After years of working in and managing kitchens in the area, Tom Spencer is finally living out his dream.
The Creston native debuts his new restaurant, Spencer’s Chophouse and Tavern, today.
Located at 119 N. Walnut St. in Creston, Spencer’s Chophouse and Tavern will be open from 3:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
“I’m extremely excited (to be open) after two long months of renovations. There’s absolutely a need for what we’re doing in Creston and we’re going to fill that need,” Spencer said. “It’s kind of been a dream of mine for a long time.”
Spencer grew up around the restaurant business at a young age, as his grandfather Ted Wilson owned several restaurants in the area.
After graduating from Creston High School, Spencer attended Des Moines Area Community College’s culinary arts program and then worked in and managed several kitchens.
He has been out of the restaurant business for more than 20 years, but jumped at the chance to open his own steakhouse in Creston.
“I guess once the restaurant business gets in your blood, it gets in your blood. It always comes back,” he said. “I got bit by the bug again and purchased a place to try to provide a nice steakhouse place for the people of Creston.”
Spencer has always found himself in a steakhouse setting, so when he purchased the building at 119 N. Walnut St., he knew he wanted to create a steakhouse.
He chose to name it Spencer’s Chophouse and Tavern to separate it from other restaurants in the area.
“We’re trying to do things like we did them 20 years ago before the food companies and the chain restaurants took over the way we eat,” Spencer said. “They make so many convenience products that are heat and serve, and it’s taken all the skill and all the labor out of owning a restaurant.”
So, Spencer will be making all his own salad dressings, his own appetizers and will be cutting the steaks himself.
Spencer’s Chophouse and Tavern’s specialty item is the prime rib, which Spencer uses a slow cooker to cook.
He held a party for Creston Community School District teachers and staff following the district’s conferences Thursday night and said the food went over well.
“Our appetizers, they’re kind of a modern mix of all of our favorite things to eat when we go out to eat,” Spencer said. “I think that’s what makes a good restaurant. Everything has been done once someplace. You’re never the creator of any dishes. If you can take a sample of all the things you like from every place you like to eat and put them in one place, you have the perfect eating establishment.”
The Spencer’s Chophouse and Tavern menu ranges from appetizers such as avocado egg rolls, fried pickles and buffalo wings to ribeyes, New York strips and prime rib. The menu also includes chicken dishes and pork dishes, fish and seafood, pasta, sandwiches and burgers, along with soups and salads.
After closing on the purchase of the building in late August, Spencer and his father spent two long months renovating and updating the inside of the building.
The biggest task was constructing a full kitchen, since the building did not have a kitchen in it previously.
Other renovations included a new floor, new booths, new tables and giving the bar area a face-lift.
Spencer’s Chophouse and Tavern seats 90 patrons, and also includes two larger tables for larger groups that come in.
The restaurant will employ about 15 people, mostly part-time employees.
Spencer said he hopes to create a restaurant family with his employees.
“So far, the people I’ve employed, they understand what we’re talking about (when talking about a restaurant family),” he said. “It’s a family affair. It takes everybody. The people that work for you, your employees are part of the family. I love that camaraderie of having a larger group of people you can call your family.”