Bring Chicago to Murray; that was the goal of Mugsy’s Hideout owners Jay and Maria Baron before opening their Chicago-themed restaurant in Murray’s court square.
Originally from the Windy City, the couple made the move to Murray after spending time vacationing in the area year after year.
“We used to vacation in Grand Rivers, Ky., and my parents actually had property there so we could vacation,” Jay said. “We just fell in love with the area. We thought we had a niche to start.”
Once the couple and their children were settled in Murray, they wanted to live the American dream, so they decided to start their own business.
Because Jay had previously worked three different jobs in the Chicago meat industry, he wanted to see what he could do in the small-town food industry on his own.
Soon enough, Mugsy’s Hideout was created and opened in 2005.
“The type of restaurant that we are, there’s probably a thousand of them in Chicago,” Jay said. “We thought we had something different to bring (here) and sell.”
They realized that if they brought in a Chicago-style restaurant, it would be something unique in Murray, Jay said.
After visiting different restaurants, they realized that not everyone carried Italian beef or Italian sausage. Aside from the stereotypical deep-dish pizzas, some of Mugsy’s most popular dishes are their pizza calzones, combination sandwiches with Italian beef and Italian sausage and their Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, though not Chicago recipe’s.
Learning how to make all of their dishes and then teaching their employees how to imitate them was the biggest challenge, Jay said.
“Honestly, we just played, we just learned,” he said.
“I always cooked when I worked on the meat market, but I never pulled any one recipe. I would just keep working with it until I felt like we perfected it.”
Once he made a dish to his liking and it stayed true to the Chicago style, he had to sit down and write out its recipe so his workers could make it, too, he said.
The name Mugsy comes from the name of Jay’s dog at the time.
Mugsy’s appearance, however, was created through a contest Jay and Maria hosted to encourage students to make a creative logo for their Chicago-themed restaurant.
“We had a contest here when we first opened up with the high school kids at Murray or Calloway to compete and create Mugsy for us,” Jay said. The students competiting in the contest were given three rules, Jay said.
“Mugsy had to be a Pit Bull, (his appearance) had to do with Chicago and (the design) had to be during the prohibition era,” he said. “The person that came up with the best looking Mugsy won $250.”
From there, Jay and Maria had the winner come into the restaurant and paint their pictures on the walls to make murals, he said.
Today, murals and paintings of prohibition and roaring twenties dogs can be seen inside the restaurant, along with sports memorabilia from Chicago teams like the Bulls and White Sox.
“We have different sports teams hung up,” Jay said. “We kind of used the prohibition theme inside of the restaurant because when I first came to Murray, there were very few places serving alcohol, and growing up in Chicago, there is a bar on every corner, and we thought it would be kind of cool to play with that theme. So we kind of made it like a speak-easy.”
While the restaurant has its local regular customers, it also receives a lot of business from consumers coming from northern areas that are attracted by the familiar food styles and tastes.
Among those northern areas are St. Louis, Buffalo, N.Y., Pennsylvania, Detroit and of course, Chicago, Jay said.
“Our biggest hurdle, however, is being downtown in the court square,” he said. “A lot of Murray State students don’t know about the court square. We probably see more faculty than students.”
Faces & Places is a weekly series that profiles the people and places of Murray. Every person and every place has a story. Let us tell it.
Story by Anna Taylor, Features Editor.