Kenny Atzert is in demand. The co-owner of The Wayward Pub — with locations in Freeburg and Sparta — bounces from the restaurants to suppliers, to his home in Arnold, Mo., and back again — all while fielding calls from employees such as Loren Huighe, one of his bartenders at the Freeburg location.
“He’s on his way in now,” Loren said into the pub’s house phone for the third time in 30 minutes. She then calls Kenny to report the Wayward Pub’s latest need.
Loren is excited about the Wayward Pub and is invested in it beyond being a bartender, cook, server, manager and whatever else needs to be done. The Wayward Pub logo, with its bright orange, red and yellow arranged in a dramatic compasslike shape, is her design, created under the owners’ direction.
Kenny opened the Wayward Pub under that name a couple months ago and was open under the old Scooter’s name six months ago. In that time he’s poached employees, including Loren from Cicero’s in The Loop in St. Louis. He also hired a consultant to create a menu specific to the community. He’s out to create a franchise.
“We wanted to make our own concept,” he said of him and his father, Ed, the other owner. “What the community needs and wants, no cookie-cutter (restaurant).”
Kenny is using his corporate training at Red Robin restaurants to create the “mom and pop feel.”
We wanted to make our own concept. What the community needs and wants, no cookie-cutter (restaurant).
Kenny Atzert, co-owner of The Wayward Pub
Two things he’s learned so far: “Bacon, bacon and more bacon make a really good salad, but it’s bad for the waistline”; and Freeburg and Sparta, despite both having similar populations in rural Southern Illinois, are very different in their restaurant needs.
“Sparta wanted (Wayward Pub) on more of the restaurant side,” he said. “The restaurant does really, really well.”
“It could be a question of personnel,” he said of Freeburg’s apparent preference for the bar side. “Our bartenders are fantastic, and it does well.”
Loren says there are four beers on tap at Freeburg, including Stag, and they stock 27 bottled beer, including the Schlafly brand.
But she’s pretty happy with the food, too.
Loren is a big fan of kitchen manager Justin Hall’s clam chowder. Justin has a preference for the Italian beef sandwich.
The Italian beef is cooked for eight hours and has “a little bit of a kick” because it’s made with banana peppers, onion and garlic, Kenny said.
“The pizza burgers are something to die for,” Loren said of the hamburger topped with marinara, pepperoni and mozzarella served on a toasted bun.
Justin says the Italian beef and the burgers are the pub’s top sellers.
Kenny has food and drink specials throughout the week, but he saves Tuesdays for helping the community.
“Tuesdays are open for fundraisers. Just give the store a call,” he said.
Kenny promises groups 15 percent of the proceeds from people who bring in a fundraiser flier between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. He says there are four fundraisers already scheduled over the next two months, and he hopes to book one every Tuesday.
The Wayward Pub Freeburg
- 309 Marketplace Dr., Freeburg, IL 62243
- Hours: Kitchen is closed on Mondays; 11 a.m. to midnight Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday.
- Seating: About 85, plus outdoor patio
- Wheelchair access: Yes
- Full bar: Yes
- Live bands: Yes
- Carry-out available: Yes