Two families are combining their expertise in food, entertainment and bar operations in an effort to boost Durty Nellie's in downtown Palatine.
While James and Mark Dolezal still own Durty Nellie's, they struck a deal allowing veteran restaurateur Butch Navarro and his son, Mike, both Elmhurst residents, to take control of the kitchen. The Dolezal brothers are now concentrating on the live music and bar operations.
Butch Navarro said he plans to make the restaurant end of Durty Nellie's family-friendly while getting back to basics with a focus on comfort food, including 13 burger creations, ditching an upscale menu that seemed out of character for the establishment. He said the idea is to make sure Durty Nellie's remains "a staple of Palatine."
"Good quality, large portions like if you were going by someone's house and their mom was a real good cook," he said as he took a break at a Durty Nellie's outdoor patio table. "That's the feeling we want."
James Dolezal said the partnership, which began in July, has been going well.
"I think we were kind of ready for that option," he said. "We were not having luck with hiring chefs. And I think we felt it was a good fit. We talked. It took a while to work everything out."
Durty Nellie's has been owned by the Dolezal brothers since 1988 and moved to the much larger Smith Street location in 2003, across from the Metra commuter station. It had been on Bothwell Street in downtown Palatine since 1972 in a building where a bar operated for nearly 100 years.
Music has been a Durty Nellie's staple in upstairs and ground-floor areas separate from the restaurant. Bands have been wide ranging and over the years have included rap phenom Twista and the Marshall Tucker Band.
Despite its reputation for quality bands, Durty Nellie's can't be overly dependent on music because the industry has become difficult, James Dolezal said.
"We want food to be the integral part and kind of everything else secondary because the music scene is really very fickle now," said James Dolezal, a Glenview resident.
Butch and Mike Navarro are second- and third-generation restaurateurs. The first family eatery, Pasta Vino, was started in Schiller Park in 1978 by Ralph and Theresa Navarro, who were assisted by Butch and four other children.
Food sales became a significant part of Shoeless Joe's Ale House and Grille in Rosemont, where Butch Navarro owned and operated the restaurant operations from 1999 to 2006. He and a partner launched Cafe Zalute in Rosemont in 2004 and had a 10-year run before they sold the business and started Navarro Catering.
Durty Nellie's marketing and events director, Jamie Barr, was credited with bringing the Navarros and Dolezals together. She worked with Butch Navarro at Shoeless Joe's.
"My reasons were purely selfish," she said with a laugh. "I ate their food and I needed more."