Like other Oak Parkers, I’ve bemoaned the growing uniformity of Lake Street.

Still, switching out Cosi for a Johnny Rockets is, I’ve come to conclude, not the worst thing that could happen to Oak Park.

Lake Street real estate has been in precarious condition for a long time, and I suppose we should be glad that anyone wants to open up shop on this street.

I am sorry to see another franchise, but as was recently explained by Anthony Shaker, given the “high taxes and building operational expenses,” chains are maybe the only folks with the money to make a go of this space.

Johnny Rockets is not bad, but I can’t imagine why another hamburger chain would move in a few spaces down from Five Guys, which is itself not a bad place. In fact, I’d say both these hamburger restaurants are comparable: they’re enjoyable, not life-changing culinary experiences, but just fine.

Here’s what’s weird. At the corner of State and Lake in Chicago, there’s a Potbelly right across the street from a Johnny Rockets, which is right next door to a Halsted Street Deli. We will soon have exactly the same configuration of three restaurants at the corner of Marion and Lake.

The word “generic” comes to mind.

The personality of the village is vanishing, and there seems to be not much we can do about it. The invisible hand of the market is guiding these decisions, and they may be inevitable.

But it’s not the end of the world. Probably.

Join the discussion on social media!

David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...