Chicago Waffles, a breakfast and lunch café, is poised to open an Oak Park location in the former home of Saigon Pho, 726 Lake St. The micro-chain, with two locations in Chicago and a third in Willowbrook, is known for serving up creative waffles, colorful pancakes, bold burgers and cocktails and is expected to open the Oak Park location in early 2022.
The morning-fare focused establishment strives to give customers a “balance between convenience and quality” according to Felix Friedman, co-owner of Chicago Waffles. Friedman started dining at Chicago Waffles in the South Loop when the restaurant opened on the ground floor of his apartment building on Michigan Avenue. In time, he was eating there every day and became friends with owner Gary Kreymer.
“Gary runs Waffles like a family restaurant, and he has excellent people skills,” said Friedman. “He is the heart and life of the business and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Now a customer-turned-investor, Friedman is excited to bring the burgeoning brand to Oak Park. He has friends who live locally and suggested he consider opening a restaurant in the community.
“They said we would do really well here; we agreed and hired David King to help us find a location,” said Friedman. “When we visited the Lake Street location we fell in love with the space, the street and the whole block.”
The property has a commercial kitchen located in the front of the restaurant. The unconventional layout attracted the business owners because it will be the first Chicago Waffles location with an open-concept kitchen. Everything is made from scratch at Chicago Waffles and that attention to detail makes operations more labor intensive.
“A lot of prep goes into operating every day at Waffles, and an open kitchen will allow us to show people the work that goes into our food,” said Friedman. “Even our potatoes are complex. We boil red potatoes, crush them slightly and crisp them up in the fryer before seasoning them with truffle salt.”
Customers looking for a sweet start to the day may find to their liking the vibrantly colored green tea waffles, garnished with candied ginger, pistachios and warm maple syrup or ruby-hued red velvet pancakes. Savory seekers have a choice of bacon and chicken waffles, waffle benedict, or the “Chitown” burger, featuring Black Angus beef, topped with grilled onions, mushrooms, bacon, American cheese and a sunny-side-up egg.
Chicago Waffles also offers an extensive cocktail menu featuring bloody marys, chocolate martinis, spiked horchata, and an assortment of margaritas.
“We never really thought breakfast and cocktails would be such a hit, but we are offering top quality liquors, homemade juices and scratch-made mary mix,” said Friedman. “Prosecco is our top seller. We go through 5-6 cases on a Sunday.”
The business owners are in the process of updating the restaurant space to embrace the red, yellow and orange color palate. They have removed some booths to open up the floor plan and want to let in as much natural light as possible. The goal is to keep the work to a minimum in order to open as quickly as possible, but supply chain delays have the arrival at least three months in the offing.
“We are looking forward to bringing our friendly, fun and laid-back restaurant right in the heart of Oak Park,” said Friedman.