GEL PEOPLE: Part 2 of 2 - New Owners of Glen Oak Restaurant Renew Original Spirit of Glen Ellyn Restaurant

hilltopper_burger.jpg

by Ginger Wheeler

(Continued) Executive chef, Pete Loehrke, (with an extensive background that includes Lettuce Entertain You's Avanzare, as well as the Cheesecake Factory and The Clubhouse in Oak Brook), has taken great pains to learn the old favorites, such as the Athenian Skirt Steak and Glen Oak's famous Broiled Pork Chops, at the same time bringing in some new taste tempters such as the mile-high Hilltopper burger.

And yes, the restaurant serves dinner, which patrons can enjoy with that signature martini or a favorite glass of imported beer, every evening (who knew?).

When approached on a Saturday morning, customer Ed Conklin said, "I like the outside. The food's great. Inside it's homey but contemporary. It's a neat look." Conklin brought his three kids to breakfast and discovered green eggs and ham on the menu, a special delight for daughter, Modesta, 12.

Conklin's son Chris, 14, said the meat lover's skillet is "very, very delicious." Conklin noted that the sausages in the dish were different than the ones used before, better. "They were sweet, thicker - it's a nice touch."

"That's because of Pete," acknowledged Pam, "He selects all the ingredients and cooks three hams on the bone every week for use in several of the dishes served up at Glen Oak. You should try the baked omelets, too," she said.

The staff is the same, too. With about 20 employees, Glen Oak is a busy employer in Glen Ellyn. Waitress Thelma Hahn, has worked at Glen Oak since it opened and remembers Pam as a favorite customer when she was a little girl. Pam's sister Lynnette also has worked at Glen Oak for twenty-three years.

"She's the reason we bought it," said Pam referring to her sister, "She brings a knowledge of the history and the customers that is unsurpassed. She keeps us all on track."

Even though the Duffy family happened into the universally acknowledge risky restaurant business in the midst of what Duffy calls a perfect storm (first the rising food prices crisis of 2008 , then The Great Recession), she says the business is thriving . "People have been eating here for thirty years. Parking is plentiful. The food is terrific and affordable. That's a recipe for success no matter what the economic climate," she said.

Brian added, “We want Glen Oak to be the community hub, where friends meet friends, conduct business or just enjoy each other’s company.”

The customer's are so important that dishes are named after them: Big Bob's Carbonara anyone? Or how about Ken's Favorite Steak Sandwich or Karen's Omelet? "I've had customers so happy with our renovation, they've had tears in their eyes," said Pam.

And new customers are discovering the warm, inviting atmosphere of Glen Ellyn's long-time family restaurant and becoming converts themselves. "This place is like home," said Brian, "For the past six months, we have focused on updating our food and our atmosphere. We are seeing new faces in the restaurant every day, and even better, those people are returning again and again.”

Although this isn't Pam's and Ken's first entrepreneurial business venture, it is their first excursion into the restaurant business and their first business venture with other members of their family. Pam said, the hardest thing about running this restaurant is changing people's perceptions that Glen Oak is just for breakfast.

"We have fantastic lunches and dinners," said Pam, "Getting people to cross over is a challenge and one that we’re working on. The other challenge is getting people who haven’t been to Glen Oak in years to give us another try. Those are the two challenges we work on daily."

The brother/sister team said they hopes that promotions such as Tuesday Family NIGHT Days where kids eat dinner for free from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday Senior Evenings where seniors enjoy 15% off any dinner menu from 4pm to 9pm will help to encourage people to give Glen Oak a try for dinner, too.

“Our goal is to create the best family restaurant in DuPage County. A place that appeals to people of all ages, all demographics. That's what we hope people will remember about Glen Oak Restaurant," said Brian Duffy.

When You Go: Dig through the Treasure Chest to take a home a surprise "party" favor. Try the baked omelets or compare the finer points of the Hilltopper burger vs. the Raider burger: See which one is tops to you.

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