Food Network star Jeff Mauro is ready to see his restaurant join the institutions along Restaurant Row in Elmwood Park. The season 7 winner of “Food Network Star” and current host of “Sandwich King” and “The Kitchen” will open his creative barbecue joint, Pork & Mindy’s, this summer at 7528 W. North Ave.
“I always wanted to be part of that Restaurant Row because that’s where I do a lot of my own dining, still to this day,” said Mauro, who lived in Elmwood Park for about eight years before moving to River Forest about a year and a half ago. “It’s definitely full of classics, like Johnnie’s, Alpine, New Star — definite institutions. I wanted to make sure that my restaurant was good and ready before we became part of the landscape.”
Elmwood Park officials worked with Mauro — nicknamed the “Sandwich King” — to make his new location possible.
The Village Board approved a redevelopment agreement March 4 to sell the parcel of land for the restaurant to project developer PHI Holdings for $500,000 and reimburse the developer $250,000 or 20 percent of the total project costs, whichever is less. PHI Holdings is expected to spend about $1.4 million to renovate the property, which includes an existing structure that will become Pork & Mindy’s.
“We’re excited about Pork & Mindy’s coming to Elmwood Park and Restaurant Row,” Village President Angelo “Skip” Saviano said at the meeting, adding the restaurant will be a positive addition to the other businesses in the area.
Mauro said opening his restaurant in Elmwood Park was about getting the timing and opportunity right.
“Once we were presented with this opportunity, it was a no-brainer,” he said.
And village officials were supportive throughout the process, as he said, “they made it pretty painless.”
The announcement of the new Elmwood Park location comes on the heels of news that Pork & Mindy’s will be opening in 28 Mariano’s grocery stores across the Chicago area. Another standalone location also will open later this year in Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood.
Mauro and his business partner, Kevin Corsello, opened their first Pork & Mindy’s in 2016 in Bucktown. With the addition of Elmwood Park and Old Irving Park, the restaurant chain will have eight locations in the Chicago area, Minneapolis and Denver.
Pork & Mindy’s offers various sandwiches made with smoked meats, from the Hot Chicken and French Toast, featuring chicken topped with apricot habanero sauce on a French toast bun, to the Chicago Cheesesteak, which includes beef, smoked cheese sauce, sweet peppers and fried giardiniera on a sub roll.
The restaurant also is famous for its “pig candy,” which is bacon that has been dusted in brown sugar and slow smoked.
Other menu items include smothered tater tots, salads and milkshakes, including the Memphis (peanut butter, banana and pig candy) and the Holy Cannoli (whipped ricotta, chocolate chips, pistachios and crumbled cannoli shells).
In addition to its inventive menu of meats and treats, the Elmwood Park site will feature a rooftop deck with live music.
“I’m going to make this restaurant the exact definition that I would bring my own family and friends to and want to go to,” Mauro said. “As a longtime resident of the area, I know what’s needed there. I think we’re going to provide something that the strip hasn’t seen.”
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