Winberie's closing Dec. 28

After 30+ years serving Oak Park, restaurant calls it quits

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

Since its opening, Winberie's Restaurant, at 151 N. Oak Park Ave., has served all-American fare to the people of Oak Park and its neighboring communities, but the window of opportunity to eat there is narrowing rapidly. 

In a Dec. 5 press release, Select Restaurants Inc., which owns Winberie's, announced the restaurant will cease operations Dec. 28.

"With the lease expiration in 2020, the company has decided to close the business at this time," the press release stated.

Select Restaurants also expressed thanks in the press release, saying, "We would like to gratefully acknowledge the efforts of its dedicated staff and the loyal support of the many thousands of customers who have visited the restaurant over the years, and we look forward to serving our customers one last time over the next several weeks."

The press release also stated that the Ohio-based restaurant group "will make every effort to assist its employees with future job placement."

The restaurant group will honor gift certificates through the rest of December at Winberie's and at any of its other establishments. 

"I'm still processing the shock of it," said Jim Solnes, who owns Scoville Square, the building in which Winberie's is located. 

"I'm absolutely sad to see them go," Solnes said. "It's been a cornerstone for 37 years and we have a great relationship."

Now faced with finding a new tenant to fill the space come January, Solnes said he's "always worried until a new business moves in."

When asked for comment, Select Restaurants Inc. offered little in the way of explanation behind the decision to close Winberie's. 

"Winberie's Restaurant and Bar in Oak Park will be closing December 28.  The restaurant has enjoyed serving the residents of Oak Park and the surrounding communities for over 37 years. Thank you for your interest," Select Restaurants media representative Robin Scott wrote in an email to the Wednesday Journal.

According to Winberie's Executive Chef Ivy Grant, the restaurant will remain full-service until the end.

"I'm sad," Grant said. "I've been here for 19 years. It is what it is."

Out of those 19 years, she has worked as executive chef for the past two. Grant, who has worked for Select Restaurants for more than four decades, said she has enjoyed serving the area throughout her time at Winberie's.  

"I'm going to miss Oak Park," she said. "The people of Oak Park – they make this restaurant what it is."

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Reader Comments

38 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Brian Slowiak  

Posted: January 6th, 2020 12:27 PM

@! Jim King: Yes that was Gilmores, or part of Gilmores

Gerry Ayala from St. Charles  

Posted: January 5th, 2020 11:20 PM

1st moved to Oak Park in 1999 when I got married. My wife, Francesca, and I would frequent the restaurant and LOVED their French onion soup and Bistro burger. We moved to St. Charles in 2005 with our 1st born and would still come back "home" to our favorite Winberie's. Our kids later came to LOVE this place as well. Unbeknownst to us we went this past weekend only to be shocked to see it gone!! So so sad to see it closed! Somebody please step up and reopen it!!! Want to partner up??

Wing McCallister  

Posted: December 26th, 2019 4:56 PM

Just went to eat there today and had a chat with some staff. The corporate decision was made because of the looming Lake Street construction project set to take place between Euclid and Harlem. The restaurant was drawing in good business, but not enough to convince corporate that things could stay afloat during the construction downturn. With the lease ending, the call was made to not enter a new lease given the uncertainty. It's sad, honestly. I've been going to that place since J.B. was in the name. It will be missed.

David W Smith  

Posted: December 9th, 2019 2:58 PM

They should just sell the restaurant to someone who can manage it properly. We need a good restaurant in that location. I don't go there often, but when I want to treat myself to a nice experience, that's one of the places in Oak Park that I go. @Jeffrey Smith: I agree with your comments about offering a tax incentive, but not to the current management/ownership of Winberie's. They had their chance. Also, all of the other business types that you listed have a place on Oak Park Avenue, as they bring in lots of foot traffic. I just believe that they do not need to be on the anchor corner of Oak Park and Lake.

Jim King  

Posted: December 9th, 2019 12:33 PM

Wasn't that Gilmore"s?

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: December 9th, 2019 11:03 AM

Peter Landau it is all speculation on why it is closing. Maybe the reporter did not have time to find out the reason, and the reason really does not matter. If you would like, you can find out the most recent management change at the corporate level and even call and ask if you can find out. If they tell you or not, that is up to them, although regardless of the reasoning behind closing the restaurant, the story is not going to change so gather some friends, enjoy a dinner and toast it best of luck

Peter Landau from Oak Park  

Posted: December 9th, 2019 10:25 AM

I haven't been there in a year, so maybe I'm missing something that isn't mentioned in the article or the comments. But to me it has always been a busy restaurant. I feel like whether dining there myself or walking by, I've never noticed it empty or thought of it as a struggling restaurant. And the reasons stated don't mention that. Seems like the company could have said that business is down and they are struggling, but they didn't. Maybe I don't understand the restaurant business, but it seems like they could have sold it - even for next to nothing. Unless they tried and there was no interest. Or, maybe they are losing money or the taxes are too high or the rent is going up. But again, why don't they just say that? Very strange.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: December 7th, 2019 6:48 PM

