The tragedy of Tasty Dog’s closing is freshly painful in the hearts of young Oak Parkers. Five Guys’ sudden vacancy, just a few months ago, brought many of my fellow high schoolers a similar disappointment.
Although dismissed as “fast food joints,” these establishments were a haven of inexpensive prices and nonjudgmental atmospheres for myself and my peers. With no driver’s license, I’m limited to a mile radius of my house, and even less in below-freezing temperatures. This leaves Lake Street as, more or less, my only place to walk, eat, and amuse myself. Lake Street is the most walkable place in Oak Park, yet it severely lacks affordable dining.
As a high school sophomore, I lack any disposable income to spend at Lake Street’s many high-class restaurants. Five Guys was one of few places where I could afford to drop in and grab a bite. Now my options are even more limited. My social life shouldn’t have to end in the winter when Austin Gardens becomes a frozen wasteland.
Oak Park is a bastion of socio-economic diversity. However, Lake Street doesn’t represent the range of incomes residing in Oak Park, instead catering to the wealthy and middle-aged. The value of Oak Park’s expensive culinary establishments is limited to the few who can afford them.
Ironically, those most able to afford a meal at these establishments are also most able to travel to restaurants elsewhere in the Chicagoland area. Thus, I feel it’s only fair that Five Guys is replaced with another inexpensive establishment.
Additionally, I call upon Oak Park leaders to recognize the community value of fast food joints. Serving a large swath of Oak Parkers, these establishments are convenient, cheap, and comfortable for teenagers and adults alike.