Forest Park next-door neighbors Ted Hosty and Peter Kryger used to talk over the fence about their parallel careers in the food/bar industry. Both have been working in restaurants for 25 years.
“We’ve been hanging out in the backyard chit-chatting after we finish mowing the lawn,” said Hosty, who started at Doc Ryans and went on to other work in Chicago. Kryger started at Poor Phil’s in Oak Park and ended up managing Oak Park’s Avenue Ale House.
When an opportunity to buy the restaurant on the corner of Desplaines Avenue and Randolph Street came up, the two decided to become partners.
“We’ve been working for someone else for 25 years,” said Kryger. “Now we’d like to do it for ourselves.”
Old School Tavern and Grill had its “soft opening” yesterday when the two hosted a pig roast for guests. They expect to be fully operational “after Labor Day.” They will open at 2 p.m. daily and serve dinner only to start, Hosty said.
The location at 201 N. Desplaines has hosted a string of unsuccessful ventures since it was the blue-collar watering hole The Depot. Purchased during the height of the real estate boom, the restaurant underwent various changes, morphing from M. Hermann’s casual steakhouse to D.K. Bodega. There was a rumor that an Oak Park restaurant would move to the site, but finally Hosty and Kryger were able to buy the building.
“There wasn’t much remodeling to do, since everything had already been done,” said Hosty. A liquor license had already been granted for the location, Hosty said, allowing the team to open quickly after closing on the property.
As for the seemingly cursed location?
“We’re having my wife’s uncle, who is a priest, come out and perform an exorcism,” Hosty joked. “Seriously, there’s a misconception here that there’s no parking, but we counted 30 [street] spots here within one block.” The partners are beginning negotiations with neighboring businesses to use nearby lots as well.
Decorated with help from Madison Street’s Yearbook team, the bar is strewn with school books, college pennants and globes. Hosty said Old School will focus on a slightly older crowd than the denizens of Madison Street. “We’re expecting people in their 30s and older.”
For the more mature crowd, Kryger hopes to put his 2010 nutrition degree from Dominican University to work. “I’ve wanted to be a nutritionist since I was 8 years old,” he said. Hosty attended the Cordon Bleu culinary school. His brother Mark Hosty, a Forest Park village commissioner, manages Healy’s Westside on Madison Street.
“Slightly healthier” is how Hosty categorized the menu. “We’re not getting rid of the salt and fat, but it’s good food value and good for you.”
Smoked salmon, brisket and pastrami will be on the menu as well as homemade pickles, and, hopefully soon, home-cured bacon. Local and sustainably sourced beef and pork will be prepared in the establishment’s smoker.
“Our burgers are grain-fed beef, without hormones or antibiotics, from Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan,” said Hosty. “We have several side dishes that are 150 calories or less. The only thing fried are our French fries and they are homemade the old-fashioned way.”
Inside, the partners are excited about the carved wood Brunswick 1920s pre-prohibition bar, with original blue glass and art deco lines.
“It’s gorgeous. We think it came from an old bowling alley in the 1920s,” said Hosty. The two rebuilt the deck, and can now accommodate a total of 47 outside diners. Twenty craft beers are on tap at a time, which will change regularly, the partners said. “We’ve also got a serious wine list.”
“We’re looking forward to running a business in Forest Park that’s owned by Forest Park people,” said Hosty.
“I want to watch my daughter play soccer and have people know that I own this business,” said Kryger.