By Elisha French
After three decades, the last year has been difficult for the
locally iconic Packinghouse restaurant. In March of 2012, the
Packinghouse was closed for renovations and a menu overhaul. The
motivation for the move was to help the Packinghouse continue after the
retirement of owners Jay and Mary Matson. This effort was led by Chef
That restart only lasted a matter of days as Hug left and Todd Erling
stepped in. The restaurant changed their hours and some of their
philosophy of food. Erling made changes more than just interior or menu
but completely rebranded the restaurant in June. The restaurant went
from being the Packinghouse to Todd Erling’s Chop House. In this
process, he removed the salad bar and the notable cinnamon rolls. This
however, didn’t last as the Chop House closed on Jan. 1. The Matsons
expressed this was due to Erling having health issues. Today Todd
Erling is head chef at Big Al’s in Peoria.
Kevin Cerar, owner of the Barnstormer and Petey’s in Monmouth, told
the Courier that after he heard about the Chop House closing, he began
to inquire about the building. He thought about what would work there
and wasn’t concerned about the previous year’s events.
“Sometimes you have to change things up and do something new,” Cerar
said, “but with the Packinghouse’s history in the area, going back to
what worked is in the best interest of the area.” Cerar called the
Matsons and worked out an agreement to obtain the rights to the menu,
recipes, the use of the name and to lease the building.
Moving forward, Cerar believes he will employ 45 full time and part
time employees. As far as the menu, locals will find many classic
favorites have returned.
“The cinnamon rolls, salad bar, and slow roasted prime rib will all be there along with some other personal touches.”
However, Cerar will not be incorporating menu items from his other two restaurants onto the menu.
“If we do something then it will be new and not like the Barnstormer
or Petey’s. [The Packinghouse] will have its own personality. That is a
key for survival of all three restaurants.”
While Cerar will be putting in time at the Packinghouse, he expressed
that he still has to be concerned about the Monmouth restaurants as
well. The Packinghouse will have a limited reopening on Easter weekend
and will begin operation from there.