After Manager Dave left, Select proceeded to destroy their own business by hiring incompetent management and systematically forcing out longtime (and beloved) employees and alienating many faithful customers. They have refused to innovate as a way to compete with new restaurants in the area and have accordingly trashed this beloved anchor. As a management company they earned this failure, but their employees and devoted customers have not. The Village should step in and offer a hefty tax incentive to keep them here - after all, Anan and company have been only too willing to give tax breaks to fly-by-night "developers" with unproven schemes. Winberie's is proven (even with shaky management) and what we don't need is to see the space converted into a combination nail salon / martial arts studio / dentist's office to match the other commercial disasters foisted on us by the Village and greedy real estate owners. Do something, do-nothing Board, and do it now.

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: December 7th, 2019 1:23 PM

Some other restaurants that were venerable Oak Park institutions that have died: The Original Pancake House. It was where Oak Park politicos gathered on Sundays for brunch and to talk shop. Marion Street Grill. I had perhaps the best meal of my life there. Duck a l'orange served nightly, not just on special occasions. Manna Delicatessen, best corned beef in town, locally owned by past Village Trustee Sue Helfer and her husband Hugh who worked the shop. Erick's Deli, where the old Heineman's stood, near the long-gone Reyff's Toy Store, where I bought my first Avalon Hill game. I argued with the owner over 2 cents tax on a comic book, where Illinois had no tax on books then, and he explained that a comic book was not a book. To a fourth grader, it was if it was a Junior Classics Illustrated. My father offered me the two cents, but I declined on principle. Nearby: The Comeback Inn in Melrose Park, with giant Kodiak burgers, cooked in the open where you could see the chefs. Peanuts in the shell and popcorn for free, leave the shells on the floor. Multiple rooms where a moose's head with antlers stuck out on one wall and its rear end came out the other. A place suitable for young daters, seniors, and families with youngsters. Changed neighborhood. Horwath's Restaurant in Elmwood Park, where Outfit guy Chuckie English met his maker in the parking lot. A Staples stood there until recently. An FBI agent who wrote a book on the Outfit met with River Forest's Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo in the parking lot there to talk some things over. Last but not least, Village Trustee Deno Andrews' Felony Franks on North Avenue. Great dogs and Polish Sausages, fries a bit greasy. Deno worked the shop himself, sometimes helping at the counter, other times doing paperwork at one of the tables, which functioned as his office. He told me he was thinking of buying the also dead Tasty Dog site, but couldn't make a go of it with the Village's asking price (before he was a Trustee). A great guy

Christine Vernon  

Posted: December 6th, 2019 1:05 AM

Damn shame. There must be a way...seems surely as if this closing has more to do with taxes than with any complaint about the company, their history and service.

Joyce Porter  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 10:57 PM

Oh say it isn't so! It was such an anchor I thought it would be there forever. Couldn't they have downsized? Where else can a large group of people go in Oak Parkfor a good meal at a moderate price?

Kitty Conklin from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 10:36 PM

We are really going to miss Winberie's! It's going to be a big loss!

Bruce Kline  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 10:18 PM

Restaurants come and go, but this truly is a major loss. I am really bummed.

Alanna Nasoff Sullivan from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 9:59 PM

This is hard to believe and very sad. What is happening, Oak Park?? Just such a shame

Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 9:41 PM

I'm depressed. When I had lunch at Winberies in 1997, I made the decision that Oak Park was going to be home. Always good food, great staff. Always took company there when in town. This is a huge loss. My kids will be bummed too. Thank you for 30 years of great food and atmosphere

Laura Lesondak Sullivan from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 9:25 PM

I am so sorry to see this! We too took the place for granted opting, recently, for some of the more stylish offerings. Our kids practically grew up at CW as they offered good, solid choices. Love the French Onion Soup and the Chicken with Linguine not to mention the incredible meatloaf. This is a huge loss to Oak Park. I agree, we should flood them with business so maybe the owners change course and stay open.

Kristen Diamond from Oak Park   

Posted: December 5th, 2019 9:15 PM

My family will truly miss Winberies. It's such a loss for our entire community. It was always crowded and the food was great. Hopefully someone will change this decision!

Lisa Stern  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 8:53 PM

No no no no! Winberies has always been the no-brainer choice for us, and we've gone there regularly. So many great memories from the last 30 years. Mommy/daughter and mommy/son dates as my kids grew up, family celebrations and many nights out with friends. It hasn't been the same since Gary left, but the food is consistently good. Thank you, Ivy! This leaves a huge hole in our family's repertoire.

