UNION – Donley’s Wild West Steakhouse will be getting a new menu and new name next month.
On Aug. 1, it will be renamed South Union Roadhouse. The re-conceptualized restaurant, located next to Old West theme park Donley’s Wild West Town, will feature new nightlife offerings with live music, drink specials and a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar on Sundays.
The restaurant, which first opened in 1998, had become listless in recent years, said Kyle Theil, managing partner of South Union Road House and Village Hall Banquets, an adjacent banquet facility. Theil, a 29-year-old whose favorite TV show is “Bar Rescue,” plans to overhaul the restaurant to make it into a place that attracts patrons from the wider region.
“[The Donleys] said they were really looking for a new direction as far as the restaurant goes,” Theil said. “It’s been stagnant for a while, busy on and off, but never anything really consistently.”
Theil wants to shed the steakhouse image by changing the name of the restaurant and bringing in new menu items, such as burgers, appetizers, desserts and Western-style craft beers. The decor will get some minor changes, but will retain its southwestern motif.
“We want it to be more of a family-oriented, fun atmosphere with a bar side as well,” he said. “We want to be a destination restaurant that you come to and you know you are going to have a great meal and also have a great time.”
Additions to the menu include ribs and specials such as beer cheese fondue made with Lone Star Beer.
The restaurant is joining Chicago 250, a partnership with their meat distributor to use grass-fed beef raised on pastures within 250 miles of Chicago. South Union Roadhouse plans to make its burgers its signature dish.
The bar will get craft beers, whiskey cocktails, and a full Bloody Mary bar featuring a variety of vodkas, mixes, and all the fixings, from bacon to shrimp.
The bar also will benefit from live music Thursday and Saturday nights from a slate of local and regional bands.
“We want to really crank up our nightlife,” Theil said. “We want people to come out for a couple hours, have a good time, watch a great band, and get some of the fantastic drinks that we’re working on.”
Theil has been collaborating with chef Andy Wells on additions to the restaurant’s menu.
“We’ve really put together a menu that you can’t find at other area restaurants,” he said. “We’ve taken some American classics and really updated them into the modern style. We’re not getting too crazy, but we really think people will like this.”
While the restaurant has traditionally attracted families dining out after spending a day at Donley’s Wild West Town, Theil also hopes to foster a unique bar scene that will draw in people from Union, Marengo, Woodstock, Huntley and Crystal Lake.
Susan Hagerty, manager of Village Hall Banquets, has worked with Theil and Wells on the new concept.
“We have a lot of great things here, but we can be better,” she said. “We are re-inventing ourselves.”
A launch party for the re-conceptualized restaurant will kick-off at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1. It will feature $3 you-call-it drink specials, samples from the new menu, and live music on the patio from Jim and Justin Wojdyla of Modern Day Romeos.
South Union Roadhouse will have seating for up to 300 and private rooms for up to 50 people.