Forest Park restaurants like Louie’s Grill, Madison Park Kitchen and Scratch Kitchen and Lounge are re-opening for carry-out as the mandated dining room closures were extended by Gov. J.B. Pritzker through May 30 in Illinois.

Initially restaurant owners thought they were grappling with a two-week closure and many opted to temporarily close, but the shelter in place order extensions have forced some restaurant owners to reconsider their decision.

After being closed for six weeks out of an abundance of caution Louie’s Grill, 7422 Madison St. in Forest Park, has re-opened and offers their full menu via curbside pickup Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Louie’s Grill has been around for 22 years and co-owners Ellen Politis and her husband, Louie, care deeply about the health and safety of their staff and customers.

 “We are excited to be back, but people need to take this virus seriously,” said Politis, “We all need to make adjustments until there is a vaccine for COVID-19. We are committed to making our customers happy by providing good food that is served safely.”

Louie’s Grille is a tried and true dine-in establishment and was not set up for carry-out business prior to COVID-19. The diner does not have a POS system and cannot process credit card payments over the phone. Despite these challenges, Politis and her staff have worked out a system designed to keep both customers and employees safe and healthy.

Customers are not allowed to enter Louie’s Grill, but will be assigned a number after placing an order by phone. A courier will bring your order out of the restaurant and a cashier will take payment to guests waiting on the sidewalk; all employees will be gloved and masked and the cashier, who may handle cash, will never touch food items or packages.

“We are a dine-in, family-owned restaurant where we know our customers by name,” said Politis. “We have customers telling us they are tired of trying to make their own French toast and grits at home. It is such a good feeling and nice to know the people wanted us to come back.”

Madison Park Kitchen (MPK), 7525 Madison St. in Forest Park, opted to shut down operations in response to Pritzker’s March 16 announcement closing restaurant dining rooms. At the time, Marigo Doulas, manager of MPK said, “employees are in shock and very upset, but we had no other choice.”

As the COVID-related closures were extended well beyond the initial two-week window, the restaurant prepared to reopen with modified hours for carry-out only. The popular breakfast spot is now open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily and offers their full menu of breakfast and lunch time choices.

“It’s perfect! We love it!” said Doulas of the restaurant re-opening.

Doulas went on to say business has been good in the mornings, but slower in the afternoon. MPK staff members hope their rotating soup menu and entrees like Greek Chicken, spanakopita and Ribeye Steak with Mushrooms will draw in customers looking for a late afternoon fix.

In addition to reopening, MPK was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from the federal government. The restaurant is waiting for the funds to hit their accounts.

Scratch Kitchen and Lounge (SKL), 7445 Madison St., reopened for carry-out and delivery on Tuesday, May 5, thanks in part to a PPP loan granted to Scratch Restaurant Group. Owner Patrick O’Brien credits his nine-year relationship with Forest Park Bank and their close relationship with the Small Business Administration for his success in securing the loan.

Many of Scratch Restaurant Group employees had been laid off, including those working at the Forest Park location, but the PPP loan allowed O’Brien to hire back SKL workers which aids in properly utilizing PPP funds.

On April 27, O’Brien announced on Facebook:

“OK, let’s do this. We have been getting a ton of requests to offer pick-up and delivery at our Forest Park location. So, this week we are cleaning, scrubbing and disinfecting. Restocking and preparing for your safe, touchless pick-ups and deliveries.”

To celebrate the reopening SKL is hosting a mac n’ cheese challenge. Customers are encouraged to mix and match their ideal macaroni and cheese using their favorite ingredients available on the SKL menu. Kits are designed to be assembled at home. Winning combinations could earn a $50 SKL gift card and a month-long spot on the SKL menu.

The Junction Diner and Starbucks have also reopened for carry-out and delivery in Forest Park.

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