Forest Park’s evolution into a dining destination for city and suburban travelers is gathering momentum. With today’s story about plans for a new barbeque restaurant at Circle and Madison, we have, over the course of just a couple of months, reported on plans for five restaurant openings and one notable re-opening.
This is good news on every front. It says good things about the broad economic recovery that entrepreneurs are ready to invest, even in what has traditionally been the high-risk restaurant business. Tells us that, as we’ve read nationally, consumers are ready to eat out again, feeling more confident in their personal economic circumstances.
And it tells us that Forest Park is a sought-after village with a reputation for welcoming new business and supporting the businesses once open. In the restaurant business, there is strength in numbers, as clusters of eateries send a clear signal that Forest Park is worth exploring as a dining spot. So far, the restaurant owners have also done a good job of finding complementary niches via menus and price points instead of going into full-throated competition.
Here’s the roster of new restaurants:
An Oak Park entrepreneur, Rachel Dennis, is hopping Harlem to open her second restaurant in a year. The first is Lake Street Kitchen + Bar at Lake and Marion streets. The barbeque spot will take the so-far jinxed space on Circle that Robert Marani has been serially failing in for a decade. This is great news as it also signals the strengthening of a notable mixed-use building that had been the poster child for a fully-botched condo conversion. Dennis got this prime space at an absolute bargain price. Good for her. Good for Forest Park.
Amelia’s will be a locally-owned eatery with a focus on organic Americana. It replaces the Harrison Street Caf at Circle and Harrison.
The Junction is a train-themed restaurant with a target of family dining. This is a popular niche across the suburbs and should work here, especially with its local owners. The Junction is replacing the much-loved Two Fish Art Glass. But then something had to replace Two Fish.
Firenza will be an upscale Italian place with a creative, front-of-the-house solution to outdoor dining on a land-locked lot. Construction is intensifying. Firenza fills the long-vacant hole left by the unlamented Sav-er Grocery. The Convenient Store has taken over the last-minute grocery niche and for a wider selection, Forest Parkers love Ed’s Way, south of the Ike.
Skrine Chops went to ash after a devastating fire last year. But it is rising fast and its return will be welcome, both for its food and its fortitude.
We’re hoping for a more apt name than Forest Park Wine Bar before a Spanish tapas restaurant eventually opens next door to Skrine’s. Here is another example of the village dealing from a position of strength. The owners liked the town and wanted to open just a wine bar. Wisely, village officials aren’t handing out additional plain old liquor licenses these days and so instead of walking, the wine bar folks are adding a legitimate restaurant to the street.
From the decrepit place Madison Street had fallen to a generation ago – bars and junk shops, medical offices and extended vacancies – the comeback is astounding and heartening. There are many heroes and we are all winners.