10 Years After A North Middle Household Enterprise Closed, A Son Is Opening A Restaurant In The Identical Spot

NORTH CENTER — The son of the previous house owners of a North Middle greasy spoon is returning to the neighborhood to open a diner in the identical place his household ran their enterprise for 26 years.

Irene’s Finer Diner will open subsequent month at 2012 W. Irving Park Street. Proprietor Petros Papatheofanis named the restaurant after his mom. 

Papatheofanis’ father opened Alps East on the identical tackle in 1986 and ran it till he died in 2000, Papatheofanis stated. His mom and different kinfolk continued to run the enterprise till they closed it in 2012, Papatheofanis stated. 

The restaurant modified arms just a few instances prior to now 10 years, changing into Danny’s Egghead Dinerwhich closed in 2018. Most not too long ago, it was Northside Kitchen, which opened in 2019 and closed in February 2020.

After a few tries to safe the house, Papatheofanis is ready to open Irene’s subsequent month.

“Quick ahead 10 years and right here we try to reopen the restaurant my household first opened in 1986,” Papatheofanis stated. “Mainly what we’re doing is opening a diner with higher and extra considerate components, however nonetheless having that diner form of really feel.

“With the ability to present one thing that’s historically like that greasy spoon expertise the place you’re like ‘Wow, that’s very unhealthy, but it surely feeds the soul.’ We’re saying you’ll be able to nonetheless feed somebody’s soul however with higher components which might be a bit higher for you.’”

Papatheofanis lengthy had his eye on working a household enterprise, if not his mother and father’ longtime restaurant.

Papatheofanis’s father labored for the house owners of Authentic Alps Pancake Home, 3637 W. Irving Park Street, and have become pals with them earlier than opening his personal diner, Papatheofanis stated.

Papatheofanis grew up working alongside his father and remembers stealing bacon off the grill as a child and going to assist out at Alps East throughout his summers from faculty, he stated. 

Papatheofanis studied hospitality administration at Northern Illinois College with the intent of serving to his household run the restaurant, however they closed the enterprise earlier than he graduated, he stated. 

“I needed to assist my mother and try to flip issues round, however I graduated too late, so I began working company,” Papatheofanis stated. 

Whereas working at Kimpton Inns and different River North eating places, Papatheofanis stored an eye fixed on the Irving Park Street spot’s availability with the hope of at some point returning to open a restaurant, he stated. 

When Papatheofanis heard about Danny’s Egghead Diner closing, he reached out to the constructing’s landlord, Tony “Doc” Athans, to attempt to make a deal.

The 2 have recognized one another for years. Athans, a dentist, took over the property from his personal father — who rented the house for Alps East to Papatheofanis’ father. 

Athans was not instantly out there for remark.

“My dad signed the unique lease together with his dad in 1986,” Papatheofanis stated. “By the point I heard about it, I used to be like, ‘Hey, Doc, is the house open?’ However by then he’d already made preparations with one other proprietor.”  

Papatheofanis continued to maintain tabs on the property and reached out to Athans once more after Northside Kitchen closed, he stated.

“We had a gathering in March 2020 the place we found out the preparations and he agreed I’d be taking up the house,” Papatheofanis stated. “We shook arms and figured we’d give it a few weeks to see how this COVID factor pans out. The remaining is historical past, and right here we’re virtually two years later attempting to get issues achieved.”

Papatheofanis has introduced alongside Cristian Mendoza and Norah Zamler as co-owners at Irene’s. The trio has labored collectively at Sable Kitchen & Bar and The Press Room. 

Credit score: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Membership Chicago
Irene’s Finer Diner co-owners Petros Papatheofanis (left) and Cristian Mendoza and standing outdoors the diner Aug. 29, 2022.

Papatheofanis was a flooring supervisor at Sable when he met Mendoza, who was working as a server. Zamler was most not too long ago The Press Room’s government chef. 

“It actually was very natural. He stored speaking about reopening it all through the years, and it simply so occurred to be that we had the chance to do it,” Mendoza stated. 

The brand new house owners have put a recent coat of paint on the diner and have put in new tools over the previous a number of weeks, Papatheofanis stated. 

“We need to be as centered as doable on this undertaking due to its sentimental worth,” Papatheofanis stated. “We perceive how necessary first impressions are, too. We’re simply actually attempting to work laborious to ensure every little thing’s dialed in earlier than opening our doorways.”

The menu remains to be being finalized, however it should function diner staples made with components sourced from native farms and distributors, Papatheofanis stated. 

For instance, the eggs will come from Slagel Household Farm, and produce will come from Nichols Farm & Orchard, Papatheofanis stated. 

Moreover, as a substitute of typical pop, the diner will carry Jones Soda, a craft beverage made with pure cane sugar, he stated. 

“I believe it’s cool to have an omelette the place you realize the place the pork and greens are coming from,” Papatheofanis stated. “It’s necessary to me as a result of I believe people who find themselves keen about eating places are keen about the place the meals is coming from.”

Papatheofanis stated he’s excited to proceed his household’s legacy and have his youngsters work alongside him on the household enterprise as he as soon as did, he stated. 

“Greeks title their youngsters after their mother and father. My firstborn boy is called Dimitri after my father. I figured I already paid homage to him, so now it’s my flip to pay homage to my mother Irene with the restaurant,” he stated. “It’s at all times been about household for me.”

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