The man behind the horror movie "Munger Road" is set to open a restaurant this May along Randall Road in Elgin.
Nick Smith of St. Charles is overseeing transformation of the building that, until about a year ago, held the Lone Star Steakhouse into Old Republic Kitchen and Bar.
"It will focus on American foods, from Minnesota walleye to Wisconsin mac and cheese to Memphis barbecue," Smith said.
Smith said he chose the name because the United States is a republic and because of the definition of republic -- a government in which people vote to elect those who represent them.
The restaurant's logo resembles the bear on the California Republic state flag. Smith said it was inspired by the time he spent living on the West Coast earlier this decade when he was trying to get his movie made.
"Munger Road" was a 2011 movie that was written, directed and produced by Smith. It cost about $200,000 to make, and in a short run in local theaters, it generated enough box office sales to cover the production costs.
The story involves four Fox Valley teens who head to a railroad crossing along Munger Road in Bartlett, checking out an urban legend that the spot is haunted. At the same time, two police officers in St. Charles are tracking down an escaped, convicted serial killer the day before the town's annual Scarecrow Festival is set to take place.
The movie featured a relatively unknown cast, along with one-time Academy Award nominee Bruce Davison. Smith shot "Munger Road" in 16 days in St. Charles, Bartlett, Elburn, Geneva and Sugar Grove.
It debuted at the Charlestowne 18 theater in St. Charles in September 2011 and reportedly earned the highest per screen average in the country that weekend. Boxofficemojo.com reported that the film played a total of 32 theaters in the Chicago-area and made $266,689 at the box office by the end of its theatrical run.
"Munger Road" never received broad distribution and Smith did not raise financing for a sequel.
He returned to the Fox Valley from California when making the movie and rejoined his family's business, Karas Restaurant Group.
Old Republic, which will be at 155 S. Randall Road near the Marcus Elgin Cinema, is part of the family-owned company that operates The Village Squire, Rookies Sports Pub and Alexander's locations.
The family opened its first Village Squire in West Dundee in 1974 in a building constructed in the late 1950s. While the group bought its first Rookie's location in the late 1990s, Smith said Old Republic will be its first new concept since opening Alexander's in the late 1980s. Smith said he knew of the Lone Star location because he and his wife lived near it in Elgin.
"It was a struggle to find a nice place to eat, especially one that stayed open later," Smith said.
Converting the 20-year-old building that was the steakhouse is taking a lot of work, Smith said. That includes gutting the inside for a remodel and putting in a kitchen that will have a smoker, and even removing the ceiling. Smith, who is general manager for Old Republic, said he also hired executive chef J. Grant Warner to come up with the menu, which is still in the works.
Smith said the all-American menu will be reflected in cocktails, beer and other beverages as well as the dishes. Those will include New York-style pizza, West Coast-style burgers and the restaurant's own take on chicken cordon bleu. Smith also is planning to bring some favorites from other Karas restaurants to Old Republic including Village Squire Mai Tais.
"We're excited to be bringing this to Elgin," Smith said.