When other kids were playing baseball or building forts, Tim McEnery was reading restaurant trade magazines.
Just a few days before opening day of his 19th Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant, McEnery was overseeing the final details at the Oak Lawn location, which opens at 11 a.m. Monday at Stony Creek Promenade at 111th Street and Cicero Avenue.
Monday’s opening in Oak Lawn is shaping up to the biggest in the restaurant group’s history.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever been so busy, so fast,” McEnery said.
With the restaurant group’s flagship a few towns away in Orland Park, Oak Lawn is the second Cooper’s Hawk location in the south suburbs.
“We try to look at what made Orland Park successful and two big things came to mind, demographics and the quantity of people. These are good, fun, South Side people,” McEnery said. “When this development became available, we looked at this site very closely and thought it would be wonderful to come out here.”
McEnery is no stranger to the south suburbs. He grew up in Orland Park, practically onSilver Lakes Golf Course, and graduated from Marist High School before heading to Purdue University. One thing he knew, he wanted to own his own business, be it a restaurant, car wash or a gas station.
“I’ve been invited to speak with Marist students a couple of times,” he said. “It’s surreal when you get to come back to your school and people care about what you say.”
His first job in the restaurant business was washing dishes at his aunt and uncle’s restaurant at Green Garden Country Club in Frankfort when he was 11. He hasn’t stopped working since.
“I never played sports, working was my thing,” McEnery said. “I love the pace and all the fun, crazy people in the restaurant business. It has been incredible.”
Described as a daredevil in the restaurant industry by Wall Street Journal, McEnery opened his first restaurant in Orland Park in 2005 before he was 30. He and his talented team have turned Cooper’s Hawk into a $121 million empire with a 130,000-member wine club.
“It’s a wild ride to say the least,” he said. “All I wanted to do was make sure that [Orland Park] was successful. Cooper’s Hawk is a growth company and what we’re really focused on is that we get good at growing and opening restaurants.”
The 10,000-square-foot space has a different layout than the Orland Park location, including a Napa-style tasting room, dining room and indoor bar. The outdoor seating area looks across a retention pond with shooting fountains toward Cicero Avenue. The patio is also heated during cooler weather and has a fire pit.
The menu offers modern American casual dining, which could mean such entrees as the maple, mustard and pretzel-crusted boneless pork chop ($21.99), or pistachio-crusted grouper ($25.99). The restaurant also offers burgers, sandwiches, appetizers with a twist, such as Cooper’s Hawk calamari, and chopped salads starting at $9.99.(Patch has included the menu.)
Cuisine is paired with the restaurant’s own hand-crafted wines, with most by-the-glass selections going for $6.50 to $8.50. The most expensive bottle is $48, with the average price around $25.
McEnery told Wall Street Journal last year that the restaurant group doesn’t open a new Cooper’s Hawk unless the location shows a potential annual revenue of $10 million, which speaks to the potential of Oak Lawn’s long awaited Stony Creek Promenade.
Even before the doors have opened, 100 wine club members have stopped by to collect their wine of the month bottles.
“This is about as excited as I’ve ever been,” McEnery said. “I’m always excited when we open a new restaurant but here is just so special because my mom grew up a block down the street.”
For local Cooper’s Hawk fans, they’ll no longer need to schlep to Orland Park to pick up their wine of the month selections.