Jessie and Brian Pokojski want people to stay awhile when they come to their restaurant, Stock & Barrel in Breese.
Tables not only are covered with white tablecloths, they have jars of conversation-starting Popsicle sticks. Questions range from “Who in your life brings you the most joy?” to “What makes you feel better when you’re having a bad day?”
Servers are encouraged to get to know customers and not rush them through meals.
“I wanted to bring back the art of conversation,” said Jessie, 41. “I wanted to bring back dinners out with the family.”
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In the past few months, the Pokojskis have made both structural and philosophical changes to turn their old business, Big Stix Sports Bar & Grill, into Stock & Barrel.
The inside of the 8,000-square-foot metal building used to be open with the restaurant, bar, music venue, pool tables and dart boards in one giant space with 22-foot-high ceilings. Big Stix attracted a younger, late-night party crowd.
“It was fun, but we grew up,” said Jessie, who has two daughters, Alex, 8, and Ella, 4. “We got older. We were tired, and we weren’t available for our kids like we wanted to be.”
Now the couple is focused on creating a “full dining experience” for people of all ages.
I wanted to bring back the art of conversation. I wanted to bring back dinners out with the family.
Owner Jessie Pokojski on her dining philosophy
They kept the 40-seat rectangular bar with a “barnwood-chic” centerpiece and Edison-style pendulum lights. But they built a wall between the bar and dining room and plan to build another wall between the bar and music venue, which will be rented out for weddings and private parties.
The Stock & Barrel waiting area has comfy chairs, a wall-mounted gas fireplace, a fig tree strung with white lights and a tic-tac-toe board. An outdoor patio is in the works.
The couple hired chef L.C. Simmons, who has worked at upscale restaurants such as Tony’s in St. Louis.
“I use a lot of classic French techniques,” he said. “I use a lot of herbs, and I try to bring out the natural flavor in food.”
What is his top choice for dinner? The bone-in ribeye, a 16-ounce peppercorn-encrusted grilled ribeye with bourbon cream sauce, baked potato and broccoli ($28).
“It’s just the best steak I can get,” he said. “The best presentation is the stuffed chicken breast ($21), and then there’s the bread pudding ($6).
“It’s not the traditional bread pudding. It’s white chocolate and macadamia nut brioche with sun-dried cranberries, and it’s served with a crème anglaise, and that’s a vanilla cream sauce. It’s kind of like a custard.”
Stock & Barrel also serves appetizers, salads, sandwiches, flatbreads and lunch specials such as fried chicken mac and cheese, meatloaf, baked mostaccioli and cod cut-ups (Tuesdays through Sundays for $8).
“We have a great wine list, and we have our signature cocktail, which is the white cranberry cosmo,” Jessie said. “And we do a killer bloody Mary on Sundays.”
I use a lot of classic French techniques. I use a lot of herbs, and I try to bring out the natural flavor in food.
Chef L.C. Simmons on his cooking style
One of the restaurant’s most regular customers is Herb Schlarmann, 78, a retired State Farm agent who was Trenton’s mayor for 28 years.
His favorite entree is probably the baked cod with lemon, wild rice and asparagus ($17). For lunch, he likes the ribeye steak sandwich, seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper, grilled and topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions ($13 with hand-cut chips or Parmesan fries).
Herb also is crazy about the Bavarian pretzels, which are flash-fried pretzel sticks served with cheese sauce and honey mustard ($8).
“I’ve never been a pretzel fan,” he said. “But I have these three times a week. They’re fantastic, especially with the honey mustard dip.”
The couple returned to Clinton County to be closer to family, opening Big Stix in 2009. They switched to Stock & Barrel in February.
“We are getting raves on our food,” Jessie said. “People can’t imagine we’re in Breese, Illinois.”
At a glance
- What: Stock & Barrel restaurant and bar
- Where: 8802 Old U.S. Highway 50 in Breese
- Hours: Lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays; dinner from 4 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
- Seating: 60 in dining room, 40 at bar
- Carryouts: Yes
- Party room: Music venue for weddings and other private parties, plus 60-seat Bourbon Room
- Video gaming: Yes
- Information: Call 618-526-7706 or visit the Facebook page
On the menu
- Bourbon Glazed Pork Chop — Grilled bone-in pork chop from Red Barn Farm Meats with sweet bourbon glaze, Parmesan garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed Brussels sprouts ($21)
- Stuffed Chicken Breast — Oven-roasted and stuffed with Gruyere cheese, asparagus, prosciutto and arugula pesto in a balsamic reduction, served with Parmesan garlic mashed potatoes ($21)
- Stock & Barrel Burger — Two burger patties, sautéed mushrooms and onions, peppercorn bacon, smoked Gouda, roasted garlic mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickle ($10 with hand-cut chips or Parmesan fries)
- Buffalo Chicken Sandwich — Hand-breaded chicken tossed in buffalo sauce, topped with bleu cheese dressing and lettuce ($9 with hand-cut chips or Parmesan fries)
- Spinach and Apple Salad — Baby spinach, Granny Smith apples, red onion, candied pecans and bleu cheese vinaigrette ($7)