Something new is coming to The Geneva Inn, N2009 S. Lake Shore Drive.
Part of the ongoing renovation at the hotel, restaurant and banquet facility is The Patio at the Geneva Inn, a place where boaters and beachgoers can buy food and beverages.
Suton Doeringsfeld, restaurant and banquet manager for The Geneva Inn, said the business has never done anything like it, but it ties in with an effort to change the look and feel of the business.
The concept for the Patio, she said, is “fast, casual food,” and the plan is to open by the beginning of July, if not sooner.
“We really want folks to be able to boat up and grab food to take back out on the boat,” Doeringsfeld said of The Patio. “We want folks to be able to walk up from Big Foot Beach and grab some food to take back to the beach, and of course, we’ll have dining on the patio as well.”
Recently, ground broke on construction of the kitchen space for The Patio, which is part of the renovation project at The Inn.
Officially, the project began in January, and Director of Operations Becky Rogers said it’s estimated to cost more than $2 million.
Established in 1990, The Geneva Inn provides 37 rooms, two banquet rooms and The Restaurant at Geneva Inn, formerly known as the Grandview.
Doeringsfeld said the concept for The Patio is different from The Restaurant, which is where she sat June 2 to discuss the renovation, at a table overlooking Geneva Lake. There’s now an improved view, thanks to one of several changes during the reno.
“I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from folks that they didn’t think the view could get any better, but it did,” she said. “There used to be valances up top, and just opening up those couple of feet at the very tops of those windows really improved that.”
Inspired by Shake Shack — a chain which came to the Chicago area last year — The Patio will provide its food and beverages “wrapped to go,” said Doeringsfeld.
Operating hours haven’t been decided on yet, but it’s likely there will be some breakfast options provided.
It perhaps best exemplifies the goal of the renovation project, which Doeringsfeld sees as “relaxed elegance.”
“That’s what we’re going for in our style of service,” she said. “We want the service to be elevated, but not fussy. We really want folks to feel comfortable coming here in their sandals, if they wish, having a gorgeous shrimp cocktail and a beautiful bottle of wine, and nothing more, if that’s what they want to do.”
That was also the intention behind changing the interior look of the Inn’s common areas and The Restaurant, which Doeringsfeld feels has a more positive energy now.
They tried to give the areas a modern-looking update, but retain a classic feel.
“The old décor was cozy and warm, a little outdated, but much darker,” she said. “Everything just felt darker, and I definitely think there’s an airiness, and I feel like there’s an increased energy in the room.”
Doeringsfeld said they also want to move away from the notion that The Restaurant is a “special occasion place.”
“We still want to be that — we want to be the place people come to for special occasions, too — but we also just want to be a relaxed, elegant, lakeside place that people can come to and feel comfortable.”
Soft open phase
Although the Inn recently reopened, the renovation in the Restaurant’s kitchen is also still ongoing.
“Our kitchen team is working under not ideal conditions during these first couple weeks that we’re open, just because the kitchen’s not fully functional yet,” said Doeringsfeld.
That has been the biggest challenge, she said.
But currently in a “soft open phase,” Doeringsfeld believes it’s been a positive experience.
People have loved the food, an “almost back-to-basics” menu prepared by Chef Jeff Benzon, and they have enjoyed the new décor, she said. “By and large, it’s been beautiful.”
Her favorite feature of the reno is the new wine wall, which sits at the center of the restaurant, temperature-controlled and stocked with a new list of wines.
“It’s been really fun, watching our guests … look at all the wines, talk about the wines,” Doeringsfeld said. “We really do want to be known as a wine house, and so, having that piece right in the middle of the restaurant really just sets that in your mind as you walk in.”