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Hinsdale, Illinois |

Published Nov. 10, 2011                                                      

Hinsdale's downtown gets its nightlife on


By Ken Knutson

   A year has passed since Kathy and Ray Zuniga opened Village Cellar at 24 W. Chicago Ave., taking over the space when Taste of Vino closed. But some in the community apparently didn’t get the message.
   “We still have people who come in and say, ‘Oh, we didn’t know this was still open’,” Kathy said.
   So, this fall the shop has been hosting bands on Saturday nights in an effort to expand the shop’s presence.
   “Saturday nights have always been slow, and we thought maybe this would give them a boost,” she said. “For the most part, we’ve had some really good crowds.”
   A boost is exactly what the village’s business district has received in recent years as evening activities and new dining destinations have energized a formerly sleepy nightlife, according to Tim Scott, the village’s director of economic development.
   Scott said he’s been pleased to see an increase in the number of cars downtown after dark, thanks in large part to restaurants in the central business district, which compel retailers to extend their hours.
   “There was no reason (for shops to stay open late) before in their minds because it certainly did get quiet in the evenings,” he said. “It’s certainly breathed life into the district.”
   Longer shopping hours have translated into additional sales tax revenue for the village, Scott noted. He said having local eating options gives people more reasons to come into town.
   “The new entrants on the restaurant scene have certainly proved to be popular due to the hard work of the restaurateurs,” he said. “More of those residents’ dollars are going to be kept here in town rather than go to other communities.”
   Just alerting prospective patrons to one’s hours of operations can take time, so some eateries have devised special events to be more visible.
   At Zak’s Place, Wednesdays are Bring Your Own Wine night with no corkage fee, Thursdays offer $7 martinis and a bottle of Friday’s featured wine is half-price.
   Down the street at Il Poggiolo, kids get free pasta dinners on Sundays, while each Wednesday’s house wine is half-price. Valet parking is offered Friday and Saturday nights.
   As part of a community outreach effort, Monday nights are available for guest bartenders to help raise money for charities. Causes such as juvenile diabetes and the Lymphoma Foundation have taken advantage of it, according to server Eric Saldana, by having one of their own pour drinks with a portion of the proceeds going to the organization.
   “A lot of the people who come here are local. Since we opened, (the owners) just wanted to give back, so that’s one thing we do,” said head server Eric Saldana. “Drink, food, fun and a fundraiser.”
   Scott said Hinsdale is not the type of community for a large-scale entertainment facility, but he said having a small theater-type venue could be a nice complement to existing activities. Adaptively reusing turn-of-the-century buildings for modern-day business can be a hurdle, but he said it is also the key to the village’s allure.
   “We have the opportunity to add to the nightlife without fundamentally altering the character of the downtown,” he said. “We’re very cognizant of the character and the feedback of residents. We want to make sure that what we’re doing is additive and enhancing the existing charm and the quiet enjoyment of the residents.”
   Kathy Zuniga said the live music nights have attracted small birthday parties and people on their way to or from dinner. The events start at 7 p.m. and wrap up by 10 p.m., she said
   “We don’t want to be open really late because we don’t want to be a bar. We want to keep it respectful of Hinsdale,” she said.
   Upcoming live music dates are Nov. 19 and 23 (Wednesday) and Dec. 3. The Zunigas have learned to be flexible when competing with communitywide events, such as home Hinsdale Central football games, but say they want to establish a pattern.
   “I think if you have these, you have to be consistent about it so people know that Saturday night is music night,” she said.

Dinner in the ’Dale

Corner Bakery
   Open to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday; open to 8 p.m. Saturday

   Open to 9 p.m. every day

Dips & Dogs
   Open to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and Sunday; open to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Doggie Diner
   Open to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday

   Open to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday and to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

   Open to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and Sunday, 11 p.m. Friday and 10 p.m. Saturday

Grant Square
   Open to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday

Hua Ting
   Open to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and Sundays and to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Jade Dragon
   Open to 9 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Il Poggiolo
   Open to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and Sunday and to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

   Lobby is open to 11 p.m. and drive-thru is open to midnight every day

   Open to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and to 9 p.m. Sundays

   Open to 9 p.m. every day

Zak’s Place
   Open to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays





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