By Kayleigh Rahn
Irma Lou Bailey was known for her delicious food as well as–and maybe more importantly–her hospitality.
In the Bailey household on South Main Street everyone had a seat at the over-sized dining room table, and her grandson Kenny Hogue Jr. is hoping to continue that tradition with a new restaurant in downtown Tuscola.
During its meeting Tuesday, May 14, the Tuscola City Council approved a Tax Increment Financing Grant in the amount of $195,000 for Kenny and Angela Hogue to fund a portion of the overhaul of the former Downtown Diner, 125 W. Sale Street, to create sister businesses–Irma Lou’s Kitchen and Cast Iron Pub.
Mayor Dan Kleiss said he spoke with Hogue last week prior to his move home.
“He said he was excited about this opportunity, and I think he is thrilled at the idea of moving home to raise his family,” Kleiss said.
Hogue, a TCHS graduate, most recently worked for Airbnb in the San Francisco Bay Area and has spent about 15 years gaining culinary experience on both coasts.
“Irma Lou’s and the Cast Iron Pub with give Tuscola something that it hasn’t had for quite some time; quality, upscale-casual, family-friendly places to gather,” Hogue’s business proposal said. “I plan to take what I’ve learned during my 15 year career in nationally acclaimed restaurants and distill it into an approachable, comfortable environment that serves great food and unique libations with Midwestern sensibilities.”
Irma Lou’s Kitchen is, of course, named after Hogue’s grandmother.
“…I want this restaurant to be as welcoming, returnable, and delicious as her kitchen was,” the proposal says. “There was never any pretension about the food, everyone was invited and there was always great conversation. Diners should feel like they’ve been invited over to someone’s house for dinner in a warm, classy, comfortable space that immediately makes them feel at home.”
The restaurant will feature an open kitchen to display the excitement of the kitchen, and the façade will feature large windows to give the effect of al fresco dining.
The sister business, The Cast Iron Pub plans to have a similar feel–a comfortable space for friends and family to enjoy.
“It will be as fitting to have a drink after work as it will be for watching the big game on the weekend or having an evening out with friends,” the proposal says. The menu will include hand-crafted cocktails, a large craft beer selection, and a wine list that will feature local favorites as well as a selection of those that aren’t as easily found in the area.
The bar will feature outdoor seating and a back room that can be rented for special events and meetings.
The city’s TIF grant will foot the bill for the restaurant and bar remodel; however, the remaining balance of the $549,899 project, including a second floor apartment remodel, will come from owner investments.
The full story can be found in the Wednesday, May 16 edition of The Tuscola Journal.