Article from the Grand Island Independent Newspaper
For more than 45 years, Jay Vavricek has left his mark on Grand Island as a businessman, radio entrepreneur and Grand Island mayor. Now, Vavricek is entering a new phase of his career as a restaurant and bar owner.
Last week, Vavricek opened 40 North Tap + Grille at 520 W. Third St. in Railside.
“It is a new venture in my life,” he said. “This is a new opportunity that I thought would be good for Grand Island and the downtown area.”
Vavricek called 40 North Tap + Grille an “upscale dining experience” that emphasizes Nebraska in its food, design and name and logo.
Located at the former Antique Warehouse, the restaurant is in a building whose roots go back to the 1920s, when it opened as a car dealership.
What Vavricek sought to create with 40 North is a perfect balance of a fine dining atmosphere in a historic location by combining antique features with high-end finishes. He and his wife, Jan Vavricek, had this in mind when they started working on this project more than two years ago.
“My wife and I wanted to create a destination that honored our Nebraska roots,” he said. “We’ve achieved that atmosphere with our dining room that features reclaimed barn wood, high-ceiling rafters, exposed brick, windmills and a statement waterfall feature.”
Vavricek has lived in Grand Island since 1975.
Over the years, he always thought the Third Street building would be a great location for a restaurant because of its look and design.
“We thought we could create a niche that wasn’t being served in the community,” Vavricek said.
At the same time, he wanted to located in downtown Grand Island, which has rebranded itself as the Railside District, to contribute to the revitalization of that area.
For Vavricek, the building reflects the heritage of Grand Island.
“One of the keys to the heritage and history of the building is its red brick look and its 100-year-old rafters,” he said.
They also added a lot of modern touches, including the indoor waterfall and a large window that opens up to an outdoor dining patio.
At the same time, it was essential to Vavricek to also incorporate Nebraska’s agrarian roots in 40 North’s ambiance. That is why patrons will see windmills as part of the decor.
A lot of the wood that makes up the restaurant’s interior comes from old Nebraska barns. The windmill was salvaged from Ainsworth and has bullet holes in the vanes.
The name reflects Grand Island Island’s position on the globe at 40 degrees north by 98 degrees west. The 40th parallel runs through the state’s east and west borders as it circumnavigates its way around the Earth.
“We want to celebrate all the good things about living in Nebraska,” Vavricek said.
Being a business owner for more than four decades, he knows good people drive the success of any business.
When the main phases of construction were completed in May, Vavricek brought on Director of Operations and Executive Chef Jordan Narber to help finalize the project. Narber hired and leads the staff, along with creating the food and drink menus.
Originally from Fort Dodge, Iowa, Narber was working as a sous chef in a restaurant in Apple Valley, Minn., when Vavricek hired him.
He moved to the Minneapolis area to attend culinary school and had worked in several restaurants before taking the job in Grand Island.
Narber said the menu features New-American entrées made from scratch with the highest-quality ingredients and locally sourced items. Menu items include steak, pasta, salads and three fresh seafood options. Some of the specialty items featured are a 20-ounce bone-in 40-day dry-aged ribeye, herb-crusted halibut and an in-house smoked brisket sandwich served on sourdough bread from Hastings’ Back Alley Bakery.
“The menu development has been a team effort between Sous Chef Andrew Watkins and me,” Narber said. “It’s been quite the process to source everything fresh and get local items. “Our team has been training for three weeks to get the menu perfected.”
Narber’s kitchen philosophy is to keep things simple.
“Too many people do too complex of things and they get lost in the flow,” he said.
His simplistic approach is also founded in seasoning and grilling the food, then plating it beautifully for the enjoyment of their guests. The menu will also reflect the foods that are seasonally sourced.
Another vital ingredient is hometown hospitality.
“I want our guests to experience dining at its finest,” Narber said. “Our credo is to treat everyone who walks in here as if they were guests at your home.”
40 North Tap + Grille is also offering a full bar menu with 40 craft beers on tap, 30 bottled or canned beers, 40 wine varieties and 20 signature cocktails. Bar manager Kenny Aerni has been in the restaurant and bar industry his entire career and has developed the drink menu.
“The drink I’m most excited about is the smoke-infused old-fashioned because you’re not just getting a great tasting drink, you’re getting an experience,” Aerni said. “We also have true champagne from the Champange region in France.”
Diners can choose to sit inside the traditional dining room, try patio fireside seating or check into the upscale sports lounge. The lounge features a 128-square foot TV, 12 large TVs, seating for 116 people and a full bar.
40 North is open for dinner from 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The sports lounge is open from 3 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome. Reservations can be made on opentable.com or by calling (308) 385-2140. Private party dining options are also available. There’s nearby on-street parking and nightly off-street parking is available at Eakes Office Solutions, US Bank and Edwards Audio.