Jeff Mauro, Food Network Star and sandwich aficionado, is bringing his innovative brand of lively BBQ restaurants to Elmwood Park this summer. Pork and Mindy’s, established in 2016, has been steadily growing its Chicagoland locations over the years. Currently it is opening dozens of small eateries in Mariano’s grocery stores. While the sandwich-loving celebrity chef is comfortable building a restaurant empire, the OPRF graduate and current River Forest resident, is taking his hometown debut seriously.
“To be honest, bringing Pork and Mindy’s to my own backyard scared me a little,” laughs Mauro of bringing his innovative pork-centric restaurant chain to Elmwood Park. “I am 100 percent sure the community will support it, but it’s a double-edged sword — I mean I grew up here!”
As a young boy Mauro bought penny candy and baseball cards at the apothecary located across the street from St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church on North Avenue. In a matter of months that same building, located at 7528 W. North Ave., will house Pork and Mindy’s and bring hand-pulled smoked meat “sangwiches” and house made sauces to his hometown. Mauro is acutely aware of the full-circle nature of this restaurant opening and intends to embed the unique history of the building into the restaurant build-out; patrons should expect to see elements of the old apothecary in the design.
“I am thrilled to be on this iconic stretch of North Avenue,” says Mauro earnestly, “Heck, I’m smack between Alpine and Johnny’s!”
Mauro simply wants the Elmwood Park establishment to be a comfortable place with a “good food vibe” to share with family and friends. Mauro looks forward to decorating the space with a few permanent art pieces and embellishing the restaurant with a rotating art display featuring the work of local artists. In addition to offering outdoor seating, a second-floor roof top at the North Avenue location will have a performance space for musicians.
Even though the North Avenue restaurant was preceded by several Pork and Mindy’s locations Mauro considers the Elmwood Park store to be his “flagship” restaurant and intends to treat it as such. In some ways Mauro wishes he had opened the Pork and Mindy’s Elmwood Park location first, but now that the concept is well established the seasoned chef expects the restaurant to meet community needs with ease.
“My wife and I live and eat in this community and that will be running through my mind every step of the way;” says Mauro. “We will make this the greatest Pork and Mindy’s location because that’s what this community deserves.”
While Pork and Mindy’s embraces all things pork related, Mauro was quick to convey his establishment is not a “meat first” kind of place and guests will find more veggies on the Pork and Mindy’s menu than typical BBQ spots. Health focused folks are able to customize Pork and Mindy’s Pit Bowl options to cut back on calories while vegetarians can splurge on meatless marvels like the Buffalo Cauliflower Sangwich.
When tasked with designing his ideal meal at Pork and Mindy’s, Mauro didn’t hold back. In mere moments he’d enthusiastically created a four-course BBQ extravaganza and even designated tater tots as a salad option!
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Jeff Mauro’s Perfect Pork and Mindy’s Order
Salad Course: Ranch smothered Tottys; crispy golden tater tots are the best kind of salad!