Dry Creek Cafe Rick Hall

Owner Rick Hall stands in front of the back bar in the Dry Creek Cafe, 201 Columbus Road, Mount Vernon. Hall's friend assembled and refinished the back bar after collecting the pieces from a variety of sources. Hall plans to open the cafe by June 2021.

MOUNT VERNON — Come early summer, Knox Countians will have another option for Italian fare when the Dry Creek Cafe opens at 201 Columbus Road.

“We do not have an actual set-in-stone opening date,” owner Rick Hall said. “We're putting in a patio out back; that's done. We have fencing, some lighting, and some other things to do, which will take time. Plus we'll have inspections.

“We're pretty much done with the inside,” he continued. “It will look quite a bit different. We took [the floor] down to the original hardwood floors dating to the 1950s.”

Seating capacity inside is about 40 people, but Hall plans to accommodate 32 to 36 to allow ample room for the round, two- and four-top tables. Seating will include pews from when the structure was a church.

Outside, Hall plans to place tables and seating for 75 on a 1,100-square-foot patio. Cleared areas on the periphery of the patio can accommodate additional tables and chairs.

Hall has not yet set the final menu, but says it will not be a large one.

“I intentionally want a small menu,” he said. “The idea behind it is it will be a blue-collar place with blue-collar prices, but it will be a nice place to go.”

Whatever is on the menu, as much as possible will be homemade.

“I love good, fresh Italian sausage made with quality cuts of meat,” Hall said. “I plan on buying anything and everything I can from locals.”

Hall is looking at opening Wednesday through Saturday, from 3 p.m. to 10 or 10:30 p.m.

“It will primarily be dinner and evening where you can come, sit out on the patio, have a beer, and have some Italian food,” he explained.

For regulars used to stopping in at the former Barb's Diner/Heidi's Kitchen for breakfast, the new hours might take a little getting used to.

“They've all been real nice,” Hall said of the people who have stopped by asking about breakfast. “When I tell them, 'No, no breakfast,' they say, 'Well, I like Italian food, too.”

Dry Creek Cafe pew seating

Seating in the Dry Creek Cafe will incorporate pews that remain from the time when the structure served as a church. Interior renovations include stripping the tile and refinishing the original hardwood floors.

Friday and Saturday nights at Dry Creek Cafe will feature entertainment ranging from solo acts to bands. Whatever the entertainment might be, it will respect the neighborhood.

“The music won't be crazy loud,” said Hall, a musician who toured with country and rock groups until the age of 30. “I have lots of musician friends; all of them want to come and play.

“We'll have local musicians, too. That's really important,” he added.

Hall said he hadn't anticipated opening a restaurant.

“I was thinking of just retiring, but I thought 'I just don't want to do that,'” he said. “But I've got to do something.

“This just fell in my lap,” he continued. “I've always kind of wanted to do it. We'll start off a little bit slow and see where it goes. But I am not interested in doing it seven days a week.”

Hall has applied for a D1 (beer only for on premises consumption or in original sealed containers for carry out only until 1 a.m.) and a D3 (spirituous liquor for on premises consumption only until 1 a.m.) liquor permit. Because, as Hall says, wine goes well with Italian food, he hopes to add a D2 (wine and mixed beverages for on premises consumption or in original sealed containers for carryout only until 1 a.m.) at some point. There will be no Sunday sales.

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