Region foodies can now toast to another gem in Tim McEnery's spirited and flavorful empire.
McEnery's Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant opened its doors to diners and wine aficionados Aug. 13 at Westfield Southlake mall in Hobart. It's his first business venture in Northwest Indiana.
The winery/restaurant concept, established in 2005 in Orland Park, Ill., features a full-scale restaurant, winery, tasting room, retail store, wine club and a menu of eclectic American fare.
"We're excited to be there (in Northwest Indiana)," said Matt McMillin, director of culinary and beverage operations for Cooper's Hawk.
McEnery added he's thrilled with how the eatery/winery, which is his ninth business, turned out.
"It's our newest, most state-of-the-art design," McEnery said. During a recent pre-opening party, McEnery was in attendance and showcasing the innovative features of the business.
He was enthusiastic to point out what he and McMillin are calling the "recipe viewer" at the property.
The "recipe viewer," which essentially is a computer monitor housed in the downstairs kitchen, stores all of the eatery's recipes so cooks can follow along and prepare all dishes in a consistent way at all Cooper's Hawk locations.
"We're in the process of rolling it out to all of our other restaurants," McMillin said, adding the Merrillville location is the first to feature it. Through the special viewer, staff can also view cooking videos, training videos and charts.
For both McEnery and McMillin, quality is of utmost importance while serving their customers.
"We strive to bring our guests the best quality products we can find," McMillin said, adding Cooper's Hawk features a from-scratch kitchen where everything is made fresh.
McMillin and McEnery work closely together in putting their stamp on the Cooper's Hawk product and delivering their best to diners.
"We taste food and wine together every week," McMillin said. He said the menus at all Cooper's Hawks are the same but they're always tweaking dishes. The menu, he said, is changed about twice a year.
Each restaurant has its own executive kitchen manager/chef and a staff of other cooks while McMillin is at the helm of all the culinary teams. At the new Merrillville Cooper's Hawk, Edgar Ibarra operates as executive kitchen manager.
"We want to give our guests great food and pair them with great wines which we make," McMillin said.
"From a menu perspective, we always want to stay current," McEnery said. "The average customer is very sophisticated today. Restaurants are continuing to get better and better with the food they serve."
According to McMillin, in the quest to remain current, they keep an eye on trends but also want to set trends.
McEnery said all wines served at Cooper's Hawk are made by the winery. "We're one of the largest wine producers outside of California," he said.
The entrepreneur, who is in his 30s, came up with the Cooper's Hawk concept in the early 2000s and opened the first one in 2005 on Harlem Avenue in Orland Park.
"Never in a million years did I think it would be what it is today," he said, adding that the hardest thing he ever did was having to raise the money for his first Cooper's Hawk.
McEnery, who's greatly involved personally with coming up with ideas for both the wine program and the menu, said he wants the food to remain "approachable."
The menu features dishes including a Drunken Shrimp appetizer; Dana's (who is McEnery's wife) Parmesan Crusted Chicken; Chicken Madeira; Gnocchi Carbonara; Roasted Eggplant Ravioli; Trio of Medallions; Red Wine and Mustard Short Ribs; Pistachio Crusted Grouper; Sea Scallops; and Cooper's Hawk Chicken Piccata along with a variety of other seafood, steak, chops, pasta and chicken entrees.
Diners may also try Chef Matt's Monthly Cheese Tasting or order the cheese tasting with a wine pairing flight.
At Cooper's Hawk, guests also have the opportunity to enroll in a wine club; enjoy individual tastings; attend wine dinners and other special events.
All the wines sold through Cooper's Hawk are made at the headquarters/winery in Countryside, Ill. McMillin said there are future plans to expand their winemaking facility.
McMillin said he admires McEnery's work ethic.
"He's a great leader and a great individual to work with. I have extreme respect for what he's created," he said.
In addition to Merrillville, Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant is located in Burr Ridge, Ill., Wheeling, Ill.; South Barrington, Ill.; Indianapolis; and Brookfield, Wis. McEnery will soon open Cooper's Hawk's in Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Mo.; and Tampa, Fla.