Rich McClusky had his work cut out for him at McCasky's Grille in the Brewery District.
His objective was to create a chef-driven menu interesting enough for epicureans, approachable enough for the average diner and -- perhaps most important of all these days -- affordable for everyone.
"I think we accomplished what we're looking to do," McClusky said.
"Everything that we've been able to accomplish from scratch, we've done. We're very happy."
McClusky and partner Brian Fuhrer have opened McCasky's in the former Handke's Cuisine location at 520 S. Front St.
They spent six months remodeling the 8,542-square-foot restaurant.
The venture was expected to open three months ago, but the kitchen ventilation hood system had to be brought up to code and a federal small business loan fell through.
So, McClusky and Fuhrer opted for private funding.
The 2,000-square-foot first floor, which services most of the dining public, offers a casual vibe, with a classic bar, a tin patterned ceiling, subway tile, extended wooden bar, exhibition kitchen and some modern touches.
The remainder of the space will be used for large parties and events.
Chef Chris East is in charge of the kitchen. His wife, Ramona East, joins him on occasion.
Mr. East has worked locally at such restaurants as the Refectory, Gibby's and Schmidt's Restaurant und Sausage Haus.
Mrs. East has spent a number of years with a local professional catering outfit.
"They were both huge in creating the menu and building the recipes from scratch," McClusky said.
Starters have a familiar ring with a chef's spin, including the house-made chips, topped with chopped filet mignon, boursin cream sauce, white cheddar, caramelized onions and scallions, and served with herbed pesto aioli.
McCasky's also offers a number of sliders and large sandwiches. Entrees also have a chef's touch, such as the scallops over pomodoro risotto and drizzled with balsamic. They are in the $9 to $25 range.
Aside from the permanent menu, there are a number of plates featured throughout the week. For example, McCasky's offers a different cut of steak every week, with the hope of keeping those dishes in the $17 to $24 range.
"We want to keep it value-conscious and a really good product as well," he said. "There will always be a nice steak on the menu."
Monday through Thursday, there are blue-plate specials costing $10 to $12 and chef specials Friday and Saturday.
Unlike the current trend of offering an extensive number of craft beers by the glass, McCasky's has four beers on tap and 40 by the bottle, plus a respectable selection of wine and far-reaching variety of spirits.
That means creative signature cocktails, classic drinks and some Speakeasy-era recipes.
McCasky's is open dinner hours Monday through Saturday, late-night hours Friday and Saturday, and closed Sunday. For more information, call 614-715-8224.