Cooks?#34;home or professional?#34;must envy Ted Hosty.
The new restaurateur's kitchen is so big he took the door off a walk-in cooler to use it for dry storage. It's so big the chefs get a workout carrying sauté pans from stove to scrubber.
Hosty doesn't need a big kitchen for the handful of tables at Good To Go, 7761 Lake St. in River Forest. So, as the name implies, he hopes to cultivate a "to-go" following for the restaurant, which offers coffee and homemade pastries for breakfast, creative sandwich/salad/soup lunch choices, and day-of-the-week dinner menus that change monthly.
"The space dictated what we did," said Hosty, who once served as general manager of Doc Ryan's and Healy's Westside in Forest Park before attending the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. He served as chef of Webster's Wine Bar in Chicago for two years before opening Good To Go.
Now a River Forester, Hosty grew up in Oak Park. Family makes up much of his staff.
The restaurant opened mid-June, after a build-out of the space that took Hosty and his brothers a month and a half to complete. They kept one of the butcher's blocks from the River Forest Market, the space's previous tenant, for a coffee creamer/sugar station, and another for display by a deli refrigerator.
The 1,500-square-foot kitchen is just slightly larger than the front portion of the space. It was once home to caterer Traveling Fare, which explains the kitchen-to-service space ratio.
Hosty giggled with joy over the 40-gallon stock kettle that came with the place. The kettle will allow him to produce homemade stocks for soups and other dishes, including a vegetarian stock for total meat-free options.
The space's location also dictated what Hosty would offer.
"It's amazing the foot traffic up and down Lake Street," he said. To make best use of that traffic, Hosty knew he needed to offer coffee, being just blocks from the River Forest Metra station. He splurged on a $4,600 espresso machine, and special orders espresso beans from Italy. The American coffee is made from 100 percent Columbian beans; homemade muffins, scones and croissants accompany.
Being close to the train also makes Good To Go an easy dinner option for commuters, Hosty said. In promoting to-go dinners, he aligns with a trend of like-homemade, to-go businesses opening everywhere, such as The Perfect Dinner in Oak Park, and The Prep Kitchen in Forest Park.
Hosty said his children's menu offers healthy alternatives that kids will still want to eat. The ubiquitous fried chicken fingers with French fries is redone as grilled chicken strips with mashed potatoes at Good To Go. All kids' items come with the vegetable of the day.
Dinner menus are the same for each day of the week, then change monthly.
"For me that's exciting because I'm not cooking the same things every day, and it's fresh," Hosty said, adding that in the summer he's able to include food from local farmers' markets in the menu.
Some nights have themes. In June, Tuesdays are for Italian food (rosemary pork tenderloin with roasted basil potatoes and green beans, mushroom lasagna, angel hair with garlic shrimp, to name a few), comfort food is on Wednesdays (roasted chicken, meatloaf, pork chops with apple compote), and Fridays are "South of the Boarder" (fajitas, vegetable tacos, and pozole?#34;a pork and hominy stew). Hominy is a corn product most commonly ground into grits in the U.S.
To-go orders are served in special vented containers made specifically to be warmed in microwave ovens, Hosty said. "Even though we send out everything hot, it does give you the option for reheating."
Hosty suggested phoning ahead for to-go meals, as they are made to order. Good to Go is at 366-0880.