Korean pork wings as served at Scratch Kitchen and Lounge are ideal counter fare with a happy staff in the background. | Melissa Elsmo

After being temporarily closed for 10 months, Scratch Kitchen and Lounge, 7445 Madison St., Forest Park, is slinging burgers and canned beers once again. The decade old eatery reopened in November and they are making the most of their streamlined “survivor menu.” The long-awaited reopening comes as a relief to Patrick O’Brien, chef-owner of Scratch Restaurant Group.

“We’re still adjusting, but the guests have all been great and I feel whole again,” said O’Brien. “Literally, I get goosebumps sometimes being back here.”

From Left All Smiles at SKL : Zach Williams joins Mattie Rametta and server Olivia Paplaczyk | Melissa Elsmo

In the face of an industry wide staffing crisis, O’Brien fought hard to build a capable kitchen staff to reinvigorate the flagship restaurant he affectionately refers to as his “baby.” Mattie Rametta worked her way up through the Scratch Restaurant group and now serves as general manager in the Madison Street location. She is confident in the role and is working to foster camaraderie among her small staff.

Embracing the philosophy that a restaurant should be known for doing a few things well, O’Brien refocused his Madison Street restaurant on smash burgers. The “Scratch smash,” offered as a single or in double or triple stacks, feature ¼ pound house-ground beef patties.

“Our streamlined menu allows us to do what we do best even better,” said Rametta “Our full Scratch menu is available at the Lake Street location in Oak Park if people are looking for something we don’t offer here.”

Zach Williams, SKL cook, smashed four patties for a mammoth special order last Saturday night. | Melissa Elsmo

The thoughtfully edited list of dishes doesn’t mean creativity isn’t on the menu at Scratch Kitchen and Lounge. Limited specialty burgers, including a popular French Onion Smash and “chopped” smash sandwich, join a few other offerings including a chicken cheesesteak, and a popular fried bologna sandwich to round out the entrée offerings.

El Paso transplant and cook, Zach Williams, put his name and a creative twist on the macaroni and cheese. He worked in a Mexican restaurant prior to making his way to Chicagoland and his version of the classic dish boasts the addition of ancho chiles and black beans. He is also frying up Korean “pork wings” as a special appetizer offering. The tender bone in riblets are tossed in a spicy Korean barbecue sauce and served atop  chilled cucumber slices in a sweet and spicy dressing.

Rametta encourages guests to come out to enjoy the positive atmosphere and live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Jory Avner and Ricky Liontones are among the rotating acts scheduled at the venue. Scratch on Madison also hosts trivia on Tuesday evenings.

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