009 RS 43 Comments

Prairie Rock Brewing Company in downtown Elgin. Prairie Rock Brewing Company in downtown Elgin. (Photo by The Elginite).

Prairie Rock Brewing Company, the downtown Elgin restaurant and microbrewery that has been emplaced in the historic Grove Theater since 1995, is closing.

The Courier has the scoop:

Operations Manager Julie Komperda, said the establishment’s owner simply decided the timing was right to shut down, and denied that it was affected by the current economic climate…

“There was nothing that persuaded the owner to change his mind about how he wanted to run the restaurant or if he wanted to stay open or close it,” she said. “He feels that Prairie Rock has had its run through the course of the years and he’s finally decided that he’s going to close it.”

The restaurant has had to make some cutbacks over the past year. Last June, the main dining room was shut down with the exception of banquets due to rising costs.

Prairie Rock closed their Schaumburg location in early 2007.

The Courier paraphrased Ed Schock saying, “it did not come as a surprise given the impact the economy has had on local businesses.”

This contradicts what the restaurant manager said, and I’m with the manager on this. Now that the restaurant is closed–last drinks will be served tonight, we can air our gripes. Go ahead, say it.

“Vanilla beer is GROSS!”

Their other beer was not much better. I was never a fan of the food or drinks at Prairie Rock, but the ambiance was nice. I’m sure that whoever moves in will make better use of the brew equipment–if they don’t sell it first–and the facilities.

Now before you criticize me for slamming the restaurant as it closes, I’m actually doing Elgin a favor.

Prospective restaurateurs shouldn’t get the idea that a restaurant is closing simply because there’s no market in Elgin or that downtown Elgin is a bad place for business, or as the mayor says, the economy is bad. The truth is that the Prairie Rock was subpar, and that’s why it failed. It has little to do with downtown Elgin. It’s remarkable that it survived as long as it did.

It could just be my opinion, of course. So what do you think? And what would you like to see take Prairie Rock’s place?

BTW, if you think putting vanilla in beer is a good idea, don’t comment :)

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43 Responses to “Prairie Rock closes after 13-year run”

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  1. alan says:

    You can see my opinion in the forum post I added this morning: http://elginite.org/forum/viewtopic.php?id=398

    And yes, vanilla beer is gross.

  2. New Elgin Joe says:

    it deserved to go under. Poor service, mediocre food. we went in there for a beer before the hot air balloon festivities, waited half and hour and asked 2 waitresses and it never came.

    another time half the order was right. YUCK on the food.

    but the building was pleasant enough

  3. anymouse says:

    Oh no…I loved the vanilla creme. It was especially great with the vanilla shag I got in champaign, IL (back when smoking was legal inside food joints). The vanilla brew was smooth and delicious.

    Their food was another story….

    They should turn it into a pizza joint, like Piece pizza in Chicago’s bucktown neighborhood…or Coal Fire.

  4. RS says:

    alan, I don’t how I missed your forum post. Thanks for pointing it out. I concur on most of your points. Now that I think about it, the buffalo wings were pretty good.

    New Elgin Joe, I had similar service problems. Waitress forgot part of the order, decided not to bring change back to the table, etc.

    anymouse, brick oven pizza would definitely be a hit. You can’t go wrong with pizza generally speaking, and people want a pizza place in the downtown.

    Americans love their pizza! Seriously, if your restaurant is a pizza restaurant, your chances of success go up like tenfold. That’s completely unscientific and anecdotal but I don’t remember any pizza places going out of business.

    Another idea would be for somebody to turn it into a Portillo’s kind of place. Since it’s so large, just sort of set it up so that several independent food vendors can set up in there and share the dining space. The bar can be run separately. I think that would work well too.

    So you might have the hot dog like Portillo’s, but you might also have a good tacqueria in there, maybe an Asian food vendor, etc.

  5. Jessica says:

    I love the vanilla beer! Many people have told me I have bad taste after finding this out, but hey, I have a sweet tooth. What can I say?

    I thought the food was poor, but figured it was because I don’t eat meat and they didn’t really make anything vegetarian.

    I had good service, but really only went there once every several months.

  6. Jessica says:

    Other comments:

    I know of at least two Elgin pizza places that went out of business (both located on Randall) in recent years.

    Speaking of sweet beer, when I was in San Francisco I got a beer float. Once again my taste was questioned, but beer + ice cream + whipped cream? Yum!

    I liked that Prairie Rock put in a bike rack. I hope that stays there.

    I vote for a vegetarian restaurant!

  7. GEE-N-JAY says:

    anymouse- I love the idea of a PIECE style bar/restaraunt! i lived in wicker park for 2 years and would go there alot! never a bad time…or the space might be big enough to be a whilrball venue??!

  8. Eric says:

    When I lived downtown my wife (then girlfriend) and I would walk over to Pairire Rock almost every Friday to watch some singer songwriters, have some beer and eat spinach artichoke dip. I’d have to say though that our last couple trips there (we have only gone every 4 or 5 months over the last couple years) weren’t all that impressive. The food (other than the spinach dip) wasn’t great and the service wasn’t either. Regardless, I know we’ll both miss it. I would love to see a great microbrewery there, but I would agree with Jessica that a vegetarian restaurant would rule!

