Soft launch of The Red Poppy Bistro 'absolutely amazing,' owner says
Things have been in full swing at The Red Poppy Bistro in downtown Elgin, which held a soft launch last week after its planned opening in March was thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's been going absolutely amazing," said Matthew Habib, who owns the business at 109 E. Highland Ave. with his wife, Jennifer Polit. "It's been packed for the three days that we were open. It was packed even Sunday."
The restaurant will be open 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday to Sunday. The schedule likely will be similar for a couple of weeks, with a plan to eventually operate with longer hours five days a week, Habib said.
It normally could seat 48 people -- half indoors and half outdoors -- but capacity has been reduced due to the state's Phase 4 reopening requirements, along with increased sanitizing, Habib said.
"We already had a huge bunch of return customers," he said.
The Red Poppy Bistro had barely opened in March when Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced nonessential businesses had to close. Habib and Polit ended up selling large batches of homemade chicken soup at cost and giving away toilet paper for free.
This is the second restaurant venture for the couple, who owned the former Legit Dogs & Ice in Elgin that closed in summer 2019. Working again with his wife has been "amazing," Habib said.
"We forgot how fun this can be when things are running good and you have the stuff that you need in place and everything fits together."
The restaurant's three varieties of two-inch thick, hearty homemade quiches have been the best-seller so far, followed by the corned beef sandwich, made with home-pickled whole brisket cooked sous vide, Habib said.
The menu also includes sweet and savory crepes, salads, pierogies and more. The bread -- in varieties including bacon cheddar and onion rye -- is from Herb's Bakery in Elgin.
The eggs Benedict had to come off the menu because the kitchen only has electric appliances and there isn't enough power -- yet -- to include them, Habib said. "The warmers, the coffee machine, the steamer, the panini crusts, the waffle maker ... it's like a Rubik's Cube combination ... I don't think anybody believes we are doing the menu that we are doing in such a limited capacity."
Habib and his wife said they have more plans for business in downtown Elgin but are keeping them under wraps.