All Saints Grill brings American Cajun flavors to Downtown Springfield

Zoie Merchant and her dad Dennis have gotten closer than ever through the last few years - which is why their latest endeavor as co-owners and managers of a Downtown Springfield restaurants works so well.

“I was almost retired, but have worked in restaurants on and off for years, and we want restaurants in town that we want to eat at,” Dennis explains. “So, some people helped us start a restaurant. It stopped me from sitting around during retirement.”

The duo opened All Saints Grill in COhatch Springfield - The Market.

“(My dad) has this natural ability in the kitchen,” Zoie adds. “He is really talented, and I grew up under his feet in the kitchen.”

Dennis stumbled into the restaurant business about 15 years ago. When he moved back into the sales world shortly after, he knew that it was not where he wanted to be.

“When I was back out of a job, I thought ‘I really like restaurants,’” Dennis shares. “I went to work for a local restaurant and ran their kitchen for three years. It was full of energy and allowed me to be creative, and I loved it. It was a lot of fun.”

The ideas for the Merchants’ restaurant came from the desire to bring more of the cuisine that both Zoie and Dennis wanted and liked to Springfield’s Downtown.

All Saints Grill is a small collection of American Cajun Cuisine, striving toward the bold and earthy flavors of New Orleans.

“The Cajun restaurant was something I had wanted for years and didn’t mention to anyone,” Dennis explains. “I kept wanting to eat Cajun, and there wasn’t anything close. I had to drive if I really wanted it, so I thought I couldn’t possibly be alone.”

So, he started All Saints Grill just over a year ago. 

“(Springfield is) just small enough and gives you the opportunity to enjoy it, but the relationships we can forge in the hope of developing restaurants is huge,” Dennis explains. “We felt our city had no place for relationships to grow. There was no place to go for Springfielders for a long time, and now we feel like we’re part of that growth.”

Downtown Springfield was the natural location for the eatery because the Merchants are from Springfield, and they love building the area with great, locally-owned places to build relationships.

“We’re local foodies who want to see Springfield prosper,” Zoie adds.

While All Saints’ first year in business was a “long, hard year,” both Zoie and Dennis are looking forward to the next few years of the workload evening out.

“It takes a lot to build a restaurant from the ground up,” Dennis says. “It takes a lot out of you to develop and run a restaurant. It’s a 12-plus-hour day every day.”

Dennis does all the food prep, and Zoie serves as the General Manager.

“(Our goals for the next year are to) sustain operation so we don’t have to be there every day and get the right personnel for the restaurant,” shares Dennis.

In the meantime, Dennis and Zoie encourage people near and far to make time to pay a to visit to Downtown Springfield .

“When I look at ( the downtown area) and see the energy, the investments put in, and the local people—not giant franchises—here doing the work … It’s great,” Dennis says. “Come Downtown and eat and get to know the people running these businesses. I think everyone Downtown right now is really cool.

"If you haven’t been inside the COhatch yet, you need to check it out. The architecture is gorgeous, and there’s so much to see and visit. It’s a great place to be walking around right now.”
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