HOLLAND, Mich. — Two months after Lucas Grill opened a new restaurant in Holland next to his new cocktail bar, pandemic restrictions shut down all four of his restaurants.
With restaurants pretty much restricted to serving takeout, Grill says it didn’t make sense to keep his new restaurants operating. One, Poquito, serves tapas, small servings that you combine to make a meal; not exactly takeout fare. The other, Obstable No. 1, is a cocktail bar; again, not takeout fare.
He finally reopened his two new efforts February 1, with some additions. “We added a patio out front,” he notes. “We've done some different things with social distancing with seating to make our guests feel more comfortable.”
Grill obviously avoids any cookie-cutter approach to his multiple restaurants. The first one, Public in downtown Zeeland, “the whole idea of the restaurant was handcrafted comfort food,” he says, with “meatloaf and mac and cheese and do it in a way that was totally unique and different.”
Then he opened Seventy-Six some five years later, what he calls “my homage to modern American,” featuring a mix of cultural influences. “When I look at America, it's such an amazingly beautiful melting pot of cultures.”
Expect to find Mexican American, Caribbean, creole, Midwestern, Latin, Asian, French, and German influenced dishes
Poquito in downtown Holland is literally named for its small tapas Spanish and Latin dishes. “Poquito in Spanish means ‘un poquito,’ a little or bit.’”
Next door is Obstacle No. 1, a cocktail bar whose drink menu changes with the seasons, “so you're going to see bourbon and rums and scotches, all dancing around in different ways in different cocktails.” The bar’s proximity to Poquito allows customers to enjoy the cocktails and items from the tapas menu.
All this seems like a lot, until you hear Grill’s resume: culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America, jobs in high-end restaurants in New York and Chicago, a business degree from Michigan State, Level 2 sommelier certification to fill out his knowledge of beers and wines, time spent in Spain learning the culture and cuisine.
Not bad for for a guy who “grew up on a farm, very blue collar and the middle part of the state, near Lansing.”
But Grill feels very much connected to the communities of Zeeland and Holland. “I wanted to invest in a town that I wanted to raise my family in and give that town, that city, a little piece of the big city so they could feel like you know what, Holland, Michigan, has amazing schools. It's got amazing community. Look at this amazing downtown. And then juxtapose that and add into that world class restaurants.”
“I'm so proud of this city.”