“We expect to be open for business in mid-March,” says Kettlestrings Tavern co-owner, Wil Greenwald.
Kettlestrings Tavern, located at 800 South Oak Park Ave., is taking over the former Obsessed Kitchen space and co-owners Wil Greenwald, Rob Guenthner, and Pete Lisnic are well into the process of bringing their visons for the corner bar to south Oak Park.
Attracted to the centrally located restaurant, they began speaking to Daniel Vogel, former owner of Obsessed Kitchen, about purchasing the restaurant last October; the deal fell into place early in 2020.
“We’ve become friends with Daniel,” says Guenthner of the former property owner, “and we know he has other plans for himself, so the timing was perfect.”
The restaurant’s curious moniker is a nod to early Oak Park settlers Joe and Betty Kettlestrings. The couple emigrated from England before building a homestead as the first permanent residents in the area near the corner of what is Harlem Ave and Lake St. today. The Kettlestrings home was a natural stopping point for folks traveling to or from Chicago. As a result, the family turned their home into a lodge and tavern to house wayward travelers.
That sense of community gathering is what inspired the name and mission behind the forthcoming Kettlestrings Tavern.
Greenwald and Guenthner are already successful business partners; they are the creative minds behind Oak Park’s very own Code Play Learn. Located on Ridgeland Ave, the business runs programs that aim to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills for children. Lisnic, with his broad social network and passion for community involvement, joined the duo to round out the restaurant partnership.
As first-time restaurant owners, the trio has relied heavily on the Village of Oak Park to walk them through the process of opening a restaurant in the area. According to Greenwald the process has been smooth and highly cooperative.
“We’ve all done other things successfully,” says Guenthner of the group’s maiden voyage into restaurant ownership, “and now we want to put that same sort of energy into this place.”
Keeping things relatively simple is the primary goal of Kettlestrings Tavern. Don’t expect a gastropub experience; the minds behind the corner bar are focused on capitalizing on the community feel they have come to know and love in their Oak Park community.
“We know what’s missing in Oak Park, “says Greenwald, “and we know families in the area longing for that great corner bar feel and want to find it in their own backyard.”
All three Kettlestrings owners have lived in Oak Park for a decade or more and between the three of them have ten children. As a result, their families are deeply committed to their Oak Park community. They strive to create a family-friendly, casual bar and restaurant featuring quality cocktails and a small, yet thoughtful menu.
In addition to retaining two of Obsessed Kitchen’s staff members, the owners selected Chef Mike Gussis from a pool of candidates to helm the kitchen at Kettlestrings. After sifting through several options, it became clear that Gussis’ philosophy, dedication and methodology fit the concept perfectly.
“The truth is he’s probably a better chef than we need;” says Greenwald matter-of-factly, “our menu is going to be small and approachable but he embraced our concept fully.”
Not only can diners look forward to chef-driven specials, they can expect to see an array of burgers and chicken sandwiches on the limited menu, as well as a robust selection of entrée salads and a vegetarian sandwich loaded with beets and portabella mushrooms.
Former Brooklyn bartender, Daniel Swartz, is brings an accessible mix of beer, wine and cocktails to Kettlestrings. Guests should anticipate seven taps featuring a combination of local craft beers and other more familiar domestic beers.
“We just had a tasting last night,” says Greenwald of the cocktail menu, “and I am excited to say they are creative and delicious, but not scary.”
In preparation for opening day the space is going through some renovations. The restaurant has good bones, but workers are busy cleaning and repairing the existing mid-century modern Terrazzo flooring. The vintage tin ceiling will remain a focal point within the space. Copper panels have been restored in the existing bar, clean white subway tile is being installed around the bar and a smart-looking navy and gold color palate is beginning to emerge.
“We have been surprised how few people know the history of the Kettlestrings family in Oak Park, but the response to the name has been great” says Greenwald, “we look forward to educating even more people and introducing our traditional bar fare with a modern twist to Oak Park.”