Monday, June 28, 2010

Redwoods: It's all about the diversity

Redwoods Grill and Bar in Chester is all about customer appreciation.

Everything from what comes and goes on the menu to the name of the restaurant was decided by and for the people who eat here.

"We actually had a contest and allowed our guests to name it," co-owner Keith Holmes says. "We ran it for about three weeks and Redwoods was the No. 1 name that the people picked."

This all occurred after a tense legal battle over the first name he and his partner, John O'Leary, had come up with for the restaurant.

"Our (original) name was Monterey Grill and Bar," Holmes says. "After we were here about eight months, we ran into a little snafu that was called Monterey Gourmet. It opened around the corner after we opened, which is the interesting part."

Still, Holmes has never been bitter about the incident and found it better to just change their name and rely more on the actual food itself. That, he says, is just one of the many reasons why the restaurant has been secure in the current economy.

"I know that at a neighborhood place, you gotta have some diversity," Holmes says. "So our menu is very diverse, from both the price angle and to the type of ingredients we use."

And he's not exaggerating the diversity. You want a steak? They have a steak (filet mignon, dry aged Kansas City strip, steak, take your pick). You want a fajita, they have a fajita. Heck, they even have a bit of Thai food on their menu if that's what you're craving.

"We have this Thai peanut-sauce dish that's got a rice pasta in it," Holmes says.

But their biggest seller?

"Salmon," Holmes says. "Believe it or not, it's our No. 1 dish for 14 years.

"The customers are going, 'Salmon doesn't normally taste this way. Yours isn't as strong.' Well, it isn't as strong because it's fresh. Salmon gets progressively stronger the older it gets, as the oils start to get a little bit more potent, but people come here and say, 'It's always so mild, it's always so nice.' "

The patrons are mostly from the area — Mendham, Chester, Gladstone and Randolph.

"It's funny because we've got to market to Randolph a little more (than some of the other places)," Holmes says. "We found in our research that people travel west to east.

"Randolph's three miles down the road, but people won't drive east to west. If they're in Randolph, they're saying, 'we're going to Morristown.' "

Redwoods also does catering, which Holmes said is a huge part of their business: "Catering has been a constant growth for 15 years. We literally pushed it by word of mouth from the beginning, and word of mouth has really grown to the point where it is today."

And where it is today, is about 250 parties and host at the restaurant. The events range from wedding showers to birthday parties to bar mitzvahs.

"It's so important to our business setup," Holmes says.

Also important to him is Chester itself, in which he's enjoyed working for the past 14 years: "Chester's a great community. People love to dine out — and Chester stands tall with that."

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