DeKALB – Self-proclaimed foodie and new general manager of Tapa La Luna Nate Walters is helping serve up a local spin on steak and potatoes for DeKalb Restaurant Week, which began Sunday and runs through Saturday.
Walters, 36, has been the general manager at Tapa La Luna, 226 E. Lincoln Highway, since October, after the unexpected Oct. 9 death of former manager and co-owner Rob Deshazer from a heart attack at age 41. As part of the fourth annual DeKalb Chamber Restaurant Week and the 23 eateries participating, Tapa La Luna is serving a chopped steak with a side of horseradish garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. The beef doesn’t get much more local, since Gehrke Beef is providing the meat from its 40-acre farm just off Fourth Street.
“It’s a really comfortable family environment,” Walters said of DeKalb, sitting in the front window of his eatery. “It is a small town that’s really not that small. With [Northern Illinois University], with community involvement, history, a pretty good football team, DeKalb is one of those places where somebody like me came from the suburbs, came to school here and just kind of stayed because there was everything I needed here.”
Tapa La Luna specializes in tapas – small plates of food that can be shared – but also full entrees and cocktails, Walters said. Other establishments around town also are going all out for their weekly special, including Fatty’s Pub and Grille, 1312 W. Lincoln Highway, which also will use Gehrke beef. For a list of participating restaurants and their specials, visit www.dekalb.org.
Grace Gehrke of the Gehrke Farmstead said she’s proud of being born and raised in DeKalb, and hopes others enjoy her family’s locally grown beef, which will be showcased at Fatty’s through a gourmet burger and craft beer pairing special as part of Restaurant Week.
“I love that you can drive 3 miles and it’s just cornfields,” she said. “So I kind of get the best of both worlds because I live out in the country and come here, too.”
Matt Duffy, executive director of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, said Walters’ sentiment is exactly why locals should take advantage of restaurant week.
“That’s part of the impression that hopefully restaurant week will help with,” Duffy said. “Some people think it’s just cornfields out here. But then they start looking at restaurants like, ‘Oh, you got a tapas place,’ and it kind of adds that element that says there is a lot out here.”
Duffy said he knows people get into their routine of going to a handful of restaurants and getting “the usual,” but his wish for restaurant week is to entice people to step out of their regular schedule and try something new. He said it’s also a unique chance for restaurants to test out new menu items.
“There’s a variety from fast-casual all the way up to fine dining,” Duffy said. “The idea was to do some special offers and to offer something you can’t get at other times.”
Anna Coates, membership manager for the Chamber, said having restaurant week in May gives local establishments a chance to gain exposure from year-round residents.
“We just want to give them an extra opportunity, especially now that the [NIU] students are gone,” Coates said. “We want to remind people that you don’t have to go all the way to Geneva. Maybe stay in town, try a place you haven’t tried before.”