Hemmingway's Bistro owner buys long-vacant Oak Park Avenue building

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

The purveyor of an upscale Oak Park restaurant recently purchased the long-vacant building directly south of the CTA Green Line station. But the owner of Hemmingway's Bistro isn't planning on opening another eatery. Rather, the 10-year-old bistro may eventually relocate there.

Christopher Ala closed on the purchase of the empty building at 100-106 S. Oak Park Ave. last Friday. The two-story brick building was formerly home to a Thyme & Honey restaurant and Val's halla Records, and was to be part of a large condo development on the corner.

Thyme & Honey vacated and moved to Forest Park five years ago, the property fell into foreclosure, and a local real estate investor snatched up the property earlier this year before selling it to the Oak Park restaurateur.

Ala put the second- and first-floor space up for rent this past weekend. Eventually he would like to relocate Hemmingway's Bistro there. However, the restaurant currently has about five years left on its lease at 211 N. Oak Park Ave., on the first floor of the Write Inn.

"I want to be my own boss. Why pay rent if you could own the building? It's just the next step in our growth," Ala said, adding, "We have a lease commitment that we can't get out of. When that lease commitment is up, we'll look at the possibilities of moving the restaurant."

He'll explore other options for the bistro's future if someone wants to sign a long-term lease at Oak Park and South Boulevard.

"I've got a mortgage to pay too," Ala said. "Our intention is to move Hemmingway's down the street, but that's five years from now and a lot can happen or change."

Reader Comments

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Lillian Lullo from Oak Park  

Posted: April 13th, 2011 9:20 AM



Posted: April 8th, 2011 8:02 PM

@So Happy for these People! The Napkins are no longer cloth. They had paper napkins at my last visit. Bummer...

Teresa from oak park  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 5:52 PM

Congratulations to the Ala's..well deserved. Took the restaurant business in Oak Park to a higher level of dining and I'm sure you will bring great business to that corner which has been an eye sore for over 5 years!! Bravo!!! T.L.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:42 PM

I guess some news is good news. And if it took a promise of village sidewalk upgrades to seal the deal, I'd say we got off cheap. Could be a smart move, visibility wise too. I'm embarrassed to say that in 20 years of OP dining, Hemmingway's current location has never quite made it onto our radar. Will be hard to miss on that corner. But pleeeeeze, don't subject us to 5 more years of blighted storefronts. In the meantime, it might be a good spot for, oh I dunno, a quirky used record store...

Lori Malinski  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:26 PM

Congrats to Chris! Hemmingway's is our favorite restaurant. Never had a bad meal, never had bad service. The staff have always been wonderful to us and our young son.

So happy for these people!  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:51 AM

As regulars at Hemmingway's Bistro, we are so happy to read this good news. Their standards are high, the food is always served so beautifully, the waiters and wait staff so attentive. And where else do we get cloth napkins?! Sorry for the other poster's complaint, he needs to go in with new eyes and try again. The hotel has a very nice, sunny and cheerful room there. Since the owners did it once, let's hope they will find another fine dining affordable option to fill that space a second time!

Lisa Dodge from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:49 AM

I am so happy for Hemmingway's Bistro! Chris and Lucia are the best...it is by far the best restaurant in Oak Park and the surrounding area.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:21 AM

No problems with the food. Just fire that phony French waiter. He ingnored us for the entire meal. We almost walked out mid meal.

T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:11 AM

I was glad to let people know about the bad service on had at my last visit. My wife called the owner to complain the following day. No response. It really was the worst table service of my life. There won't be a next time and I wasted $120 bucks.

Joan O'Connor from River Forest  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:27 AM

I love Hemmingway's Bistro! I have never have bad service. The food is consistently good. Moreover, I love the setting. On a sunny afternoon, the light is fantastic, and in the evening it is a equally charming by candlelight. Think about the current space before moving.

T.J all over   

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:08 AM

T.J. negative posts every where on the site. WHY? Find peace please!

Chris Carrier  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 10:58 PM

Save it for Yelp, TJ.

T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 10:36 PM

I recently had dinner at Hemmingway's restaurant. If they don't figure out a way to improve the service, they won't last another 5 years. I got the absolute worst service of my life during my last visit. I can't believe I actually left a tip. I'll never go back. Too bad...

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