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Top 20 Restaurant of the Week: The (new) Underground (still under wraps)
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Top 20 Restaurant of the Week: The (new) Underground (still under wraps)

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The Underground Barrel Room & Grill is quietly preparing for a grand re-opening with a new menu, a new look, new offerings at the bar, a new vibe and new owners, Josh Klarer and his partner in business — and in life — Laura Caughey.

“We bought it on June 4,” Klarer said. “So, we’re still making decisions, but we know that we want to focus on our food and beverage services first.”

For now, you can still order The Underground Burger, a charbroiled, one-third-pound beef patty topped with bacon, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickle stackers. But all that is going to change.

“We’re going to completely redo the menu,” he said. “We will be offering European pub classic dishes, but modernized and some of our own dishes, too. There will be unique and interesting daily specials. And we will be moving to a more farm-to-table operation, working with local producers and farmers markets.”

Klarer, 40, has been in the food and beverage industry since he was 15 years old.

“I wanted to start something new and interesting in my hometown,” he said. “I got a job here at The Underground in October, to learn all I could about the place, and started a conversation with the owners about buying.”

Klarer and Caughey met in California and together, ran a catering and butcher shop in Durango, Colorado before moving here two years ago. The couple had decided to move closer to his family — Klarer is a 1996 graduate of Carbondale Community High School — and were looking for a property or business for their own restaurant.

The Underground Barrel Room & Grill, formerly the Chicago Underground, has reopened several times “under new management.” But it’s always been a go-to place for students and townies to enjoy a meal or just hang out with family and friends. The atmosphere is relaxed, the service and food are good, and the bar has a great selection.

Coors Light, Bud Light, Budweiser, Guinness, Miller Lite, New Belgium, Blue Moon, Crown Valley Pink Lemonade, Revolution AntiHero IPA, Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA and Sam Adams Octoberfest are currently on tap, along with bottled beers, ciders, stouts, flavored beers, pilsner, ale and seasonal brews. But that’s going to change, too.

“We’re going to revamp the draft beer system here,” Klarer said. “We will have a very large draft beer selection with a focus on local and craft beer, but still retain our core selection of domestics.”

Klarer and Caughey have a lot of big plans for The (new) Underground — including changing the decor and redoing the patio — but they’re keeping the details under wraps for now, so no enterprising competitor can steal their thunder.

“There will be a new Facebook page, a new Yelp account and a new website,” Klarer said. “If you visit the old website, you will be directed to the new one when it’s ready to launch."

“We plan a relaunch and rebrand in late July,” Klarer said. “Let’s just say that you should expect some changes.”

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