Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Packinghouse Returns to Galesburg

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 Mick Hug.

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.
Elisha French
Contributing Writer

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