BELLEVILLE — When owner Mark Onstott opened Tavern on Main last month, he did more than add another drinking establishment to downtown Belleville's nightlife scene. He set his new business apart by including "a serious, seven-night-a-week place to have dinner."
Patrons sitting at the glowing red bar can keep their drinks cold on the frost rail. Diners can relax in the enclosed brick courtyard under flickering sconces and order the New York Napoleon (strip steak) and a bottle of wine.
"I turn 60 in December," Mark said. "I've always wanted to do one more place -- something unique and trendy in downtown Belleville. I'm really happy to be part of the mix here."
The owner of west end Marco's On Main and Shenanigan's, and takeout Marco's Express on the east end, he wanted Tavern on Main to have just the right ambiance -- from the ground up. He did that by contracting with building owner Greg Crawford to "take the place down to the studs. ... We had a deal before he bought it to built it to our specs."
Longtime Belleville residents will recall a procession of restaurants on the corner of North Church and East Main streets, from Marilyn's Pie Pantry in the 1980s to the most recent barbecue place, Hettie's.
Today, tall panels of windows bring in light that shows off bare brick walls, vintage wood floors and a color scheme that merges rich with vibrant: espresso brown walls with ruby-red composite tabletops and chartreuse cushions at the front of the tavern.
Foot traffic is not a concern, he said. Next to the U-shaped bar and entrance is a glass garage door that opens onto an extended sidewalk that seats guests on warm days.
"The weather was so nice last weekend, we just opened it up and people just started walking in," said Mark. "There was a wedding down the street and the reception around the corner, so about 100 people came here for a couple hours to kill some time between the two."
The interior courtyard is the main dining room. It's quieter, with chocolate-brown, high-back faux leather chairs and wood tables. Wall-hanging fireplaces will be installed in a few weeks, one for this room and another for the front area. Five flat-screen TVs are found only in the bar and front area.
Colleen Gleeson runs the front of the house.Chefs Denise Harris and Joe Metzger dish up a wide array of menu items.
The New York Napoleon ($18) is a grilled, hand-cut 12-ounce strip steak topped with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and a tempura basil leaf. It is served with a port wine balsamic glaze, seasonal vegetables and a choice of potatoes. Thai Snapper ($17) is sauteed snapper with a mango Thai chili sauce. Bourbon Chicken ($12) is a braised chicken breast in a bourbon marinade. Both are served with rice and vegetable. A house salad is included with all entrees.
Mark said the BBQ Shrimp (served with goat cheese grits and toast points, $9) and Spinach Flatbread (spinach-artichoke dip baked on flatbread, $8) are popular appetizers. He expect the complete menu to be ready within the next week, with eight pastas, served with house salad and garlic bread; 10 pizzas, including build your own; 10 sandwiches; and six burgers served with fries. Right now, the Chicken & Prosciutto Tortelloni ($12) is a favorite, as is the Lobster BLT Pizza ($10-$21).
Food is served until midnight, with a small late-night menu including pizza.
On Dec. 3, Mark said the restaurant will open for lunch and hours will shift to 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
"All the sandwiches, burgers, pizza, pasta and salads will be offered," he said. "We'll also have an Express Lunch Buffet set up with soup, salad or sandwich. You can pick two or three for $7.95 to $9.95."
Tavern on Main
301 E. Main St., Belleville
Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Hours change on Dec. 3 with an 11 a.m. opening for lunch.
Handicapped accessible: Yes