Cross Keys Inn: 2010 Best Restaurants Design Winner

At this Indiana-Township restaurant, the detailed woodwork, log-burning fireplace and scenic view are just a couple of perks reminiscent of the building's past as a stagecoach inn.

Tucked between the rolling hills and winding roads along Dorseyville Road in Indiana Township, the structure that now houses the Cross Keys Inn was constructed in 1850 as a stagecoach inn for travelers before turning into a speakeasy during the 1930s and eventually housing numerous bars and restaurants throughout the remainder of the century.

Then in 2008, brothers Michael and Robert Uricchio, formerly of Laforêt restaurant in Highland Park, gave the building new life after an elaborate nine-month restoration.

“The list of repairs was actually pretty short: everything,” says co-owner Robert Uricchio of the building, which stood vacant for approximately six years prior.

But rather than focus on what the building didn’t have—a roof, windows and plumbing—the Uricchios focused instead on what it did have: detailed and original woodwork, a log-burning fireplace, a landscape mural in the library and a great location overlooking a scenic valley. Those “haves” turned into the framework of the renovation plan for the building’s interior.

“It would have been easy to throw in drop ceilings or other elements that don’t really fit, but we wanted to stay faithful to the building’s original integrity,” Robert says.

The Uricchios completed much of the renovation to the 4,000 square-foot space with their own hands but also enlisted the help of a group of tradesmen for the plumbing, wiring and detailed woodwork, which is showcased in every one of the nine dining rooms and the bar and lounge. Jeff Kramer, of Kramer Kustom in the South Side, was “instrumental in bringing a lot of the interior woodwork to life” and taught the brothers how to care for the bar’s elaborate varnished pine.

Seeking to combine rustic elements like wood casings around exposed brick, wide-plank flooring and leather seating with a sense of lush sophistication, Robert and Michael turned to sister Marylynn Uricchio for her décor expertise. Focusing on a modern-English country theme, she introduced a warm, inviting color palette primarily of red, caramel and yellow in addition to simple furnishings, such as delicate silk window treatments and crisp white tablecloths. Each room also boasts unique period pieces like framed Audobon bird prints, antique mirrors and original artwork.

But the true gems of the restoration—in fact, all eight of them—are the private, themed dining rooms located on the second floor that seat between four and 28. The most popular is Starry Night, where the walls and ceiling are painted to resemble  the Vincent van Gogh masterpiece.

From top to bottom, all of the building’s interior and exterior design elements combine with a skilled kitchen and well-executed American menu to create a destination that encapsulates dining as an overall experience.

“From the time people pull up to when they enter the restaurant, we want to set the tone for a relaxed dining experience,” Robert says. “It’s extremely important and something we’re strong believers in.”

Co-owners Robert and Michael Uricchio, Head Chef Lia Davidson-Welling: 599 Dorseyville Road, Indiana Township; 412/967-1900,

Categories: Eat + Drink Features