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Crystal Lake, IL
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Lenny's The Breakers
Branded Steak House
Around The Clock
Little John's Sandwich Shop
Lenny's The Breakers
Lenny's The Breakers is one of the oldest restaurants in the area, and is still going strong after more than 60 years in business. It is located on Route 14, just north of Crystal Lake.
In 1927, the land was deeded to Harry Burke and Thomas Wert, who opened the first business to be located here. The firm of Burke & Wert owned several restaurants in the Chicago area. They erected a gasoline filling station and refreshment stand, which was known as Burke & Wert's Bar-B-Q. Before construction began, a 1927 newspaper article promised that "both the filling station and refreshment stand will be up-to-date in every respect." The gas station was operated by the Phillips Petroleum Company.
In 1930, fireworks were sold at the stand during the Fourth of July holidays. According to a 1931 advertisement, you could get a barbecue pork or beef sandwich and french fries for 25 cents. Like many barbecue stands in the 1930s, Burke & Wert's became a tavern after prohibition was repealed in 1933.
In 1935, the land was deeded to Albert Wert. He leased the tavern to two former chefs, William Scott and Orville Markin, who opened the Chef's Tavern. Beginning in 1939, the land was owned by the Pasco Austin family, and the tavern was known as Dick's Place, Hamburger Hut, Bucky's Taproom and the Friendly Tavern. Peter and Florence Radtke took over the Friendly Tavern in 1947.
In 1949, Leonard and Marion Felcman acquired the business. A chattel mortgage from 1949 lists one bar, one backbar, one Majestic television set, 16 stools, eight tables and 24 chairs. The grand opening of Lenny's Tavern was held in 1952, so it's possible that the name change didn't take place until then. Also known as Lenny's Tap, the tavern was known for "fine food, liqueurs at their best and a fish fry Friday nite."
Before too long, the tavern had expanded to include a leather-covered bar, 25 bar stools, a Wurlitzer piano and air conditioning. The Felcmans purchased the land from the Austin family in 1958. By this time, the Cantonese and American menu was set. Delicious oriental dishes were prepared by chef George Don, and evening entertainment was provided by Eddy Ray, the "dean of the Hammond organ."
By 1960, Lenny's Tap had become Lenny's The Breakers. The Chinese and American cuisine was complemented by the interior, which could best be described as a Tiki lover's paradise. Especially memorable were the aquariums, palm trees and thatched ceiling. Currently, The Breakers features tropical murals, illuminated Tiki statues, puffer fish lanterns and a red sparkly padded bar beneath a bamboo awning. An oriental garden behind the building is viewable from the dining room.
The restaurant is famous for its good food, friendly staff attired in Hawaiian shirts, and a killer Mai Tai served with a rock candy swizzle stick.
The Breakers property remained in the Felcman family until 2009, when it was deeded to long-time manager Jo-Ann Spielman. I've never had the opportunity to dine here, which is a shame, considering how many times I've driven past. I guess we tend to take for granted the things that have always been around, until they're gone.
Breakers Tiki Bar Official Website
The Breakers at Tiki Central
When it comes to Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef, the most popular restaurant in Crystal Lake is definitely Mr. A's. This eatery opened in 1968 and is located at the corner of Route 14 and Dole Avenue.
In 1957, the site was known as the Lakewood Drive-In. The land was owned by the Hosmer family, and the restaurant was run by Arthur and Shirley Arveson. The Lakewood specialized in pizza, chicken, shrimp and sandwiches. They offered counter and table service, as well as carry-outs and delivery. Beneath a wide roof overhang, two exterior serving counters and a four-station intercom system made carhop service possible. The concrete block building contained a 17-foot formica counter, eight counter stools, three formica tables, 12 chrome chairs, a six-foot soda fountain, a refrigerated orange dispenser and a counter pie case.
In 1960, the name was changed to the Alibi Drive-In. In 1965, the business was owned by Albert Petrulis and was known as the Ponderosa. A giant cowboy in front of the building served as both decor and advertisement. Menu items included the Bronco Buster Burger and something called the Humdinger.
The Amoroso brothers purchased the land in 1967 and opened Mr. A's in the former Ponderosa building in 1968. In 1975, the old concrete block building was torn down and replaced by a modern brick structure with seating for 50 customers. It was set back in the corner of the lot, which allowed the old building to remain open while the new one was under construction. Carhop service was eliminated and the parking lot was expanded to provide room for 18 cars.
Except for an updated paint job, the building looks much the same as it did when it was built in 1975. Mr. A's has a very loyal customer base, and people who have moved away from the area often mention how much they miss Chicago-style food, and Mr. A's in particular.
Lakewood Drive-In, 1958
Tareydale Restaurant was a family-style eatery located at the southwest corner of Routes 31 and 176.
Prior to 1950, the land was owned by the Palmer family. In 1950, it was deeded to Jacob and Sophie Zellweger. In 1959, the land was purchased by Charles and Blanche Froula and put into a land trust. Froula also owned the Standard Oil station and diner on the east side of Route 31.
In 1965, the Sinclair Refining Company purchased the land from the trust and built a gas station. Sinclair became Atlantic Richfield in 1975.
George Boudros purchased the property in 1976, tore down the gas station and built a restaurant, which he named Tareydale. Tareydale's grand opening was in March 1978.
Tareydale was a typical 24-hour family restaurant, with tables, booths, fountain service and breakfast served all day. In 1986, Boudros remodeled the restaurant, added new menu items and held a Grand Re-Opening Celebration. Cocktail service was added in 1987. When the land was annexed to the city of Crystal Lake in 1990, the address was changed from 5605 S. Route 31 to 250 N. Route 31.
In 1991, Tareydale was closed and torn down. Boudros leased the property to Mobil Oil with the intention of opening a new gas station on the site. Mobil applied for a special use permit, but the buildings weren't constructed and the permit lapsed. In 1996, Mobil received a new permit and built a convenience store, car wash and gas station with canopy. The two entrances on Route 31 were converted into a single "right in and out only" entrance. Access was provided to the McDonalds property next door.
The Mobil station closed in 2006, and the canopy, pumps and underground tanks were removed. The store and car wash buildings remained and were boarded up. In 2010, the property was leased to ZM & H Real Estate Ventures LLC and a permit was granted for a new Mobil station. According to the permit application, the buildings and site configuration would remain the same, and the convenience store would include a Subway and Seattle's Best Coffee. Construction of a new pump and canopy area began in late 2010, and the location opened in 2012.