SPRING GROVE – In most endeavors, hitting one or two successes out of 20 would be considered failure.
For Charles Hecker, the bad ideas during rounds of culinary creation are just the casualties of his passion to bring fresh ideas to food.
“If you try 20 new things, 18 will be horrible ideas,” said Hecker, owner and chef at the new 21st Amendment Restaurant/Speakeasy in Spring Grove. “You’ll get one or two that are amazing. Like – who thought of that?”
Hecker opened the speakeasy Aug. 1. It’s an idea that was long bouncing around his head but that started coming to fruition last summer. Located at 2508 Route 12 in Spring Grove, the restaurant is themed on the prohibition era – which, as Hecker describes it, “turned already powerful people into really powerful people.”
The moment in history always has interested Hecker for its lasting impact, politically and culturally.
The restaurant itself – which features a green side door as a tip of the cap to a Capone-era speakeasy – is built around the idea that the prohibition period produced high-end restaurants mixed with top-shelf service.
Hecker stresses the quality of the food. Seafood comes in from several different locations; halibut from Alaska and grouper from Florida are among the menu items. The steaks, Hecker said, are in the top one percent, quality-wise.
“We’re just looking for the ultimate experience,” he said.
Hecker’s eye for innovation appears in the “Wisconsin Hide Out Burger” – a burger patty placed between two grilled cheese sandwiches – among other menu items. To build his menu, Hecker hired Stephen Leonard to work as his executive chef. Leonard, who attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, is paired with younger culinary minds.
“They’re on top of what’s new and what’s hot out there, so we kind of fuse it together,” Hecker said. “We’ve got classical combined with new.”
Drinks also are themed by the prohibition era – from the Batch 19 pre-prohibition style lager to a Classic American Draft Root Beer. The full menu is available at 21stamendmentspeakeasy.com.
“We’re just trying to do this a little differently,” Hecker said. “Raise the bar a little higher.”