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Old neighborhood restaurant reopens

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Charlie Steinbuck has been waiting two years to return to a diner he used to eat at fifty years ago, before his hair turned white and the company he worked for was still in business.


Charlie Steinbuck has been waiting two years to return to a diner he used to eat at fifty years ago, before his hair turned white and the company he worked for was still in business.

“I went to the place to get breakfast,” he said. “Ham and egg special. It was really good.”

When the 72-year-old Evanston resident – known simply as “Chuck” here – finally returned to Ted’s Restaurant, 1824 Crain St., on Monday, so had the Greek family that owned it when Chuck worked as an electrician down the street.

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Ted’s restaurant workers Georgia Smyrniotes and Ana Schmit embrace long-time customer Chuck Steinbuck. (Chris Kirk photo.)

It hasn’t changed much, but he doesn’t complain. The place is brighter, Chuck says. It’s cleaner. With the counter, tiled floor and run-of-the-mill menu, it’s still an old-fashioned diner – though it wasn’t old-fashioned when Chuck first started eating here. And although the menu now offers more options and the radio now plays a different kind of music, the diner’s core values haven’t changed.

“Good service and good food,” manager Peter Smyrniotes, 52, said. “That’s all that matters.”

When he was in his 20s, Smyrniotes and his sisters used to work in the restaurant when his parents, Helen and Harry, ran it in the 70s. Workers would come in from factories across the street, where Evanston Plaza sits now.

After 1983, Smyrniotes’ parents returned to Greece and began leasing the restaurant. It changed management five or six times before Smyrniotes, then weary of working as a painter, became interested in returning it to family management two years ago.

So he and his sisters closed it down and cleaned it up.

“Ripped booths, holes in the floor – it was just rundown,” he said.

After two years, new paint, new wallpaper, and a new roof, the doors are again open and have attracted newcomers and old-timers alike, Smyrniotes says.

“It felt a little strange working back in a restaurant,” said Georgia Smyrniotes, 49, one of Peter’s sisters.

Working in the restaurant brought op memories from the 70s and early 80s. So did some of the 50 customers the restaurant had on Monday.

“It’s weird,” Peter says, chuckling. “I’m older. They’re older.”

But nobody forgot Chuck.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for it to open,” Chuck says.

Ana Schmit, another of Peter’s sisters who works at the diner, laughs and hands Chuck a basket with his sandwich and fries. “We’ve been waiting for your money, Chuck,” she says.

The diner is opened on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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