Chicago Joe’s hosts grand reopening
Loop North News

The Home Front

The North Center bistro has turned down offers from real estate developers and is now celebrating 32 years of serving home-style food and Chicago memories.

28-Jun-20 – With an expansive mixed-use corner site featuring apartments and an adjoining 30-car parking lot, Chicago Joe’s, at 2256 West Irving Park Road, long has been in the crosshairs of North Central condominium developers.

While many restaurants all over the North Side, such as Brau House and Sabatino’s, have closed or are left on the endangered species list, Chicago Joe’s recently hosted a grand reopening party to celebrate its 32 years in business.

Photo by Don DeBat

“We refused offers from developers, to keep Chicago Joe’s going,” said manager Bradley Rompza, son of the legendary restaurant’s founder, Al Rompza.

The cozy, family-oriented restaurant is known for its craft cocktails, excellent seafood specials, oysters, Big Joe’s burgers, Firehouse chili, and a hearty home-style daily menu and convivial atmosphere reminiscent of Chicago neighborhoods from the turn-of-the-century through the 1950s, said chef Charles Kowalski, who returned this summer to spearhead a revival of the kitchen with an all-new menu.

(Right) Charles Kowalski, Bradley Rompza, and Ray Witkowski (left to right in photo). Click on images to view larger versions.

Photo by Don DeBat

The restaurant at Oakley Avenue & Irving Park Road in the upscale St. Ben’s neighborhood also sports an expanded outdoor dining patio with space for 80 people. The patio and restaurant officially reopened on June 25.

“Chicago Joe’s is named after Joe Rompza, my grandfather, who grew up in the neighborhood, played handball at the Irving Park YMCA, and loved good home cooking,” Al Rompza said.

Guests are served lunch and dinner in two spacious dining rooms and a large hardwood barroom that is tastefully decorated with sports antiques and historic Chicago memorabilia.

“Chicago Joe’s also is a great place to just have a drink, visit with our colorful regular patrons, and enjoy the historic Old Chicago saloon atmosphere with its museum quality vintage sports memorabilia,” said Al.

Photo by Don DeBat

Over the years, Chicago Joe’s has sponsored several men’s and women’s neighborhood softball teams, including Vintage Risk (left), a legendary team with a roster of Chicago 16-inch Hall of Fame softball players.

The walls and ceilings at Chicago Joe’s are covered with signature baseball bats, batting helmets, vintage hockey sticks, old boxing gloves, historic sporting event tickets, signed championship softballs, and a collection of historic black-and-white photos of Windy City sports palaces – from Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field to the original Soldier Field.

There’s also a collection of vintage Chicago politician and sports celebrity photos, including Mayor Richard J. Daley and Chicago Bears Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka.

Photo by Don DeBat

Highlighted in the Chicago Joe’s historic collection are neighborhood scenes, including vintage photos of North Side Chicago saloons and neighborhood scenes such as State Street and Maxwell Street, old beer advertising signs, historic Illinois license plates, and vintage L train signage, along with a collection of historic newspaper front pages from the Chicago Daily News and Chicago Tribune.

For dinner at Joe’s, seafood lovers can dine on the fish of the day, fried shrimp, and fresh Long Island Blue Point oysters. Another chef favorite is chicken parmigiana priced at $13.

“Our menu priorities center on excellent seafood appetizers and nightly dinner specials, and a large assortment of sandwiches and salads,” Kowalski said. A dessert mainstay at Chicago Joe’s is the Chocolate Brownie.

Another menu highlight is Mrs. O’Leary’s Firehouse Chili, a thick and meaty version preferred by Chicago Joe’s customers. The restaurant’s homemade chili recipe consists of large amounts of finely diced onions, 80 percent lean ground beef, and Mexican-style beans in a saucy base, all for $5 a bowl.

 Website: Chicago Joe’s

By Don DeBat | Loop North News | debatnet@aol.com

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