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Crawford's Corner to open later this month

Crawford's Corner is working to open its doors around mid- to late-August. Pictured, from left, are William Phipps, sou chef; Tye Sanford, bar manager; Michael Krull, restaurant manager and chef; and Colleen Crawford, owner. Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx

New restaurant to feature locally grown meat and produce at former RJ's

It’s been almost two years since RJ’s closed its doors in downtown Hastings. This month, a new restaurant is set to open those same doors. Colleen Crawford said she’s planning to open Crawford’s Corner in mid- to late-August.

Crawford officially purchased the building just last Friday, but she and her team have been working on developing their business since December, when she first looked at the space.

An Apple Valley resident, Crawford said she fell in love with Hastings when she saw the deck outside the American Legion and its incredible view. Her transition into restaurant ownership, however, was a little unexpected.

“I was looking for a farm,” she said.

But then she saw the space that was once RJ’s. The beautiful bar, the aura of the place – it convinced her to become a restaurant owner. Although it’s her first time as a restaurant owner, Crawford said she’s worked in the industry before. She’s also brought on three students from Le Cordon Bleu to serve as her management team and bring the latest in restauranteur education straight into the business. Michael Krull is the restaurant manager and chef, William Phipps is the sous chef and Tye Sanford is the bar manager. The three said they expect to finish their degrees this coming spring.

Although Crawford didn’t end up with a farm, she is bringing the farm-fresh mentality into Crawford’s Corner. They’re visiting local farms and setting up agreements with local growers to provide their ingredients, including free range chickens and fresh fruits and vegetables to get that fresh picked, “made at grandma’s house” flavor, Crawford said.

It takes more work and more time, they said, but in the end produces a better tasting product.

“You can taste the processing,” Phipps said of bulk processed ingredients.

Using fresh produce also allows them as chefs to let the ingredients shine with little intervention.

“Very little has to be done to make it taste good,” Phipps said.

They’re also putting an emphasis on sustainability. Beef, for example, will be used with a “tip to tail” mentality. They’ll purchase just one cow at a time and use the whole thing before buying the next animal. That means a hamburger, for example, will be made from a single cow they’ve hand-picked, rather than a mix of beef from multiple sources.

The menu features broasted chicken with local Jersey beef for hamburgers and steaks. Along with the emphasis on local produce, Crawford’s Corner will also have a specialty Guinness ice cream that’s homemade in-house using local cream. There will be rotating specials depending on what produce is available, as well as a regular menu, Krull said.

While the restaurant is aiming for a fine dining taste, they’re also going for a more laid back atmosphere.

“A casual atmosphere with an elevated taste,” Phipps explained.

They haven’t forgotten the drinks. Sandford said they’re working on pairing their food specials with just the right drinks, so diners don’t have to guess which drinks will complement the flavor of their meal.

Of course, they’re also looking to their patrons to help them refine their menu, Krull said. Feedback will be welcomed so they can make sure they’re serving what the people really want.

They’re not changing much inside.

“It’s just a beautiful building,” Crawford said.

And the history of it is something they very much want to maintain. The building dates back more than 100 years and was once a speakeasy, Sanford said.

“It would be kind of rude to tarnish such history,” he said.

When Crawford’s Corner opens its doors, it hopes to be a place for family dinners as well as formal events, Krull said. There’s enough space – with a second floor dining room – to be able to offer diners their choice of experience, they said. They’re also planning a game room and also plan to accommodate banquets, special events and fundraisers.

“We want to foster a good atmosphere,” Sanford said.

The restaurant is located a 107 E. Second St. in downtown Hastings.

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