CLARINGTON, Pa. (EYT) – In spite of the uncertainty of the coronavirus, Cousin Basils is excited to open its doors on Thursday, July 9.
(PICTURED: Jason Conley, owner of Cousin Basils and Sweet Basil.)
Cousin Basils is the former Iron Mountain Grille located at the threshold of Cook Forest, just off Route 36 at the Route 899 junction.
A “sister” restaurant to Sweet Basil, Cousin Basils had originally planned to be open for business the first of April; however, due to Governor Wolf’s mitigation efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19, owner Jason Conley pushed back the opening.
Conley told exploreClarion.com, “We are excited to open our doors to the public! We want to thank everyone for their patience. The wait will be well-worth it.”
A trained chef, Conley plans to extend his simple philosophy from Sweet Basil to Cousin Basils.
“Our food at Cousin Basils reflects the same philosophy as that of Sweet Basil: fresh ingredients, great food, and excellent service!” Conley explained.
“I brought over Eric Fye and Lisa Morgan (from Sweet Basil), who have both worked for me for about seven years. They are going to be running the front and back of the house.”
“Lisa will be in the front of the house. Eric, along with Patrick (Brazenski), will be in the back of the house, taking care of the food.”
Incidentally, Chef Brazenski actually trained Conley at the Clarion River Lodge when Conley was “twenty-something.” Fye also worked at the Clarion River Lodge when he was just a teen.
Since Brazenski had worked with both Conley and Fye, “it was like coming home in a way,” he said.
“After I left the Clarion River Lodge, I went to Clarion University. I was the executive chef at Chartwells (at the college) for five years. After I left there, I went to the McKinley Health Center in Brookville. I was the kitchen supervisor at the nursing home. Then, I got this opportunity from Jason, and now I don’t know why I ever left the restaurants for other work. This is where I should be.”
Food is First for Cousin Basils
Although the Iron Mountain Grille presented bands, Conley’s approach is: If the food is good and reasonable priced, customers will come back.
“I want to focus on the food and the service. As far as entertainment, we will take a look at it down the line, but for now, we’re going to push that back. I want to get the staff trained for the service, and the kitchen staff trained, so the food comes out consistent.
“It’s a beautiful venue, and we have talented cooks. Just speaking with the staff, I think they’re going to ‘kill’ it out there with their experience and new hours,” Conley explained.
Chef Eric Fye added, “We’re very family-oriented. When people come in the door we want them to know each other. I spend a lot of time visiting with the customers. I know a lot of chefs don’t leave the kitchen, but I want to know everybody.
“I want to know that we’re doing things correctly for them. I want everybody to come in here and feel like they spent a good price, and they’re full and leave here satisfied.”
New Hours at Cousin Basils
The restaurant and bar will be open seven days a week beginning Thursday, July 9. Hours for Monday through Saturday are 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. And, Sunday hours are 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
There will be reduced seating capacity to comply with CDC guidelines. Outdoor seating will also be available.
Reservations will not be taken at this time. It is on a first come, first served basis.
Employees Are Important to Conley
Conley said that his employees are important to him – and to the success of his restaurants.
“I think part of the reason that we were able to expand is that I pay my people better than average and also have health insurance and paid vacations for my full-timers. I want to expand on that in the coming years and have retirement plans and other benefits.
“Young kids in the kitchen are stepping up, and hopefully, we could do this again in a year or two and expand even more.”
Restaurant manager Lisa Morgan added, “When people come in, I want them to see our smiling faces. I want them to have the best customer service that we can give them. I want them to feel welcome and warm and leave with a full stomach and a to-go box so they have a little extra.
“Those are the things we want; we want people to feel at home when they’re here.”
For more information, visit Cousin Basils Facebook page here.
Ron Wilshire contributed to this story.