Curious about where to satisfy your cravings? Look no further than Drake’s in O’Fallon! Dive into a menu that offers a perfect blend of taste and variety. Your culinary adventure begins here!
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.
We have been in the Metro East for just over seven months. As we move around the area, we are finding new places to eat and obtain services. Each place has its advantages and we’re happy to come across those places. However, once in a while, you run across a place that you so wish you had gone into sooner.
Drake’s is one of those places. For all the times I have driven by going to Menards, it took the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce Wing Walk to finally get into Drake’s. It looked like a fun place so when Karen got back from her week back north doing massage for her long-time clients I told her we could go out for dinner and Drake’s was the place.
We had an absolutely wonderful time there. The food was great. I highly recommend the BBQ Burger. It was tasty, filling, and a great balance of favors. Karen loved the berry sangria drink. We had a very pleasing dinner and enjoyed the fun of Drake’s.
So sit back and enjoy the following interview with Isaiah Houck, Managing Partner at Drake’s in O’Fallon.
An interview with Isaiah, Managing Partner at Drake’s
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with Drake’s. And what’s the history of Drake’s?
I was working at a restaurant over on the St. Louis side for a long time, and things weren’t really working out there. Things were going okay. I knew that I wanted more, and there just wasn’t any opportunity for growth there. Around the same time as covid-19, I was looking for new jobs and stumbled across here and applied, came in, and absolutely loved the feel of it.
Long story short, it turned out I’d already been to a Drake’s before, not realizing that they were the same when I applied here at this Drake’s. At the job I worked with before, we had a trip to Indianapolis, and it turns out we went to Drake’s for an outing after the trip. We went there and ate dinner and had fun.
When I came in here, I said, this place looks really familiar for some reason. Then it dawned on me I had been to a Drake’s before, and right away realized it was a place to grow because every other restaurant during covid-19 is shutting down restaurants.
New store opening during covid-19
Drake’s was opening in the middle of covid-19 so the fact that we were able to open up more stores during the hardest time for any restaurant was a good sign to me. Since then, we’ve already opened another one up in Missouri in January. We’re growing very fast around this area.
I started as an associate manager, and they mentioned that whenever they opened up the first one in Missouri, they were going to be looking for someone to take over this store. I said,” I’m the guy”, and just worked my way towards that and took over once my old managing partner went over to the new Missouri Drake’s.
Excellent, tell me about the menu. What are your signature menu items? How did you evolve your menu?
So the three biggest things that we always say are Beer, Burger, and sushi. We have an ever-changing beer menu, and we have a huge list of both the sushi sides and burgers. Those two things you don’t ever see together in the same place. This is especially true with the vast amount that we have for both options.
Generally speaking, if you see both on the same menu, it’s going to be like one or two options of both, whereas that’s where we’ve expanded the menu because we’ve realized that’s really just a niche that no one ever hits. We’ve gotten so much business from one person who might want seafood and one person who might want burgers.
We’re the place to come because we have a little bit of everything for everybody. Those were the three biggest things that we have. We also have sandwiches, salads, really anything you could think of. To make things more interesting, every month we have a new beer, burger, and Sushi of the Month.
As seasons come and go we select items that focus on the season. So last month for Thanksgiving, we had a Turkey burger as Our Burger of the Month. We try to keep it relevant to what month or season it is and go from there.
When Karen and I stopped in last Saturday I was really impressed with the BBQ Burger, it was very good. How do you see Drake’s involvement in the community? Do you do anything special with the community or is it just the idea of a great place to come and gather?
Involvement in the community
So a couple of different things that we do for the community is we do a huge amount of donations and charity events and all that. We have one person in our corporate office that takes care of all that for us. And so we get people in here, I’d say I probably talk to maybe five people a week at least and send them her away.
We also do a lot of big giveaways and stuff around the area. We also just do random food drops where if we’re slow one day and we have the time for it, we’ll cook up some food and just drop it off at a random business without even telling them that we’re going to do that, just as our little giveback.
Because all these companies around here are so tightly knit and we all try to help direct traffic towards each other as much as we can. And so the hotels are huge for us. They always send people our way, and we’ll drop off food to them as our way of giving back a little bit.
As far as I know, in this area at least, we have the highest percentage for military discounts. So generally speaking, the military discount is 10 – 15%, but we’re at 25% for any active or retired person in the military. Ever since Drake’s beginning, we wanted to really dig into that market because they’ve obviously done so much for us.
Why not do more for them as a way of giving back to them? So that’s what we do. We get a huge amount of business from the military just because they appreciate that we’ve got the parking spots up front for them and everything.
Well, I noticed when I came over here the other day, all the military folks here.
Support for the military
It works out really well for us being so close to Scott Air Force Base, everyone thinks it’s just because we’re close to the base. But that’s Drake’s company brand that we take care of any military person we can, and so we get extra benefit from it just being so close to them.
My next question is, if you were in an elevator, doors opened up, and somebody walked in. What’s your 30-second elevator speech about why they should come to Drake?
I mean, it’s really the menu and atmosphere that are the two biggest things for us. We get so many different compliments about people just saying that they’ve never seen a place that is as busy as us, that everyone is working hard, running around, doing a thousand things, but we’re all still laughing as we’re doing it.
