The foodie capital of the Midwest

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

Today I'm outing myself as an unpaid volunteer consultant to the Village of Oak Park. In the interest of full disclosure, no one from the village has actually retained me, but I do have some excellent ideas.

The foundation of my development vision is: "Give the people what they want." In ancient Rome the people wanted bread and circuses, and the emperors gave it to them. I am aware that eventually there was that unfortunate fall of the Roman Empire, but nothing lasts forever. And it was great fun while it lasted. At the time of the French Revolution, the consumers wanted the heads of the nobility chopped off. Vive le guillotine!

Almost everyone would agree that we have great restaurants. That's clearly our strong suit. We need to play to our economic strength. Adam Dunn hits home runs. The White Sox don't care if he can't field and strikes out a lot. The golfer Bubba Watson drives the ball a mile. No one cares that he's an average putter. We have enough banks and nail salons and pet places. But you can never have enough places to eat. You have to do it three times a day. It is a very diverse activity. Every race, creed, color, gender orientation and political preference has got to eat. Hemingway and Wright ate.

Oak Park has only scratched the surface of restaurant diversity. There are almost 200 countries in the world, and we have only 15 or so different cuisines in town. Think about it. Where can you get some good Ukranian food? Gabonese grasshoppers? Whatever they eat in Nepal? Or how about specialty restaurants serving only one or two dishes? The best toast in the world. Or viaduct-range pigeons. My favorite would be "Pi's: Gourmet Pies for Mathematicians."

We then become a restaurant destination for foodies. To a certain extent we already are. Remember, good is the enemy of great. We can do much better. There really isn't much to eat within a 5-mile radius. Build more restaurants and they will come. Trust me.

Not to worry about too many restaurants. Oak Parkers have plenty of money. The restaurants have been packed throughout the economic downturn. Let's be honest — you have to be pretty rich to still live here after paying your real estate taxes.

And even after paying your taxes, you're still hungry.

There will be a trickle-down effect to going all-in on restaurants. You'll need fancy clothes to go to fancy restaurants. More doctors to deal with obesity as we get fatter. More health clubs to avoid going to those doctors.

Wednesday Journal can publish a monthly Oak Park Eats. Throw in some music and comedy clubs. Some bars to get a drink before or after dinner. Talk about job creators. We'll be like Las Vegas.

Without the lap-dancing.

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