New Libertyville restaurant aims to be 'island oasis in the suburbs'
A spot in the rear corner of the Adler Square strip mall on the north side of Libertyville is being converted to a new restaurant its owner hopes will take patrons to a different place.
"A beach grill," is how Scott Ward describes Harbor Kitchen & Tap, scheduled to open next week. "It's your island oasis in the suburbs."
Ward is president of Palatine-based Four Napkin Hospitality Group, which operates eight Tap House Grill locations in the suburbs and Chicago Street Pour House in Elgin.
Harbor Kitchen will be the group's 10th restaurant and third food concept. Ward said the idea has been percolating since he visited Jamaica decades ago.
He's a restaurant industry veteran who began his management career in 1980 with the Wendy's and Hardee's chains.
Ward was general manager of the former Studebaker's, a 1950s-themed club in Schaumburg founded by the late Chicago Bears great Walter Payton. He also served in top positions with Restaurant America and Bar Louie before opening the first Tap House Grill in 2006.
A Long Grove resident, Ward was well acquainted with Libertyville when he looked to expand. Seafood restaurants are underrepresented within a 10-mile radius, he said.
"There's a terrific opportunity," Ward added. "The menu is Caribbean with some Hawaiian influences."
Mahi-mahi sandwiches, grouper bites and other seafood fare will join burgers and other familiar offerings. What Ward described as "vacation beers" and specialty beach-themed drinks also will available.
The Adler Square space previously was occupied from 2005 to 2018 by Cafe Pyrenees, a well-known French restaurant.
The new eatery will nicely complement other dining options in Libertyville, said Heather Rowe, the village's economic development manager.
"It's a well-capitalized, experienced organization," she added.
Ward said the Libertyville area has a desirable household income and manageable drive times from communities nearby. Adler Square is on Milwaukee Avenue and Route 137, a heavily traveled area.
"I think there's plenty of traffic," Ward said. "There's plenty of people."
Wildberry and Austin's are popular restaurants nearby. The location also is situated to serve guests at adjoining motels, corporate facilities to the west and families of graduates of Naval Station Great Lakes to the east, Rowe said.
Ward said as in other locations, the business will become involved with various community events and causes.