  9. Lifer says:

    How about a sushi joint or a real brewery? It doesn’t really have the ambiance for a sushi joint, but we could still use one. Not enough raw fish for sale in Elgin.

  10. starshine says:

    Jessica, my daughter would agree with you on the vegetarian restaurant. I hope it doesnt sit empty for too long. We too loved the beer garden with live music and you are all right. We stopped going because the service and food wasn’t what it was.

  11. rm says:

    Some of these suggestions are making me hungry. I’ve certainly enjoyed “Piece” in Chicago and another beer-oriented place, Hopleaf, but I wouldn’t mind seeing something “Middle Eastern,” too. (I know - generally not associated with brewing and alcohol but often offering some good vegetarian options; Reza’s in Chicago BTW went into a failed Berghoff’s brewing space.) Whatever the nature of the cuisine, I hope it reflects the demands and interests of the market rather than another subsidized effort at “downtown revitalization.”

  12. mg says:

    Loved the beer. Never any consistency in the service or the food. Did get a few meals on the house because of screwups by the cook and/or server.
    We need to have something open up there.
    What happens with Brewfest?

    • Tom says:

      I believe it will
      be a downtown wine fest sponsored by the
      restaurants food services in the down town area.
      Prairie Rock is involved.
      Again it is only hear say.
      The Red Bar will contribute as well as Mad Maggie’s
      And then again hear say.
      I would like to see this happen,
      However I would call them,

  13. toothache says:

    Maybe the city will take over brewfest or even better if a local brewer took it over. Maybe someone should talk to Emmett’s in Dundee. I agree that piece would be a smash in the Prarie Rock space. Maybe the DNA could market it to them or Goose Island.

  14. crabapple says:

    A pizza place would be oh so wonderful!

  15. ibgolfr says:

    I’d like to see Elgin get all the money back that it foolishly poured into a now dry well……like usual, current city fathers will continue to pour taxpayers money into “pet” supposedly uppity endeavors. If a business is really a worthwhile and needed establishment, it succeeds on its own and doesn’t need tax dollars from the entire population to prop it up.

    • Anonymous says:

      ibgolfr has my vote.

      Common Sense Clarence Hayward

    • Boxcar says:

      If you ran a restaurant-type business would you come to downtown Elgin WITHOUT incentives? Remember, this was and still is a city that has a reputation of allowing the stench of illegal aliens to waft over its city and is losing control of its gangs. So bad is it that we had to ban the sale of spray paint to people under 18!

      I heard Prairie Rock paid back the city everything it was loaned.

      Past city leaders, many of whom are still here, have spun this city into a filth pot filled with disgusting illegal aliens who are draining TAXPAYERS money and ruining everything decent in our city. It will take a lot to rebound and get the air clear of this but it is happening, bit by bit. The last election proved it as only one illegal alien sympathizer got elected out of three. As long as you have the greasiness of illegal aliens around we better get used to giving more of our tax dollars away in incentives.

      By the way, a new business has already started working inside the former Prairie Rock, I think it’s called O’Doul’s-another pub I think?

      • D@niel says:

        With all the respect and Education Im replaying to this ignorant Comment of a racist people that affects more to the city of Elgin than what it help’s … any smart person wuold know that this comment of rasism has nothing to do with the closing of a restaurant but some people use any opportinity they have to show their hate about others with less fortune in this world.. in my opinion they should blame their leaders in congress for not passing a comprehensive Law that eliminates the problem..a law that treat people with equity and respect. when people wont have options they risk their life’s for a better life and all they recieve is discrimination, abuse and rejection from every one who hasn’t live their experince on their own skin. personally I love this country and the beatiful people that everyday with their work continue the progress of this nation .. but I would never be in agreement with someone that thinks that He owns the world … and refer to people has ILLEGAL ALIENS.

        • Boxcar says:

          Me, neither.

          Except for the illegal aliens part.

        • JL says:

          When people come to the country the legal way, they will not have any issues - what part of ILLEGAL do you not understand? Every country has rules for citizenship - some governments just choose to ignore those rules and let taxpayers pay for those who feel they are “owed”. Citizenship is a right, not a privilege.

  16. scott says:

    I vote for a 2 brothers brew pub http://www.twobrosbrew.com/ —blows away the goose.

    In actuality, having 2 brew pubs in Dundee, one in Elgin, one in STC, we were probably a bit saturated. Especially considering the quality products being produced up river, I’m not surprised to see the Rock sink.

  17. alan says:

    One in STC? I assume STC means St. Charles. What brewpub is in St. Charles? I didn’t know there was one.

  18. scott says:

    ooops…I meant Geneva.

  19. Toothache says:

    I still want to know what, if anything, will become of Brewfest. I am assuming that was one of the more successful fests. Why doesn’t anyone want to bring pizza downtown?

  20. RS says:

    That’s a good question about Brewfest. I think now that Prairie Rock is out of the picture, if it continues, it can be a better event, because now other vendors will be able to offer food.

