BELLEVILLE — In mid-May, 4204 Main Street Brewing Co. opened. It has a split personality: Depending on what you want, it can be a microbrewery that serves food off a big menu. Or, a restaurant that serves Belleville's first beer since Stag closed its doors.
"Right now, it's 60 percent food and 40 percent beer," said owner Todd Kennedy, standing by the glass wall that looks into the brewery. He and his wife, Julia, run the business. "But, about 90 percent (of customers) get some form of beer. We think of ourselves as a brewery first and a restaurant second.
"We wanted an upscale restaurant. We don't want you to leave to have fun. You can have it here. We have an outdoor area, games, live music. We want people to hang out."
But, you'll have to make two big decisions while you're there: Choose from the seven or eight craft brews made there, then which ones go with your steak or pasta or burger or sandwich or seafood or pork or chicken.
Todd, 44, owner of Golden Corral restauants in the area, said the wait staff is there to help you -- trained to pair food with, say, the top-selling Pecan Brown Ale. Depending on the week, you might also find on tap an American Wheat, lager, IPA, California Common Rye, Saison, porter and a Chocolate Stout. Prices are $4 to $5 by the glass, while a flight of four 5-ounce glasses is $7.
The Pecan Brown is the limited edition of beers at 4204, which is what Todd calls the business. Twenty-one pounds of pecans go into the seven fermenting barrels on the premises. That in turn makes 210 gallons of Pecan Brown.
"We created it specially for the 200th anniversary of Belleville," he said.
It's been so popular that the brewery has a hard time keeping up with the demand, which doesn't make Todd unhappy. After all, the whole idea of taking the big vacant building he owned and turning it into a brewery came with a heart-felt notion: "Bringing back a tradition to a city. We wanted the name to be all about Belleville," he said with a grin. "We are a replacement for Stag -- on a smaller scale."
At the helm of the beer-making is brewmaster Tony Toenjes, of Belleville. He also helped design the setup for the brewery, which sits at the front of the building for all to see -- inside and out. It was his idea, too, to label all the metal tubing seen overhead in the restaurant and bar area that moves ingredients to the big stainless-steel fermenters and beer to the tappers at the bar.
"We want people to ask questions," Todd said of the brewery. "And, we give tours. We give you safety glasses to put on and we take you in there. You get a sample off the fermenter, too." As long as you're 21 or older.
Back in the kitchen are chefs Jesse Mayer and Robert Gutierrez, who shared their skills, along with Todd, to create dishes that include Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin ($14), Margaritaville Shrimp ($18, grilled shrimp skewers served over chimichurry orzo salad and seasonal vegetables), Tuscan Fresh Herb Pasta ($11, fresh pasta tossed with a light garlic-infused olive oil with basil and seared tomatoes, topped with aged Parmesan cheese) and a selection of six cuts of Certified Angus Beef, from burger to sirloin, filet mignon and T-bone. The most expensive item on the menu is the 22-ounce Porterhouse for $24. Top your steak with a choice of houesmade sauces: chimichurry, red wine demi, house cider reduction, 4204 signature beef horseradish steak sauce. Entrees come with soup or salad, bread and a side dish.
Desserts include Brewing Co. Bread Pudding ($8) and Profiterole served with hand-churned vanilla ice cream and chocolate stout ganache ($7)
Stone columns dot the multilevel interior, with dark wood beams overhead complementing dark wood trim and black furniture. The deck is partially covered and has wing canopies. Todd said he hopes by August to have expanded both the outside dining and drinking space as well as adding a banquet room.
For someone who has known how to concoct menus for 25 years, Todd is now learning about crafting beer.
"I'm getting my first lesson this week," he said recently. "I wasn't a big beer drinker before all this, but Tony has really changed my mind."
4204 Main Street Brewing Co.
Where: 4204 W. Main St., Belleville
What: Craft brewery and restaurant with full bar, outdoor deck and patio, live music Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights and Sunday lunch. Jamaican Lunch 1-5 p.m. Sunday with jerk food on the grill. Growlers available to take home, $10 to $22, depending on growler size and beer. Refills are $6-$15.
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday to Wednesday; to 1 a.m. Thursday to Saturday; to 11 p.m. Sunday.
Handicapped accessible: Yes.
Information: 618-416-7261, mainstreetbrewingco.com, Facebook