Join the fun! Savory eats, robots, and the best brews make every visit an adventure.

We’re Bruce and Karen Carlson. We recently moved to the Metro East area of Illinois. It’s a whole new world out there. Our goal with this website is to share our exploration of the Metro East area. As we find businesses and services we use in our daily lives, we’ll share how these businesses and services have helped make our lives better and easier to live.

We’re calling our move to the Metro East area retirement, but we’re not quite sure what that means. By sharing our story with you, we hope you too will gain a better sense of what the Metro East area has to offer and how their businesses and services can improve your lives and build a better community.

An interview with Jeanette from O’Town Food Hall and Tap House

As part of my ongoing series of interviews with businesses and services, I met with Jeanette from O’Town Food Hall & Tap House in O’Fallon. I have to say, I found Jeanette to be an outgoing, bubbly, fun-to-be-with person.

We settled down at one of the tables and started our conversation. What made this conversation fun was that the restaurant business continued happening around us. Jeanette seamlessly interacted with every aspect of the conversation and the restaurant business.

Her staff would come up with a question or request, the phone would ring, and we would talk, but she handled it all like a master conductor of a symphony. Yet, it was just another day at the O’Town Food Hall and Tap House.

My first question to Jeanette was, “Tell me about the restaurant. What was the journey behind the restaurant’s launch? What inspired this culinary adventure?”

Where did it all start?

Jeanette began with the history of the Edwards family and how they started their chain of restaurants. In 1964, Steve Edwards was in high school and worked as a cook at Ravanelli’s. After graduating, he attended culinary school. He worked at different places and eventually became a top chef at Porter’s Steakhouse in Collinsville.

In the late 1990s, Ravanelli’s was bought by another restaurant company and closed. Steve Edwards and several others opened a new Ravavelli’s in 1998. Jeanette went to work for the Edwards family restaurant business here. She has experienced all the various transitions of the business.

We then moved over to the menu choices. What are the standout dishes patrons can’t get enough of? Now this is a little bit of an unfair question. It’s sort of like asking which one of your children is your favorite. After thinking about it Jeanette replied the Brisket Tacos.

Jeanette added that the Asian Bowls, especially the one with steak, were her favorite. Karen and I returned later that evening for dinner. I was attracted to the Asian Bowl with Chicken, and Karen chose the Fried Chicken sandwich. We both enjoyed our choices. I must say, the Asian Bowl had a nice spicy kick to it.

If you’re going to talk about food at a restaurant that has Tap House in its name, you have to ask about the beer selection. They have a large selection of brews, and you can even do taste testing. It was still early in the afternoon, so it was a little too early for taste testing. This is just another reason to come back.

Margaritas

Jeanette said the margaritas were her choice, and it’s not to be forgotten. Another drink to consider is the CapriSun, which was another one to try. Interestingly, it’s served in a pouch. I looked on the website, and sure enough, there’s a picture of it. Just scroll to the bottom of the page.

Okay, this next question is about, robots. They have three robots named Bella One, Bella Two, and Bella Three. I’m not sure if this falls into the realm of AI, but it was fascinating to watch them move around the restaurant.

The idea apparently came from Steve Edwards, who saw robots delivering drinks at a place in Minnesota and Chicago. O’Town Food Hall & Tap House has modified the idea to deliver food that the servers then serve to the customers. In addition to delivering your food, the robots will also sing Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary to you.

One of the more unusual happenings was when a customer came in and was fascinated by the robots. She insisted that the robot show her to her table. Then she wanted to dance with the robot. So, with a little creative programming, they got Bella to spin around with the customer. When the dance was finished, Bella sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

Bella tells jokes

Bella has even been known to tell a joke. She may even ask you to tell a joke. If you are brave enough, Jeanette said to share your joke, Bella will laugh. It’s a little scary to think that a robot can laugh at your joke. I wonder how long it will be before they sigh and say, “I don’t get it.”

Kids are a little more cautious around Bella. Jeanette once noticed a little boy watching Bella. Jeanette asked him if he was talking to Bella, and he said, “Yeah.” Now he had ordered a hot dog, but he wasn’t quite sure about Bella bringing it to him. He prefers the human touch and asks Jeanette, aka Grandma, to bring it to him.

The robots have become a well-known feature of the restaurant. When Jeanette had to drop off some paperwork at an office one time, the secretary noticed the restaurant’s name on Jeanette’s shirt. The woman had heard that the robots were part of the restaurant experience. The next day, the woman came in and saw the robots in action and had the meatloaf.

When Karen and I came for dinner, it was fun to watch the robots moving among the customers. They had to size up the accessway between tables and maneuver around people. It will be interesting to come back in time to see how the robots evolve. Hmmm…this could make O’Town Food Hall & Tap House a regular stop for dinner.

They call me grandma

The story of the little boy and the robot raised the question of what you do in your free time. Jeanette paused, smiled, and said, “I’ve got nine grandkids and two great-grandbabies. That’s why the little boy called me grandma.” Jeanette also finds time to sleep and read, keeping her busy.

Just like many of the restaurants I’ve interviewed, O’Town Food Hall and Tap House have reached out to the community. They recently provided meals for 80 homeless people. Jeanette has also been working with those in need in Granite City since 2001. Jeanette said, “We’ve joined the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce and are excited to work with them on the community projects they’ll be sponsoring.”

We began to wrap up our interview with the question what does the future hold. Jeanette thought for a moment and said, “The one idea we have at the moment is developing a carry-out order business. The idea is people can order and then drive around and pick up the order. We will bring out the order when it’s ready. The people wouldn’t have to get out of their cars.

It’s a very family-oriented business they work to help each other and the other restaurants the family runs. They are a faith-based group of people who believe in God first, then family, and friends.

I would like to thank Jennette for spending some of her valuable time with me. I look forward to checking in and seeing what is new and sampling more of the menu items.  

Closing thoughts

O’Town Food Hall & Tap House is a place for a good time and good food. They have a wide range of dishes to serve. I’m looking at the wings for my next time. The robots give them a unique point of service. Perhaps they are leading the way into the future. If you want a place to come and have lunch or dinner and have a feeling of being rushed, this is the place. A place to enjoy and relax. Stop by and check it out.

We hope you are enjoying these articles and are willing to continue to follow along as we share our adventures of learning about life in southern Illinois, This is an exciting area and we are so happy to be part of this area. Our lives are being fulfilled by the people we are meeting. Bruce & Karen.

Enjoy the additional pictures