In the small berg of Hecker, population 488, Back Street Wine & Dine is the only game in town.
“There’s nowhere for people to go to eat unless they leave town,” said Robbin Layton, who owns the family restaurant and bar with Kim Koesterer. Friends since their sons were in kindergarten, the two women, who live in Smithton, decided to go about changing that.
They built the restaurant on a piece of land on East Back Street owned by Robbin and her husband, designing it with concrete floors, wood ceilings, overhead fans and log walls. It opened last spring.
There is room to hold a baby shower for 106 (yes, this happened), plus a covered patio with Amish outdoor furniture, a game room with a free pool table, a semi-open separate dining/party room that seats 50, a long bar, a back wall of video gaming machines and a stage. An ATM machine was installed because there no longer is a bank in town.
Kim and Robbin, who both work full time in the health-care field, said the atmosphere and the menu at Back Street Wine & Dine is meant to draw a variety of customers.
“We wanted a restaurant first and a bar second,” said Robbin. “We wanted a family-oriented place where kids on a hot day could stop and get a cold soda.”
Together, Kim, Robbin and cook Alec Tribout are now expanding the menu soon to include homemade soup and white chili. They initially started out with a simple plan to serve five each of appetizers, sandwiches and entrees, plus three salads and a kids menu.
Omelets ($6.50) are big for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, with Alec making from-scratch sausage gravy for the homemade biscuits (full order, $4.95/half, $2.75).
Customer dinner favorites include a New York strip steak served with a side and a salad for $15.99.
“We sold 42 steaks one night,” Robbin said. It comes with garlic butter.
“No one asks for steak sauce,” she added.
“I talked one guy out of it” when he ordered, Kim said. When she went back to check on him, he told her he didn’t need it.
The rib-eye dinner ($16.99) is popular, too. Dr. Larry and Bernadette Dobbs, of Swansea, were enjoying it on a recent evening with some co-workers. Robbin is the office manager for the surgeon’s ear, nose and throat practice in Belleville.
The rib-eye was big enough that the couple had to ask for a take-home container.
“It was very good,” said Larry, who said he and his wife had eaten in the restaurant several times.
The side dishes get special recognition from Robbin, who pointed out that Kim came up with the idea for Praline Baby Carrots and the Loaded Baked Sweet Potato, which has mini marshmallows browned on top.
Daily specials include meatloaf (with special sauce) on Wednesdays, fish on Fridays, a chef’s choice on Saturdays and fried chicken on Sundays. All are $8.50 with two sides.
On weekends, anybody who likes to sit and enjoy a brew or a glass of wine — try the homemade sangria — can enjoy live music.
Kim, 51, and Robbin, 56, said the village has been very supportive and the community has been welcoming.
“We have people who just walk here for lunch or dinner.”
Back Street Wine & Dine
What: Lunch and dinner daily, plus breakfast Saturdays and Sundays. Full bar, acoustic music on Sundays and live band on Fridays or Saturdays every other week. Check Facebook for times and dates.
Location: 310 E. Back St., Hecker
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; to 1 a.m. Fridays; 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays; and 7 a.m. to midnight Sundays. Kitchen closes daily at 9 p.m.
Information: 618-430-1052 and Facebook