For many of us, it is a special, private thrill when we find that little out-of-the-way place to mingle and dine. You know the one – not real impressive from the outside but once inside, you know it is a real find.
For those in the know, BJ’s Hide-A-Way, located at 506 Lallendorf Rd., in Oregon, is just that kind of place. Non-descript on the outside, cozy and comfy on the inside.
And the food…
“We opened on Feb. 2 and I would say that we have about 100 people that I would call regulars here,” BJ Lawson, owner, said. “You know, regulars who come here once, twice a week. We have everyone here from John Mancy, owner of Mancy’s Steakhouse, to doctors, lawyers, office and factory workers and even Marge Brown and Mike Seferian. It has become a very popular restaurant here.”
The tiny restaurant holds a little over 50 diners and on many nights, Lawson said people have had to be turned away.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of the support that I have received from Oregon and the surrounding communities,” Lawson said. “It really has been great for us.”
Lawson, a Kentucky transplant, is not new to the restaurant biz. For years he has owned a quaint little place, BJ’s Wildwoods Tavern, located on the Kentucky and Tennessee border.
As a “jack-of-all-trades,” Lawson also owns BJ’s Towing, BJ’s Auto Parts as well as some real estate holdings. “It was a hunch opening the restaurant,” Lawson said. “It was always just something I thought I could do. I like to meet the people and I greet many of them at the door. You have to have good relationship with people. All of my businesses are like that.”
Still, opening a new restaurant during the economic downturn was quite a risk. A calculated one.
“It took us about six months to open,” Lawson said. “We re-did the kitchen and I hired a new chef. I wanted a top-shelf restaurant, not a hang out where the neighbors would be upset. I wanted to have a good relationship with my neighbors and the community.”
Lawson credits the eclectic menu to Chef Dan “Goober” Cutchall, who came to the Hide-A-Way from the upscale Legacy Restaurant, located at The Legacy Golf Club, in Ottawa Lake, Mi.
“I would say that Goober designed pretty close to 90 percent of the menu,” Lawson said. “There is nothing else in Oregon like it. Almost everything we sell is made right here. It is all top quality food made from top quality ingredients.”
Chef Goober has also employed students in Clay High School’s culinary arts classes to help run the busy kitchen. “We have two seniors who have been with us since opening and it has been great working with them,” Lawson said. “I would definitely hire students from the program again. It gives students the opportunity to see if they really want to work in this business and we have had great workers who we know will be going somewhere when they move on.”
Lawson said top seller appetizers are crab cakes and portabella mushroom fries. Tempura fried vegetables, loaded red skin potatoes and sesame salmon are all close seconds.
Entrees run the gamut… New York strip, and potato-crusted walleye are two of the biggest sellers, Lawson said.“
We also offer fresh prime rib daily, in three sizes and filet mignon in two sizes,” he said. “Our daily specials are whatever Goober wants to make. A very popular one we just had was roast beef with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy.”
Popular sandwich offerings include the French dip, the smoked turkey Reuben and a huge BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) made with thick sliced bacon.
Salads include the steakhouse chopped salad, Caesar and a Hide-A-Way chicken club.
During the lunchtime rush, the soup and salad special at $5.99 keeps workers coming in. The Hide-A-Way always has a soup of the day available alongside the very popular French onion soup, Lawson said.
One caveat: Regulars know to save some room for the homemade, decadent desserts including the hugely popular chocolate bread pudding, crème brulee, flourless chocolate cake and the crisp, hot Fuji apple turn-over. A Southern-style pecan bourbon pie and lemon Italian cake are also offered.
BJ’s Hide-A-Way is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. Reservations are recommended. Call 419-690-1555 for reservations or more information.