Maple Tree Inn new Homewood location opens with almost full original staff

HOMEWOOD, Ill. (WLS) -- Dinner is being served right now at the Maple Tree Inn's new location on Dixie Highway in Homewood.

A fire destroyed their longtime location in Blue Island in 2018, forcing them to operate in a small, temporary space for months.

"It really has been one of the most challenging things of my wife and my life," said Chef Erich Wennberg, co-owner. "The last year and a half."

RELATED: Blue Island's Maple Tree Inn heavily damaged by fire: 'We will rebuild'

The restaurant was named among the top 50 best southern restaurants in America. The new location on Dixie Highway is at the former home of a farm to table restaurant. Patrons can expect menu favorites, along with some new dishes.

"We're doing a grilled pork chop that's fantastic. Barbeque, voodoo nuts are on the menu," Wennberg said.

RELATED: After devastating fire, Maple Tree Inn reopening at temporary location in Blue Island Friday

The business, which Wennberg co-owns with his wife Katie, kept nearly all the chef, servers and staff they had before the 2018 fire.

"We basically reached out to all of them and offered them their jobs back," said Maple Tree Inn Manager Morgan Gansauer. "We had a bunch of people bite, and it's been great."

The Wennbergs announced their plans in August 2019 after village trustees awarded them more than half a million dollars in TIF financing toward the estimated $2 million renovation.

RELATED: Maple Tree Inn to reopen at new location in Homewood

"Even before their unfortunate situation happened in Blue Island we were reaching out to them, like we do with a lot of restaurants," said Jim Martino, Homewood village manager.

Missing from the new restaurant is its distinctive wood bar, which is being restored after sustaining significant smoke and water damage.

The New Orleans-themed establishment has been around for 45 years and was first open by Wennberg's father in law, who named it after a maple tree that grew in a lot next to the original location.

RELATED: Maple Tree Inn will likely reopen in mid-January at new Homewood location

While the fire may have destroyed a lot, this restaurant family said it didn't damage their spirit.

"Hug and kiss my staff and say thank you, and I just want them to know how grateful we are," Wennberg said.

The official ribbon cutting on the new location is scheduled for Wednesday.
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