Fans of Smokey Joel’s, which closed in 2017 after a two-year run across from the Park District of Forest Park, were delighted on Saturday, July 4, when owner Joel Albright served hotdogs outside Scratch Kitchen, owned by Patrick O’Brien.  

“I came out to support Pat [O’Brien],” said Albright. “He asked if I’d like to be part of the celebration, and I said yes.”

Albright was out in the heat, but under his colorful Vienna hotdog umbrella, selling Vienna beef franks alongside bratwurst, elotes (Mexican-style grilled corn), grilled chicken, and generous slices of watermelon from Scratch Kitchen. Live music accompanied the outdoor food service.

Albright said he misses Smokey Joel’s, but it was a tremendous amount of work to operate the shop, especially since he was running the restaurant while working full time at Elmhurst BMW as a service advisor. Shopping for the hotdog restaurant was done on lunch breaks, and evenings and weekends when he grilled beef franks and roasted Italian beef.

Many residents miss the Italian beef especially, citing it as one of the best sandwiches found locally.

“I bought the best beef around,” Albright said. “I always got quality beef from Ed’s Way. John the butcher there does a great job.”

When he closed the storefront in November 2017, he told the Review, “It was successful, it made money.” But he added: “I compromised a lot of personal time that I need to spend with family and friends.”

Albright’s lived in town since 2007, and he’s embraced the community and life in Forest Park. He’s an active member of the Forest Park Historical Society.

“I love the town so much,” said Albright. “I love all the changes I’ve seen over the years too. It’s a good community.”