The Great Recession may not have released its claws from the economy in 2012, but Forest Park saw a spike in new restaurants.

Eight brand-new Forest Park eateries opened in 2012, showing that for entrepreneurs, the shaky economy was worth the risk to finally realize a dream. Two other restaurants got complete makeovers in 2012.

Amelia’s (7330 Harrison St.) took the place of the Harrison Street Café in June with a focus on locally sourced ingredients, desserts and a full bar.

Next came Fiorenza, (7404 Madison St.) featuring Northern Italian cuisine you can’t get anywhere else — such as squid risotto in ink — and named after chef Fiorenza Tasinato.

Tapas (7232 Madison) opened soon thereafter, filling a niche for Spanish appetizers, accompanied by live jazz and poetry readings.

Next, Old School Tavern and Grill (201 Desplaines Ave.) moved into the spot vacated by DK Bodega, formerly M. Hermann’s.

The long-awaited Junction Diner (7401 Madison St.) — with children’s food delivered by model train — caused much excitement among the children of Forest Park (and their parents) when it roared into the station in November.

Piggyback Barbeque (410 Circle Ave.) opened shortly thereafter, featuring a downstairs “Speakeasy” for the late-night crowd. Yilin, a Pan Asian choice for sushi and more took the place of Coral at 7600 Madison.

And, with a few hiccups, Scratch Kitchen owner Patrick O’Brien (7445 Madison St.) has vowed to open his doors as a BYOB sandwich restaurant, even though his establishment failed to acquire a last-minute liquor license from the village council.

Skrine Chops (7230 Madison St.) was completely rebuilt after a devastating fire and came roaring back. And Louie’s Grill (7422 Madison St.), got a cheery checkerboard makeover and expansion, and is still filled to capacity on
Saturday mornings.

Even though a restaurant meal may be a treat for many fiscally cautious Forest Parkers until the economy improves, the new menu of choices makes the village a distinctive regional and local destination for diners in 2013.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...