We are a very close-knit family here, so we can have fun during the most hectic, crazy days and still give the best service possible while just having a great time doing it.
That’s my favorite thing about here, we encourage everybody to have fun while they’re working. So you’ll see all of us running around making jokes with each other while still getting the job done. And the menu here is truly incredible.
Best benches ever
I love the benches you have in the restaurant. Is there anything special about them? How did you come up with this bench idea?
So the bench idea, as far as I remember, was more focused before covid-19 as we were more of a bar than a restaurant. And covid-19 is what made that switch over because we used to have games and stuff here, so we had the giant Jenga, shuffleboard, dartboards.
We had a DJ also. So we had a completely different feel before covid-19 and as far as I know, the benches are based on a bar feel kind of thing. But then they end up transitioning more on the restaurant side to capture that business as well.
They are so comfortable. I mean, I sat down there on Saturday night, and it’s like, oh, I like this. I can put my feet up. I can put my feet down. And they’re just the right size to fit it.
A lot of times just I’m trying to figure out how do I get up to the table to eat. These benches are really a great idea. This is a great place. When you get some time off, what do you like to do?
Really travel as much as possible. That’s my biggest driving factor is trying to travel. So I have a goal that every single year I try to visit a new country and it helps out. My brother lives in Amsterdam and so he’s really accessible to travel because he already lives in Europe.
So usually around our birthdays, which are both in November, we’ll try to do one big traveling thing a year and then maybe something small throughout the year. So big things, traveling and then just spending as much time with friends or family as I can.
Great stores and restaurants always have some great story about a customer or an event. What would be a memorable thing that you say?
I would say the most memorable would be when we had a, I believe it was about a $6,000 cater order that we got asked if we could do. And before that, our biggest catering order I think was around $800 or something like that. So we hadn’t really delved into the big orders yet. And when we first got it, my immediate answer was yes.
How big was that order?
My next question is how? Because of the amount of food that was asked to be cooked, I did not think there was any way that we’d be able to do it. And when I tell you that the team and everybody from corporate all came together it was, all right, this is exactly how we’re going to operate all this.
We got it all done. It was an event right down the road. Myself and one of the people from corporate went and worked the event, and served all the food, I think it was like 300 people or so that came there and 80% of them weren’t from this area, so they’d never had our food before.
Seeing all these new people just walk by, make plates, and then come back for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th plates and talk about how amazing the food was, to me that was probably the most memorable just because it was a huge feat for us, but also saw that many people that have never gotten a chance to try us before tried us and absolutely love us in a setting that wasn’t even our restaurant was really incredible to see.
The last question that I have for you is, what’s the future? Where do you see yourself and where do you see Drake’s going?
Myself, I would love to get into a market partner position at some point. That’s probably the next step that I’m going to be shooting for as I become more comfortable with my job, I want to move up into that role of having a whole market of stores that I’m looking after versus just one.
And as far as Drake’s future, I mean, there’s no telling. We are growing exponentially fast for what the market is. It’s incredible to see how fast we’re growing. I mean, to open up one store in Missouri and then the next year open up another one. They’re planning for at least one more that I know of on the Missouri side and they’re just talking about expanding as much as possible.
How wide is the area you serve?
Area of service
We’re based out of Lexington, Kentucky. The states we’re in are Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri., but they’re talking about just continuing to spread out to more and more states each year that they can.
When did Drake’s start?
The first Drake’s opened in 2009 in Lexington. This location opened in 2020, in September, if I remember right, Relatively new though.
I don’t remember seeing any Drake’s up north where we used to live. I’m guessing you’ll probably be expanding up there sometime soon.
Yeah, that’s cool.
Any closing thoughts or anything that you would like to say? Now how would you like to wrap this up?
Great promotion now!
The last thing I would mention is that we have a direct gift card promotion right now. And so from now through the 30 December, every $50 gift card comes with a $10 bonus card. And they also get a free stuffed penguin, which is a yearly tradition of us.
So I’ll show you that before we leave. But we have these penguins that we make a new one every year and it is like a cult following of people. They will come here the day that that promotion starts to get their penguin. Kids absolutely love them.
It’s just like a yearly tradition for people around here and everywhere else that we have in Drake’s of people coming in to stock up on their yearly penguins. And so that would probably be how I want to close it out, just get those gift cards.
I greatly enjoyed sitting with Isaiah and hearing about Drake’s. When Karen and I were there for dinner we enjoyed the food and our time there. The service was great, and they took great care of us. There’s a positive feeling and a laidback casual atmosphere.
Two items that make Drake’s a bit unique are the benches and penguin doll. As I mentioned in the interview the benches were extremely comfortable. Many times the seating at restaurants is functional, with some kind of basic seating and tables. When we sat down at Drake’s, I was able to slide onto the bench and found the tabletop to be just the right distance for eating.
Another thing is the stuffed penguin doll. What a great idea to invite people into the restaurant. As Isaiah said in the interview they create a new one every year. Another cool idea is the garage-type doors to open during the summer months. How cool is that?
Go visit Drake’s. It’s a place we will think of when we want a casual meal and a fun place to visit. We highly recommend Drake’s.
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.