Geno’s is gearing up for the school year with the addition of an open mic night, happy hour and new menu.
The University District eatery, which re-opened under new ownership and management almost a year ago, made the changes to cater to neighborhood residents, particularly Gonzaga University students. The campus is across the street.
Many of the new menu items were “inspired by customer feedback,” said John Grollmus, one of the three new owners. The idea was to give customers “a reason to come here rather than The Elk or The Two Seven.”
Grollmus and business partner Brad Fosseen own Moon Time in Coeur d’Alene, The Elk and El Que in Spokane’s Browne’s Addition, The Two Seven on Spokane’s South Hill and The Porch in Hayden.
The two, along with restaurant manager Marshall Powell, bought Geno’s last fall. One year in, Grollmus said, business has been good.
“We like it here,” he said. “It’s nice to be a little more involved, a little more connected with Gonzaga.”
The restaurant and bar have become a popular place to watch Gonzaga basketball games as well as Seattle Sounders – and this summer’s World Cup – soccer matches.
“It was standing room only during all of the USA games,” Grollmus said. But, “One thing we had been hearing a lot from guests since opening is that the menu was too similar to our other restaurants. As a result we decided to mix it up and switch out some of the old favorites and add a bunch of new items which have never been featured on any of our menus before.”
Two of the top-selling new menu items at Geno’s are the pastrami burger, with melted Swiss cheese and sauerkraut on toasted rye bread, and the kale and Brussels sprouts salad, with Parmesan cheese, almonds and vinaigrette.
Grollmus is “a big fan” of the salad as well as the new Caribbean pork sandwich with an orange ginger sauce, toasted French roll, caramelized onions and cilantro.
Other new additions include the Northwest Turkey Sandwich with apples, bacon jam and cheddar; Honey Garlic Chicken with an Asian salad and jasmine rice; and Mughlai Lamb with Spinach, Indian spices, naan, jasmine rice and carrot yogurt raita.
Geno’s also pays homage to its Italian roots with its new Fresh Herb Linguini.
For decades, Geno’s was a traditional, family-style Italian joint with red-checkered tablecloths. That changed three years ago when a new owner remodeled the restaurant with vintage circus décor and refined the fare while retaining the Italian influence.
When it changed hands again last year, Grollmus and his crew retained a few elements of its short-lived, circus-y past, going for a more light, bright, airy and modern feel – like its other eateries.
But it’s the only one of the group’s restaurants to offer french fries – and happy hour.
Appetizers during happy hour – garlic fries, french fries, chips and salsa, pesto and cheese bread, and garlic and onion bread, which regularly run $2.50 to $4.25 – are all half off. Draft beers are $3, well drinks are $3.50, and wines are $1 off.
The idea at all of the eateries is to keep prices fairly low so neighborhood folks can afford to eat there a couple times per week. Geno’s happy hour particularly caters to the college crowd.
So does its new open mic night, which began Aug. 20 and takes place Wednesdays at 8 p.m. at least through the end of the academic year.
“I think it will be mostly music,” Powell said. “We’ll have a drum kit set up and a couple of instruments.”
Poetry is OK, too. And, “If someone wants to bust some stand-up – sure,” he said.
Thursdays, there’s live music and $1 pints from one rotating keg.
A one-year anniversary party is being planned for October.
Meanwhile, Fosseen, the original chef when Moon Time opened in 1996, still cooks, rotating through kitchens in all of the eateries.
“The plan was just to open the one,” said Grollmus, who does the books. He usually works in the office at Geno’s, but – like Fosseen – also makes the rounds. “I like going to all of the restaurants and talking to people.”
They have no plans for another venture – at least not yet.
“We’re really into knowing all the staff and knowing what their story is,” Grollmus said. “We get too big and we will lose that.”