Owners of the Essex Grill say much-needed change is on the way.
Courtney and Todd Roman plan to demolish their restaurant and construct a new, two-story building in its place after eight years of dishing grub on Main Street.
Site plans, which go before the village planning commission next Thursday, show the new restaurant will accommodate 50 indoor seats along with outdoor seating, and the second floor will host four one-bedroom apartments.
It’s a chance to start anew, said Courtney Roman, who pointed to the limitations of their current building, a century-old edifice riddled with inefficiencies, as the catalyst for change. The recent cold snap plunged indoor temperatures into the 50s despite a revved-up thermostat, and air conditioner units struggle against the summer heat.
But the project will also allow the two restaurateurs to embolden their artistic sides in both atmosphere and food, exploring a creative freedom that’s been restricted in their current setting.
For starters, building from the ground-up will allow the Romans to leave their mark on the restaurant instead of conforming to the space, since their initial foray into restaurant ownership allowed mostly cosmetic changes.
And ditching the diner-like façade and interior will help inspire more confidence in dishes beyond just burgers and sandwiches — welcome news for the Romans, who currently cook all the food.
“You don’t walk into this building and think: Oh, pan-seared cod on parsnip? That sounds like this restaurant would do this well,” Roman said, laughing.
That’s not to say regulars can expect $30 steaks to start popping up on the menu. The new-but-old Essex Grill will continue to offer casual food, Roman said, and will likely pare down its menu while increasing specials, a nod to the regulars who might come once or twice a week.
They plan to run about 20 employees, a slight bump from their former staff, though the last few months have seen a barebones crew as most sought new jobs in expectation of the grill’s downtime.
The Romans, who live in Essex, note there are still many decisions to be made. They admit running the business and juggling parental duties for their new baby haven’t allowed for much planning.
What they do know, however, is Essex Jct. is where they’d like to be. That’s partly due to logistics and the unattractive thought of paying rent again. But it’s also because of the people, they said, who have been supportive throughout the first near-decade of business.
“They’ve become part of our lives,” Courtney Roman said. Like the baby gifts that arrived to greet 6-month-old Hudson.
And even though a months-long construction phase is sad news for regulars, they’ve shared the Romans’ excitement. The two plan to post updates via the restaurant’s Facebook page, which will track the progress from demolition to opening day.
Courtney Roman hints there may even be a name change floating around — after all, construction may sunset around a certain first birthday — though a cursory glance between the owners suggests it’s still up for debate.