Jan Stephens  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 8:24 PM

I don't think the food is lackluster at all! We were there in October and the food was fabulous, as were the martinis. I remember when it was The Cheese Cellar, too. Such a loss for OP...

Karen Mansfield from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 7:54 PM

Oh no! Where are we going to go for French onion soup?!

Al Rossell  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 7:33 PM

Hate to see them go but restaurants in this town face two big obstacles. First are taxes. Most are on net leases which require them to pay a share of the real estate taxes. As taxes continue to increase so does the rent. Even if the landlord does not increase the rent, the rent still goes up. The second factor is there are only so many dollars available for restaurants. As more restaurants open in town, that money pool is spread thinner. In other words, if you go to restaurant A, restaurant B gets nothing and so on and so forth. Trustees should take note of all the restaurants that have gone out of business the past few years. If a new restaurant opens in that space, the dollar you spend there is a dollar you did not spend at another Oak Park restaurant. And heaven forbid if you went to Forest Park for the free parking.

Katie Bodendorfer Garner from Oak Park   

Posted: December 5th, 2019 7:13 PM

Staff is AMAZING but the food is lackluster imo. Wish they had chosen to do more organic and/or housemade options. Great space that could be really special.

Raymond Aikens from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 6:21 PM

My favorite eatery, without any comparison. Gonna miss the place. Very fine dining experience, business or family. Well done guys, best of best

Kathryn Nolte from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 6:16 PM

Now I'm even more glad that I enjoyed brunch here last Sunday. Winberies has always been a solid choice for a healthy meal. I'll miss them.

Charlie Meyerson from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 6:15 PM

Anything to stop the present staff from forming a new company to keep running a restaurant in the same space?

Dick McKinlay  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 5:42 PM

The closing of Winberie's will be a significant loss, and I am afraid that I and a lot of folks like me may have contributed to it by simply taking this place for granted. Even though I have enjoyed every one of the many meals I have had at Winberie's since its opening, and always found their menu to offer a good selection at a reasonable price, over the past couple of years I have been attracted to one or another of the newer restaurants and cafes which keep appearing with what seems to be increasing regularity. While I can't say that any one of them has become the reliable mainstay that Winberie's once was for me, collectively the greater array of good alternatives has led me all too often to overlook the fact that Winberie's might have been the best choice on many of these outings. If only it would make a difference, I would happily sign a pledge to dine more frequently at this fine restaurant, and encourage others to do so as well. As is so often the case, we don't appreciate what we have until it's (almost) gone.

Ann Decleene  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 5:19 PM

If you've never been here for Sunday brunch---go! It's the best

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 5:13 PM

Our first Oak Park meal was also at the Cheese Cellar. It became Winberies shortly after we moved here. I will miss the cajun chicken linquine.

Mona Blaber from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 4:54 PM

Noooooo! My dad took me to the opening night at the Cheese Cellar (1986?). The staff and management have always been so friendly and kind, and they have a whole vegan menu, which I amd many others greatly appreciate. I hope they pull a Val's Halla and reverse course, because Winberie's closing would be a real loss for Oak Park.

Susan Beyersdorf Beach from Forest Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 4:29 PM

Winberie's has also been an important community supporter - always donating to local groups who ask. This local institution on such a great corner will be sorely missed. As a past employee, I Know how much this spot meant to people

Courtney Sandow from Forest Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 4:19 PM

That's where my brother met his wife many years ago.Denise and Peter

Linda Francis  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 3:47 PM

My family will greatly miss the staff and food. I know that it is part of a chain, but they have truly been a community institution.

Jay Arbetman  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 3:27 PM

I'm sure the reasons are complex but for our village it is a terrible loss. Does anyone know where to get dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets??? Great staff and great food and drinks.

Alicia Lisa Cuevas from Oak Park   

Posted: December 5th, 2019 3:16 PM

Love their chicken Marsala homemade mashed potatoes and fresh green beans! Homemade which is a rare to find in many restaurants !

Susan Montgomery from CHICAGO  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 1:37 PM

So very sad. I remember when it first opened as the Cheese Cellar, later as Winberie's. I will miss the restaurant!

Patty Reilly-Murphy  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 1:22 PM

I am so very sorry to see them go! Winberies has been our go-to for a burger (the best in OP) or a salad for many years. We always grab a table in the bar where we easily strike up a conversation with the servers--who are like friends to us--or other diners. A huge loss for Oak Park!!

Tiffani Gardner from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 1:05 PM

Is there anything that can be done to prevent this?? I'd love to find a way to help keep them open

Carolyn Cullen  

Posted: December 5th, 2019 12:50 PM

It would be sad if this were caused by lease issues and landlord $ increases (to cover the taxes of course). I have gone there since high school. Such a loss. They'll be missed.

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