The apprenticeship of Tom Yenne was 14 years long.
The 38-year-old owner of Huddle Bar & Grill in Caseyville said when he left his longtime bartending job at Fast Eddie’s Bon-Air in Alton, it was with a set of skills he believed would help him set up a successful business.
“What I learned was a work ethic,” said Tom. “They taught me the ins and outs; there’s not a better business to help you take that giant leap on your own. I have to give them full credit.”
Open two years in December, Huddle Bar & Grill serves a menu of sandwiches, wraps, paninis, salad, appetizers, pizza and daily specials, including $1.50 tacos on Tuesdays and fish and a Greek menu on Fridays.
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“Our Thursday night is a New York strip steak with baked potato for $9.99. We always get a big turnout for that.”
Located in a small business plaza where Illinois 157 and Caseyville Road split north of town, it’s in view of the Collinsville High School football field.
“People don’t realize looking from the outside how much room we have,” said Tom, who lives in Glen Carbon with his wife and two sons. The interior got a complete makeover, including building a horseshoe bar and a private gaming area. There’s also a dining area, high-top seating — room for 100 —and a rooftop patio that can hold 60.
Add to that a big chalkboard drink menu done in cool colorful calligraphy — and those tangerine walls.
Orange, they say, is a color that makes you hungry.
Tom Yenne on the tangerine walls
“Orange they say is a color that makes you hungry,” Tom said with a grin.
Tom said he and his wife, Katie, like to go out to eat, and bring back menu ideas they tweak. So, look for the Peanut Butter Bacon Burger, an unusual but popular combination of a half-pound patty, two slices of applewood-smoked bacon and peanut butter smothered on a pretzel bun for $8.99 with housemade kettle chips or fries.
Tom cuts all his own meat, uses family recipes and makes all the dipping sauces and salad dressings, such as chipotle, blue cheese and creamy balsamic. His cocktail sauce goes with the beer-battered shrimp appetizer ($7.99).
He likes to think of his food as one step above bar food, so he offers appetizers like grilled asparagus served with creamy balsamic sauce ($2.99) and Cheesey Jalapeno Hash Brown Bites with chipotle ranch sauce ($3.99).
Check Huddle’s Facebook page for the live music schedule on Friday and Saturday now that fall’s here.
Tom said he thinks of his bar and grill as a place where “family can come. You can come and watch the game. You can get really good food at reasonable prices.”
Sports fans will find nine flat-screen TVs and kids get their own menu and video games, too.
His son, Jordan, 18, works at Huddle in his spare time and “does just about everything,” Tom said. Brother Dax, just a month old, likely will grow up there, Tom said, noting there’s room to ride a tricycle inside when the time comes.
And the name? Yes, the Huddle Bar & Grill is in sight of a football field but, Tom pointed out, “Huddle means gathering, too.”
Huddle Bar & Grill
- Hours: Kitchen is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and to 9 p.m. Sunday. Bar is open until 1 a.m. Closed Monday.
- Where: 1101 Caseyville Road, Caseyville
- Handicapped accessible: Yes
- Information: 618-855-8555 and on Facebook and Twitter. A website is in the near future.