Following years of preparation and construction, The Lone Buffalo, an upscale restaurant and craft brewery in downtown Ottawa, opened to rave reviews in February under the auspices of its parent corporation, Tangled Roots Brewing Company.

As the doors officially swung open on the multi-million-dollar establishment, Keith Pearse, Tangled Roots co-founder and CEO, said, "We've been on a long journey and this is just the beginning. It's exciting."

Since the grill was turned on for dining orders and the craft beer poured from bar tappers, the buzz on the two-story, 10,000-square-foot eatery has been huge and continues to grow.

Scott Struchen, chief commercial officer and co-founder, explained given the way the company's investors came together, he believes the brew business' name is fitting.

"It started as four people who met and decided, "Let's make a (craft) beer business,' " said Struchen, noting the partners are from South Africa, Germany, Ottawa and Chicago. "So we really have a tangled roots of people who started the company."

Struchen said investors considered potential locations in downtown Chicago, La Salle-Peru, and Utica before deciding to build the restaurant and brewery along the 800 block of La Salle Street within the heart of Ottawa.

"Our strong belief is that we have people from Chicago and the western suburbs going to Michigan and Wisconsin to see what they have to offer," Struchen said. "We believe we can keep that tourism here. We believe we can turn heads from Chicago and attract people from all over the state, because we have a platform here that is just as beautiful as any of those in surrounding states.

"We really believe this area (Starved Rock Country) is going to start to grow and that is one of the main reasons we put our brewery here."

The investors designed the Lone Buffalo and its brewery to serve farm fresh food and offer specially-crafted beer in a comfortable atmosphere. No "fast food" allowed, but rather "slow food" cooked for their customers to savor.

Head Chef Brok Kellogg and his kitchen crew use fresh products from the corporation's own farm and from other local farmers and producers for meals. The restaurant's farm-to-table menu features hand-selected food sourced from within 350 miles of Ottawa.

"Our goal is to make simple great," Kellogg said. "We work hard every day to give our customers a dining experience of fine food in a relaxed, friendly setting. The feedback since we've opened a few months back has been very gratifying and inspiring."

In a return visit to the brewpub, Judy Parker, an Ottawa elementary school teacher, praised the food and service during a recent lunch outing with co-workers.

"I love this place," said Parker. "It makes me feel like I'm out of town; like I'm visiting a big city somewhere. It's wonderful to have a place like this in our town. I also like the idea that most everything on the menu is grown locally. This is my fourth time here. The food is great."

Parker's colleague, Abby Derix, of La Salle, agreed with her friend's assessment.

"I had the mushroom French dip (horseradish, cheddar cheese and mushroom jus) for lunch and it was really different and delicious," said Derix. "This was my first time here and I will be back."

Chef Brok said the eatery's menu will be seasonal and ever changing, based on what is currently available from regional farmers and other local producers. The chef said his bison chili, bison burgers, charred crust New York strip steaks, citrus-cured salmon and various flatbread entrees have been most popular among the diners.

"We will always be creating new dishes for our clientele," promised Kellogg. "Our menu will always be evolving."

The Lone Buffalo
808 - 812 La Salle St., Ottawa