    There was always something wrong about the way that they wanted to monopolize food sales.

    But Brewfest was run by the Rock and probably they have legal rights to it. I’m not sure if the city or someone else can just take it over without coming to an agreement with Prairie Rock first.

    It would be sad if it ended though, because it’s probably Elgin’s best-attended and most successful festival–with far greater potential than it ever realized.

    Well now that a wine bar is opening, could an Elgin Bacchanalia replace Elgin Brewfest?

  21. Toothache says:

    I would assume that with the Rock now defunct that they no longer have any rights to the fest. If they do the city could easily get around it by repackaging it and calling it something else. As far as monopolizing food sales, I could understand why they did. I am sure it is very expensive to host a festival after paying for bands, stage, fencing, port o potties, cups, security, advertising, product etc. that one would need to capitalize on as much revenue as one could to make it profitable in the first place.

  22. Toothache says:

    The city could also ask for their $200,000 back that they granted to Prarie Rock.

  23. Elizabeth says:

    Anybody know how to get in touch with the owners?I might be interested in the brew system.

  24. Jason, Carpentersville says:

    Don’t ask for what people think and then set guidelines on what opinions should be posted here. If you do not like vanilla in beer, you do not have to order it. I personally did like the vanilla creme. Does every beer have to be bitter to be good?

    • Dannyblake says:

      Bitter to be good? No. Popular enough to sell and maintain the product line and the restaurant? Yes. The vanilla beer was symptomatic of the problem, not necessarily the problem itself. The PR felt that it was going to do whatever it wanted in spite of customer demand or preference. If folks aren’t happy they simply stop spending money.

      Good riddance.

  25. Kevin Sweeney says:

    Anybody heard anything about Roadhouse that’s supposed to go in at this location?

    • Alan says:

      This is what I’ve heard, not sure if it is all true.

      Planned opening is around April. They are working in there now. The brewery is gone, which is a real shame.

      They are going to have UFC style fights there, as in live, in person fights, not just on TVs. I find that hard to believe though. I was told they would be held in the old main dining room. I believe this room will be a dance area too.

      It will be a flair bar, complete with dancing on the bar and bottle juggling. Oh Joy!

      Not sure about the food, but with a name like Roadhouse, I am hoping for good BBQ. I have a feeling the drinks will cater to the Red Bull and Miller Lite crowd. Joy again!

      I also heard the person opening it used to be involved with Gasthaus.

      • Alan says:

        This is their ad on Craigslist:

        Roadhouse Bar and Grill is an exciting new restaurant, lounge, and multi-functional venue, that is opening in December. We will be featuring top named entertainment, from nationally known bands and comedy shows, to the immensely popular Boxing/Kick-Boxing/MMA events. We are looking for Energetic, outgoing, motivated people pleasers that are used to hi-volume operations and can draw a crowd. Come audition and become part of our incredible new opportunity!

        *Roadhouse Honeys (female Bartenders)- Come in and apply Mon-Fri 10-4pm Bartenders Must be 21 Servers 18 and experienced. Semi-choreographed Dancing on the bar will be a requirement…. Please bring a resume with job references, a photo of yourself (no nudity), bartending and basset license- if you have one.

        *Male Bartenders- Applications will be taken from 10-4 Mon thru Fri. Call backs for interviews will be done the first week of November - Must be 21 and experienced in Bartending (FLARE bartending is a plus but not required!). Please bring a resume with job references, a photo of yourself (no nudity), bartending and basset license- if you have one.

        * Day time Server’s/ and Cocktail Servers/ Security and Kitchen Staff- Applications will be taken from 10-4pm Mon- Fri. Experience and a positive attitude a must!

        200 Prairie St
        Elgin IL
        60120

        Located in the Prairie Rock building on the corner of Prarie St and Grove Ave

        • rm says:

          Thanks for posting this info. It’s reminiscent of a Coyote Ugly wannabe with more violence to entertain the clientele. And what’s “FLARE bartending”? Flair bartending with torches? One must assume that chicken wire will be a prominent decorative motif. In all, it sounds like another good reason why the City shouldn’t be cutting back on the police force. And wouldn’t you be happy to have tossed more than 300k bucks into a condo or townhome across the street from this?

  26. Alan says:

    I found the FLARE bartending part funny too.
    I do hope it turns out to be better than it sounds now. I would love a good place to sit outside in the summer again. I really miss the Rock Garden. But again, I’m guessing the beer selection will leave something to be desired.

  27. chochkie says:

    booze food broads. Hope the police can keep up with this.

  28. Paul says:

    “*Roadhouse Honeys (female Bartenders)- Come in and apply Mon-Fri 10-4pm Bartenders Must be 21 Servers 18 and experienced. Semi-choreographed Dancing on the bar will be a requirement…. ”

    LMAO. That is what Elgin needs! A strip club without the strip.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I was a brewer at prairie rock a d we used real vanilla beans in our vanilla cream ale. It was a huge seller back when John Elias and Jason were running and owning the joint. Prairie rock had its hayday before being sold and changing directions a few times. The original is always the best. Can’t change a good thing and not expect failure.