Full Moon Restaurant: Where everyone receives a free Thanksgiving dinner

Full Moon Restaurant: Where everyone receives a free Thanksgiving dinner
The Full Moon is my second favorite restaurant. (c) Jessica L. Gardner

Do you dine at the Full Moon Restaurant?

I first discovered the Full Moon as a first year student at Lake Forest College in 1989 when an upperclassman friend introduced me to this wonderful 24-hour truck stop just north of campus. Since that time, the Full Moon has been my second favorite restaurant. Second only to Waffle House, but we don’t have them in Illinois. I digress.

I spent many late nights studying there sustained only by the super powers of their french fries. One of my best friends came out to me during one of those late night study sessions at the Full Moon; another had his college graduation party there.

The Full Moon is part of my soul. When I have out-of-town guests, I often take them there. I’m fancy like that.

One of the things I love about the Full Moon is the regulars. Yes, the Full Moon is a truck stop, but most of the waitresses – and yes, they’re all waitresses – have been there for more than a decade; some for 30 years. They call me honey and know what I like just like they do for their other regular customers, many of whom they call by name.

Being located directly outside Great Lakes Naval Station, they serve many members of the military and veterans. Anyone joining the Navy today goes through boot camp at Great Lakes and the Full Moon hosts many graduation dinners each week. The Full Moon’s commitment to the military also includes a 10% discount everyday with military identification.

Every Thanksgiving, rather than close their doors to give their staff a day off, the Full Moon opens their doors to anyone who needs a meal. For free. Starting at about 12:00  noon and going until the turkey runs out, the Full Moon offers free Thanksgiving dinners to everyone.

The free Thanksgiving Dinner includes turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and cranberry sauce. Soup, salad, dessert, and beverages are not included but can be ordered and paid for separately. Gratuities are also not included. I recommend tipping based on the regular value of the meal or what you’d pay for a meal at any nice restaurant.

The Full Moon has been offering free Thanksgiving dinners for 36 years, according to Karen, a waitress I spoke to who’s been working at the Full Moon for 34 years. The owners, John and Spiros Psihos, who are Greek immigrants, began this tradition as a way to say thank you and give back to the community that welcomed them with open arms. According to a 1988 Chicago Tribune article, serving the 1,500 to 2,500 people they serve each Thanksgiving costs about $10,000 to $12,000, which is obviously a lot more in today’s dollars.

Everyone is welcome, no matter their income. Reservations aren’t taken and lines wrap around the building as the day goes on. According to Karen, no one dilly-dallies, everyone is kind and patient, and the customers who can afford it are all very generous with their tips.

I recommend the Full Moon Restaurant year-round, but especially on Thanksgiving. Who knows, you might even run into me there tomorrow.

As I’ve recently discovered, this idea of restaurants giving people free meals isn’t limited to The Full Moon. The El Camino Restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky is serving Thanksgiving dinners to refugees from Syria, Iraq, Cuba, Somalia, and other countries. George’s Senate Coney Island Restaurant, owned by George Dimopoulos, in Northville, Michigan, is serving a free Thanksgiving dinner to all solo diners. The reason? Dimopoulos remembers being alone on Thanksgiving and believes no one should be alone.

What an incredible spirit of giving from these restauranteurs. Show them some love throughout the year by dining in their establishments and supporting their good deeds.

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    A native of Chicago's Northwest Suburbs and resident of the North Shore, Little Merry Sunshine comes by her name honestly. The story goes that as a child, she was always so happy that she even slept with a smile on her face. Her mom nicknamed her Little Merry Sunshine. It stuck, along with her insatiable desire to focus on the good in the world and to leave it a little better than she found it. She does this by sharing her passions and dreams, what inspires her, and maybe you too, and furthering the discussion about how we can listen to our better angels. You can reach her at LittleMerrySunshineCN[at]WowWay[dot]com.

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