Published May 12, 2011
Downtown makes room for restaurants
Yamandu Perez, owner of
Hinsdale’s Zak’s Place, said he does not fear increased
competition by the opening of new restaurants in the
In fact, he welcomes the variety.
“It gives people a choice, a difference. I think when people have
choices, it benefits the town,” he said.
That diversity helps him focus on his menu, Perez said, and not
feel compelled to be all things to all diners.
He is quick to add that he regularly patronizes his neighbors to
enjoy cuisine that his establishment may not serve.
“We share customers. I see them as partners, because I want people
to come to town,” he said.
Since Zak’s Place opened in 2007, the downtown business district
has welcomed Il Poggiolo, Nabuki, Dips and Dogs and,
earlier this year, a relocated Firenze.
It has also seen the closing of Salbute, the arrival and departure
of New Yolk, New Yolk and the recent end of Zingelman’s
According to village budget information, revenue from the food and
beverage tax jumped from $237,613 in the 2008-09 fiscal
year to $313,998 in 2009-10. The figure is estimated to
have dipped this past year to $281,000 but is projected
to rebound slightly in 2011-12.
Perez said he detects a greater sense of optimism among proprietors
and customers than he did a couple of years ago.
“The overall mood and feel of people is noticeably more positive
compared to what it was in January 2009,” Perez said.
Possible evidence of that renewed confidence is the news that the
former Zingelman’s site is getting a new tenant.
Kristie Fraga, co-owner of the soon-to-open Doggie Diner, said she
was attracted to Hinsdale’s close-knit nature.
“Hinsdale seems to be really community-based. That’s something we
really like,” Fraga said. “We’re trying to go into a
community where we get that feel, where it’s not too big
or overwhelming for us.”
She said the shop will be the latest in a chain with locations in
several western suburbs, each of which seeks to invest
in local organizations and events.
“We’re really involved with the schools, the sports, the churches,”
Fraga said. “That’s part of our success. You get to know
your customers and their families. I think people enjoy
that kind of service.”
She said having a vibrant restaurant selection will help draw more
people into the village, particularly those within
walking or biking distance.
“In this economy, if people have a choice, I think people prefer to
shop locally for the convenience,” Fraga said.
Peter Burdi, owner of Il Poggiolo and Nabuki, said restaurants need
time to become part of the landscape in people’s minds.
“I think what’s happening is that once you’ve been there for a
couple of years, the pool of people gets larger and
larger,” he said.
As the country’s economy continues to strengthen, he thinks
restaurants can help fuel a reinvigoration of the
downtown business district.
“People are coming to the restaurants. They’ve been there for a
long time. Food definitely helps bring people into
town,” he said.
He said place such as Dips and Dogs or Doggie Diner help meet the
needs of families and the younger set looking for a more
“I think it helps. Kids are in there during the afternoon,” he
Burdi doesn’t believe that the Hinsdale will ever have the
concentration of restaurants that exists in some
surrounding towns because of the absence of a
But he doesn’t think that is a necessary ingredient to having a
successful menu of dining options.
“I’ve always been of the school of thought that if you give people
a good product and good service, they’ll come back,”