When Brett Klein heard downtown eatery Zins was closing in July 2016, he jokingly suggested to his friend, Dave Grawe, that they buy it.
Grawe, however, took him seriously. They already had successfully opened one bar together, Pour House in Waverly, and the duo quickly came up with a business plan. Less than six months later, what started as a joke became a reality when their restaurant and bar Grin ’N’ Goose opened Jan. 2.
The name is a callback to Pour House, which features a goose logo. The two establishments also have continuity in interior design, with decor at the two places designed by Bobby and Megan Sobczak of Bobby Hart Design Barn in Waverly.
For Grin ’N’ Goose, the Sobczaks built the wooden tables, added corrugated metal to the bar and painted murals featuring tractors, chickens, corn and other Iowa homages on the walls.
Big screen televisions throughout the space offer the chance to watch a game, and a lounge area in the front of the restaurant is complete with couches and chairs.
“We just wanted something that was cozy, that everyone would enjoy coming to,” Klein said.
The menu features pub food such as nachos, wings, burgers and sandwiches, with hand-breaded appetizers and hand-cut fries. Klein said they aimed to give their own takes on classics, such as the blackened prime rib sandwich, with Cajun seasoning, pepper jack cheese and sauteed bourbon-glazed Vidalia onions on a cheddar jalapeno asiago bun.
“We tried to think of something different, stuff that isn’t everywhere,” Klein said. “We’re not doing anything crazy, we don’t have any gimmicks.”
He got his start in the bar and restaurant industry when he was 16 and has managed bars in Waterloo, Elkader, Waverly and Cedar Rapids, along with a short stint living in Nashville, Tenn. He got out of the bar business around four years ago, deciding he needed a break, and began working in construction for local developer Steve Emerson, who owns the Grin ’N’ Goose building.
“I was building bars for other people, and I kind of got that itch, like, I miss doing this,” he said.
Though they have managed and opened bars before, he and Grawe didn’t have as much experience with the food service side. Klein said a strong staff, led by manager Desiree Lorsung, has helped make the transition work. He’s enjoying learning about this new business angle as Grin ’N’ Goose finds its feet and fine-tunes the details.
“It’s kind of, just roll with the punches and see what happens,” he said. “You get everything ready, get everything perfect and then wait for customers to show up, and then you’re prepping for the next group. Running a restaurant is like throwing a huge party at your home every single day."
WHERE: 227 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
DETAILS: (319) 363-3419, grinngoose.com