Palace Grill celebrates diamond anniversary

Palace Grill celebrates diamond anniversary

July 27, 2013 9:02:34 PM PDT
On a chilly summer night you might be tempted to think about hockey season, which is something always on the minds of the people at a Chicago diner that has been around since FDR was president.

The Palace Grill on Madison Street celebrated its diamond anniversary Saturday night, a major milestone and something virtually unheard of for a small business.

They've been dishing Denvers and coffee for three quarters of a century, and from George Lemperis' great uncle under the name De Mars Grill to now it has been a family affair.

"It's all him, 100 percent him. All him bringing the people in and being friendly to the people, and that's all it takes in the restaurant business," said Ben Newberg.

"From what this Palace Grill was originally, he has brought it around tenfold," said Ed Ostos.

The goodwill is a fixture of the Palace Grill on Madison Street, an establishment that has withstood bad times, but sparked dreams in a 1978 Northern Illinois graduate.

"I came into this restaurant out of college," said George Lemperis. "I was raw. This neighborhood was a very bad neighborhood. "Because of the United Center they re-did all the infrastructure they closed Madison Street for 18 months I lost 50 percent of my customers overnight.

"In these days of violence and shootings, it is nice and I think it is a feel-good story of a business succeeding and staying in the same location and being here for 75 years. This restaurant is truly my third child."

After 35 years of often starting at 3 a.m. and not coming home until 6 p.m., serving quality meals and non-stop laughter to patrons from former Mayor Richard M. Daley to hockey players and fans, Lemperis is handing more of the load to daughter Christina, whose 8th grade artwork is the one thing George would take with him if he had to leave in a hurry, and he recounts what his wife thinks of his retirement plans.

"He will never retire from that restaurant, that restaurant is his entire life, and I thought about it, and you know, I thought she's probably right," Lemperis said. "I don't think I could leave this restaurant these people are my friends."

And so it fit that Saturday night he would be recognized as only a Chicago original could be.

"You can always make things better," Lemperis said. "I just hope it lasts another generation."

Lemperis survived cancer and he encourages men to get screened. He says he hopes to be around for the centennial anniversary of the Palace Grill in 2038.

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