After 25 years in River Forest, Annie's Beef will close on Saturday

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By Ben Meyerson

Chicago Journal Editor

Annie's Beef, one of River Forest's few fast-food outposts, is closing Saturday after more than 25 years in business.

The rising rent and increasingly murky future of their storefront at the intersection of Lake Street and Lathrop Avenue in River Forest convinced owners Simon and Agnes Chung to suddenly call it a day this week.

"I've been here for 26 years, but my lease expired, and the village wants to develop here," Simon said Tuesday morning. "We love the people, and we tried to do the best service for our community and give them the best food."

The block Annie's calls home has been targeted as the site of one of River Forest's biggest development projects in years, a multimillion-dollar mix of new retail and condos that would include a branch of Forest Park National Bank.

The ground beneath Annie's, however, is contaminated with dry-cleaning chemicals from one of the neighboring businesses, River Forest Cleaners.

While the contamination isn't an immediate hazard to anyone eating in Annie's, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the chemicals could be harmful for people exposed for long periods of time — like Annie's employees.

So at the EPA's request, River Forest Cleaners' former owner paid to install a system to divert the chemical fumes in November last year.

In December, the village approved a $1.9-million subsidy to a developer planning to knock down Annie's and the block's other businesses.

Though it's not clear when that project would get started, the Chungs decided to close shop rather than operate under a cloud of uncertainty. Already around the village, some people wondered if Annie's were even still open.

Simon Chung said he's ready to say thank you and goodbye to River Forest on Saturday, the last day they'll be open.

"We spent very happy times serving the people," Simon said. "We appreciated the community. God bless all our community and the people — especially our kids."

Staff reporter Megan Dooley contributed to this report.

Reader Comments

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Paul Chung from Des Plaines  

Posted: April 18th, 2011 6:23 AM

To all the families of River Forest and Oak Park: Thank you for all your kind words and most of all the love you have bestowed upon my parents in the 26 years. They loved working there and serving a slice of happiness with your order. We will miss you and perhaps one day, hope to come back and restart the tradition.

Pantos family from River forest  

Posted: January 28th, 2011 8:51 PM

Kiddyland,Annie's...what am I missing here??? PLENTY...Simon and Agnes were an integral part of a personal village we once knew...when leisure days left you smiling and connecting with friends. The value of their presence will be retold through the memories of so many families they have touched. Thank you for giving us 25 years of "village charm" as those strollers changed into young adults who will always hold you dear to their hearts.You will be deeply missed. Thanks for the memories.


Posted: January 26th, 2011 11:12 AM

It's so sad to see the Chungs leave. Annie's has always been a nice place to take the kids for a treat after school. This is just another example of government at work. Give $1.9 million dollars of taxpayer money to a bank and developer, and chase out of town a small business with hardworking owners. The River Forest Village Board members and President should be ashamed of themselves for what they have done to the Chungs livelihood.


Posted: January 26th, 2011 6:51 AM

Demand RF factor a place like this, in their NEW block development idea. President Rigas said, Annie's was a good business, yet where is the openness about new suggestions - or the ATTEMPT to try and keep it? One less place for kids - what a shame. Annie's was squeezed out to make way for another BANK on Lake Street in River Forest - this will make 4! But now one of only two places to eat on Lake is Closing? WHY?

Kathy Muller from River Forest  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 10:34 PM

So sad! Where will the Roosevelt and St. Luke's kids go after school? It has been a friendly, safe, and parent-free hang-out for the pre-teens and teens in River Forest for years. Over the holidays I saw many college kids coming back to say hi to Simon and Agnes, who of course remembered them all.

Bruce Faland from River Forest  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 7:52 PM

Fast food healthy (not really) but we always like a good hot dog and fries,chocolate shake served with a smile. None better than Simon's and Agnes'. They have served my family many years. Many customers enter the shop always with a "Hello Simon or Agnes" and they knew us too.Thats what makes it a community you want to live in. Growing up I cheerished the after school hang out for a quick snack before heading home. It was fun stopping in and seeing the current generation of kids at 3:30. Miss Ya.

John McCarthy from Berwyn,Illinois  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 5:36 PM

Years ago, the Oak Park Board of Realtors building on Madison was found to be sitting on top of a toxic waste dump of dry cleaning fluid. Soon thereafter followed the Barrie Park fiasco. Now comes the latest story of lax environmental oversight by our so-called "civic leaders." The victims here aren't just the Chungs. Imagine the countless schoolchildren who have walked by that corner over the years. Imagine all the food prepared & consumed. Imagine all the as yet unknown effects of negligence.

Jean Lotus from Oak Park  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 4:25 PM

My daughter made a three-D paper towel roll-and-cardboard diorama out of of Annie's for her 3rd grade St. Luke class and interviewed Mr. Chung. We were surprised and impressed to find out that he was a Tae Kwon Do instructor and very interested in healthy food and nutrition. A wonderful institution. It will be sad to see it go.

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