Tom Tousis has a simple formula for a restaurant: Build a nice place, serve good food and offer it all at a good price. "It's a good combo," he said.
Tousis hopes all three pieces come together next week when he opens his new restaurant, Gus's Gyros at the corner of Douglas Avenue and Goold Street next door to the Better Day BP gas station.
After a recent tour of the new place, it's clear he's nailed two of the points. The interior of Gus's is a sleek modern take on American nostalgia with beautiful murals on the walls and stainless steel tables and chairs in the dining room. One of the murals is a menu that shows prices ranging from $2 for a hamburger to $6 for a giant gyro (Tousis was reluctant to share what the "BFG" will look like; he said it was a surprise for when they open.)
Prices at Gus's are great. The restaurant will offer four styles of gyros starting with the original "1978 Gyro" (1978 is the year the Tousis family moved to Racine) for $4.99. The "Cheesehead Style" comes with a cheddar cheese sauce and onion rings for $5.49. The "Big Fat Cow" is a gyro cheeseburger combo for $5.99 and "The BFG" is a giant gyro for $6.99.
Hamburgers and cheeseburgers are automatically doubles and cost $2.99 for a hamburger and $3.29 for a cheeseburger. Singles are $1.99 for a hamburger and $2.29 for a cheeseburger.
Everything served will be made fresh on site, Tousis said. They'll even serve homemade fries cut with a potato press, he said.
Good food is a given for the Tousis family, which has a long history of running restaurants in Racine since Gus moved the family to town. Among their restaurants include Gibson's Charhouse, Ritzy's restaurant on Washington Ave. and Andrea's in Downtown Racine.
Gus's is built on the site of the former Gibson's and connects with the Better Day gas station, which Tousis opened in December 2007. Tousis' family bought the land at Douglas and Goold in 1989 from Marcus Corp, which ran a Big Boy there.
(As an aside, the gas station looks good, and even has a worldwide claim to fame. It was the first station to entirely use LED lights for its exterior lighting. Ruud Lighting, which manufactured the lights, brings tours by the station twice a week to show off the green technology, Tousis said. Gus's will actually go a step further, using second-generation LED lights that Ruud is rolling out.)
Gus's interior is sharp. It has about 10 tables inside plus a counter. There's room for at least four tables outside. (Tousis also plans to open a drive-thru window once the restaurant is up and running.) The walls were painted by noted local artist Jane Cascio, who painted the mural on the outside of the Yardarm and played a major role in designing and creating the Uptown mosaic.
Tousis said he asked Cascio to create a mural of his fond childhood memories. There's a baseball field, the Zephyr passenger train, Captain America, Superman (actually, "Super Gus") and the Statue of Liberty.
Other walls have "rules" for eating at Gus's (most of them are jokes) and the menu.
"We don't want it to look manufactured," Tousis said.
Tousis said running a restaurant comes naturally. He remembers being four years old sitting in a kitchen and watching his Dad and others run businesses. With Gus's, Tousis said he wanted to keep things simple to focus on quality. "Logistically, this is a lot simpler than what we did in the past," he said.
Plus, it's a true family business. Gus's is named after his father, Gus Tousis, who moved the family in Racine in 1978 to open Andrea's. Gus will be involved in running his namesake restaurant, as will Tom's wife. One of the wall murals even includes Tom's two sons and nephew.
Gus's will be open for lunch and dinner. Hours aren't set yet, but Tousis said the restaurant will probably open around 10:30 a.m. and close at 9 p.m.
For any job-seekers out there, Gus's is hiring waitstaff, cashiers and bussers. If you're interested in applying, stop by the restaurant.
Close-ups of two murals on the wall of Gus's Gyros.