Along the skyline of Hamilton, you’ll find the Butler County Soldiers, Sailors, and Pioneers Monument, topped by a bronze statue to the soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War. Known as “Billy Yank,” it commemorates those who may be nameless in history books but who aren’t forgotten. Cafeo Hospitality Group (CHG) will pay tribute to him when its new restaurant of the same name opens this summer.
“Billy Yank is like a protector of the city, looking over it,” says Tony Cafeo, the hospitality group’s co-owner. “It’s a great name. I’m kind of shocked that nobody has done anything with that name before.”
Hamilton is experiencing a downtown revitalization of sorts with a new sports complex and event center, Spooky Nook, set to open in the next year, and CHG wanted to get in on the action. Cafeo has already had some success on the Cincinnati restaurant scene with establishments like Incline Public House, Press on Monmouth, and Jefferson Social. This will be the company’s first foray into Hamilton with Chef Jason Campbell leading the new restaurant.
“Jason has worked with our group for about 10 years, and he said we should look in Hamilton,” Cafeo says. “We talked to the people from the city, and we were really impressed with what the city was doing with downtown and with Spooky Nook coming, so we thought it would be a great opportunity.”
Billy Yanks will be located at the corner of Main and C streets in the historic Hammerle Building. The restaurant will feature a main dining room for about 50 diners as well as a separate cocktail lounge area and a back patio.
Campbell has brought his style of cooking and attitude toward cuisine to his other ventures with Cafeo Hospitality Group and this will be no exception.
“Burgers will be the focus and they will be really good,” says Cafeo of the restaurant’s menu. “Jason has developed some SPAM fries, which will be an appetizer—he says people will go crazy for them.”
SPAM also features on one of the signature burgers. If burgers aren’t your thing, there will also be a variety of fresh salads, sandwiches like the Victory at Nashville, a take on a Nashville hot chicken sandwich, and wings.
Campbell’s penchant for making housemade sauces will be on display with signature burger sauces, pineapple teriyaki salsa, and other flavorful twists.
“What I do is fresh,” Campbell says. “Doing as much in-house prep as possible, like making our own sauces and adding our own twist on things. We’re doing fresh at a reasonable price, bringing variety and selection.”
While Hamilton has gained a few different spots with a strong reputation for beer, Cafeo saw room for a bar that focuses on craft cocktails.
“We’ll have a good selection of bourbons and a good cocktail list,” he adds. “The way the space is designed, it has a small storefront area that separates itself, so it will be a cocktail bar area with an upscale feel.”