Bar & Grill
Fresh out of college with a BS in Math and Theater from Black Hills State University in South Dakota, and just finishing up 8 years in the US Army as a combat medic, (I know she’s a unicorn) Kayla came to Chicago from Watford City, North Dakota with her friend Phil to see what the big city was all about, and thank god she did.
After getting their U-Haul towed as a welcome to Chicago the first night they were here, walking into a dirty apartment in a questionable area, they, against all odds, decided to stay. (Nice job Chicago)
Peter is a city boy who went to Northeastern University and was thinking about going into teaching, but while running the Wrigleyville Rooftops, fell in love with the restaurant industry, so he and his brother decided to open the first Kanela Breakfast Club restaurant in Lakeview, close to their beloved Cubbies and Wrigley Field. Being a first-generation full-blown Greek (or Spartan in his words) it was in his blood to run a restaurant. Kayla's friend Phil ended up getting a job at Kanela and eventually introduced his boss to his roommate. That is the beginning of the story of how this amazing power couple ended up touching the lives of so many people. (Talk about fate)
Six Kanela restaurants, 2 kids, and 8 years later they decided to open Dakota 94 in May of 2019 in Chicago and now Badlands Bar & Grill in Tempe Arizona in 2021. They wanted to bring some of Chicago to Arizona (now back to the story) Little did they know, less than a year later a worldwide pandemic would cripple the restaurant industry and impact the rest of their lives. Thousands of restaurants closed their doors permanently, but these two wouldn't allow that to happen. Owning and operating 7 restaurants in a pandemic is challenging, to say the least. We went from a brand new, busy, bustling restaurant, to an empty building. with no way to survive unless we were able to adapt...but adapt to what? Nothing like this had ever happened in our lifetime. The outside was dangerous, no one was ordering food, we had no way to pay our workers, and all the things we took for granted in life were put on pause. The first couple of weeks of the shutdown were rough. They did what they had to do to get the ball rolling. They cooked, delivered orders, and forwarded every call to their cell phone just so nothing would be missed, among MANY other things, all with their two young kids running around the restaurant and trying to figure out E-Learning. With the support of the wonderful surrounding neighborhoods, a couple of weeks later we were busy enough and fortunate enough to bring cooks and servers back to work. These two wouldn't close, long mornings and long nights, the restaurant became home. We even joked we should just put cots in there and sleep at the restaurant.
They made sure everyone stayed on payroll, that the restaurants remained open no matter what it took to get through a week. Started a fund to donate to the servers who weren't able to work. They also created a free lunch program for students who could not go to school. With help from donations by the community, any child could stop at the restaurant Monday-Friday and pick up a free bag lunch and a bottle of water. If all this wasn't enough to test their resilience, there was a bad storm (the derecho or gozpacho in Kayla's words: a very fast destructive thunderstorm) that knocked out the power in the area for 3 days. The restaurant was flooded, lights flashing, weird things were beeping and we didn't have a backup generator and all of the food was going to spoil. They again found a way to make the situation a positive one and asked me to make a post and tell everyone from the neighborhood to pick up a bag of food so it doesn't go to waste. On Christmas day they donated Prime Rib Meals to a homeless shelter because maybe that meal would brighten their day, and make it a little more special for them. The way that they adapted to the current situation at hand was quite remarkable, and every person that works at any one of the restaurants knows it wouldn't have been this way if these two weren't there, and ready to do whatever it took to keep us open.
Now they are trying to recreate the magic in Arizona, what's the story there? Why Badlands bar and grill? Keep in mind who on earth would open another restaurant after all of that You guessed it! Peter and Kayla did. During a brainstorming sesh with their family everyone was throwing restaurant names in the ring and Kayla's sister in law Steph said Badlands Bar and Grill. Little did they know then how magical the name would end up being. Steph is no longer with us and the name of the restaurant is a reminder that you never give up against all odds you just keep fighting. The industry is rough right now with short staffing situations all over the country. This restaurant was no walk in the park either 7 months in and the pandemic changed the industry, hundreds of thousands of industry workers changed careers. Now what? Flying back and forth across the country is rough but they keep going.
They are two of the most selfless people I've ever encountered in my life. I'll never forget when the governor got on TV and said all restaurants had to close. It was like a brick was dropped on our chests. Back then it seemed like there would eventually be an end. Now after the disease has taken Peters father far to soon you look at the world a little differently. This pandemic has changed so many lives. Imagine having 150 people all wanting to know how they were going to make money to support their families, and also thinking about how you were going to support your own. But they did it. So stop by have a bite and help support a great restaurant and family with two amazing owners who treat all of their employees and customers just like family. A lot of the places you eat no one really knows the owners, I do and I love to humanize them every chance I get so the customers know they are supporting a family who against all odds have never given up and to this day keep fighting. Everyone asks what kind of food do you guys serve? We serve home-cooked meals because that's the feeling you will get when you step into Badlands Bar & Grill. It feels just like home.
In loving memory of Stephanie Sanford and George Lardakis two people who against all odds fought until the end.
Written by Maria Proa
GM at Dakota 94 and former Kanela Employee. .