The Iron Horse Hotel revs up for a culinary ride down Route 66
Regional cuisine -- if done right -- should make diners feel as though they were savoring their meal in the very place the dish originated.
Fueled by its motorcycle culture, The Iron Horse Hotel knows that good dining is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.
Beginning today, diners at The Iron Horse Hotel can experience a culinary tour of the "Mother Road," Route 66, as the hotel unveils its new multi-sensory dining concept.
Spearheading the project is The Iron Horse's Executive Chef Jesse Wilder, who has helped direct the changes following the departure of Chef Thomas Schultz.
"We wholeheartedly support Tom and appreciate what he's done for the hotel and for Smyth," said Wilder. "This is just an opportunity to take a step back and start another chapter in the success of this hotel."
This new chapter, which also includes revamped dining options for Branded, The Yard and the top-rated Smyth restaurant, looks to build off the hotel's past successes and integrate more of what makes it unique.
"We're going to keep it Wisconsin cuisine, just done better," said Wilder. "We're using this as an opportunity to not really move in a different direction, but to take the Smyth experience and move it into the whole Iron Horse Hotel."
Taking the literal approach, the new themed Sunday brunch in the lobby lounge was inspired by the Route 66 photography on permanent display in the Smyth restaurant.
"We looked at menus from the different restaurants and truck stops along Route 66 and we're taking a dish that they're well known for and doing the Iron Horse thing to it and making it a little bit of Wisconsin," said Wilder. "From 8 to 10 in the morning we're going to do a standard breakfast for the guests and for anybody that comes in, and then from 10 o'clock until 2 o'clock we're going to add this whole section of 'Route 66.'"
The changes won't just be limited to dining options, though. On top of the newly inspired menu, guests can also enjoy the sights and sounds of a journey down the Main Street of America.
"There will be things on the tables that'll be a part of Route 66, and there will be movies playing up on the wall with no volume, like 'The Grapes of Wrath' or 'Easy Rider' or 'Crossroads.' The music is all high-energy bluegrass, blues and road trip music," said Wilder. "It's a whole experience tied around the food and the artwork."
Aside from simply experiencing the new sights, sounds and flavors, guests will also have a chance to learn a thing or two about their culinary journey.
"We want to teach the customers about the food and what the story is behind every dish," explained Wilder. "Fleetwood Restaurant, for example, has a whiskey quiche, and there's a whole story behind it. There's a story behind the Scotch eggs that we're doing. The new concept's all about teaching the customers and telling them the story and entertaining them through the whole experience."
As for the food itself, Wilder says that The Iron Horse's signature Wisconsin-inspired flare will still play a big part in the cuisine. The biggest change will be the brunch's new approach to preparation.
"One of the things we've changed over the last couple of weeks is we've put in an action station, so there'll be someone cooking your eggs to order," said Wilder. "We'll also be doing fresh Belgian waffles and carving. It's not going to be your typical brunch buffet by any stretch of the imagination."
Even though this integrated concept is still new, Wilder is confident that guests will get into the experience.
"When you walk into the door to the Iron Horse Hotel, you should be feeling it," he said. "It's hard to be tired on a Sunday morning because everything's just so energetic and fun. We want to make it an experience that exceeds expectations."
It all sounds good, but wait a few weeks and see the difference in dining without Tom Schultz as chef. Sad to see the franchise mentality take hold in the Iron Horse.
Ted Drewes custard from St. Louis better make the cut.
I rode what's left of 66 from Barstow to Chicago and can't remember one memorable dining experience. This should be interesting to check out.
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