While every neighborhood restaurant has a unique personality, there are definitely some “musts.” Good food is at the top of the list, with affordable prices not too far behind. Neighborhood restaurants rely on repeat business, and for diners to drop in once a week or once or twice a month, they have to be comfortable with the price point. While “affordable” in one neighborhood can be “a splurge”in another, it’s safe to conclude that no one would consider Alinea a “neighborhood” restaurant. And finally, for a neighborhood restaurant to succeed, first timers have to feel welcome, and repeat diners have to feel like “family.” Neighborhood restaurants are the kind of place where everyone really does know your name, or-at least- you think they do.
Consider the following to be the first in an ongoing series.
Kevin Quigley is what makes Kevin’s Place work. The restaurant’s layout is standard. There’s a counter upfront, complete with bar stools and a view of the griddle, and a comfortable dining room in the back. When there’s a wait, which there often is on the weekends, guests form a queue that parallels the counter. Space is tight, but it works.
The tables, all covered with easy-care plastic cloths, are far enough apart to be conversation-friendly. There are baskets of toys for the kids, and lots of things on the menu that kids love, including Mickey and Minnie mouse pancakes with chocolate chip eyes.
Make no mistake, the food at Kevin’s Place is very good. But what makes the restaurant a stand-out is Kevin. He has an uncanny knack for schmoozing just enough to be friendly and not enough to be intrusive. At 54, he’s at the top of his game, and knowing his customers is one of his strengths.
My friend Mike is a “regular.” And being a creature of habit- at least in terms of food- he routinely orders the “crunchy” French toast coated with crunched honey-nut cereal, along with scrambled eggs and jelly instead of syrup. He’s been ordering the same thing since Kevin took over the restaurant eight years ago. By now, Kevin knows what he’s going to order before he orders it. But even so, he listens carefully to all the particulars before he writes them down. There could, after all, be a deviation, just like the earth could be hit with a meteor the size of a football field.
I’m not as predictable, although if we’re at Kevin’s for breakfast or brunch, there’s a good chance I’ll order an omelet, usually a combination of the whites plus one yolk listed as “Kevin’s Fav” and the “KP Must Have,” a Greek-style omelet made with spinach, feta, tomato and onion. But that wasn’t the case the last time we were there.
Given that I’d had breakfast and it was noon, I could have opted for one of the salads or sandwiches, maybe the turkey melt on ciabatta or the Caesar with Parmesan cheese and chicken. But it was one of those days when I needed something different, and the special- fresh berries with un-crunchy French toast- sounded perfect. Kevin stopped by to take the order, and he knew, even before I could say it, that I’d like the bread dipped in egg whites and the raspberry sauce served on the side. I guess I’m a regular.
Kevin’s Place, 808 Waukegan Road, Deerfield, 847.945.4476
Hours: 7 am-2 pm Mondays-Fridays, 8am-2 pm Saturdays and Sundays.