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Iconic Lincolnwood steakhouse Myron & Phil catches fire minutes after founder dies

A fire department official looks over exterior fire damage MyrPhil's Steakhouse Lincolnwood Wednesday morning. | KevTanakfor~Sun-Times Media.

A fire department official looks over exterior fire damage at Myron and Phil's Steakhouse in Lincolnwood Wednesday morning. | Kevin Tanaka for~Sun-Times Media.

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Updated: July 15, 2013 9:39PM

Just 30 minutes after Myron & Phil’s 95-year-old founder Myron Freedman passed away early Wednesday morning in his sleep, a fire broke out at the legendary Lincolnwood steakhouse Freedman opened 43 years ago at 3900 W. Devon Ave.

No one was hurt in the fire, which started around 3 a.m. in a storage room in the back of the restaurant and caused minor smoke damage to the restaurant’s kitchen and dining area, according to the Lincolnwood Fire Department.

The restaurant is closed for now, but owner Mark Freedman said he hopes to reopen in a month.

The fire was extinguished by approximately 4:30 a.m., and no one was inside the restaurant at the time of the blaze, Lincolnwood Fire Department battalion chief John Jaeger said.

Jaeger said the cause of the fire is under investigation. “A part of the kitchen was damaged, but the rest of the restaurant did not catch on fire, despite there being widespread smoke damage,” Jaeger said

Mark Freedman, Myron’s son, described the sequence of events as “metaphysical.”

His father’s death “happened at about the same time as the fire,” Mark Freedman said. “I think it means my father wants me to be a phoenix and resurrect this place to make it the jewel of the North Shore.”

Freedman said he was overwhelmed by the support he was receiving from friends, family and the community Wednesday morning.

“The damage was nominal, and we’ll get it cleaned up and running again soon,” Freedman said. “People who have been our customers forever have been calling all morning expressing their condolences and asking what they can do to help. It makes me feel good to know I have this place for them and will have it again.”

The Freedman family comes from a long line of restaurateurs. Mark Freedman’s grandmother operated a chain of casual cafeteria-style restaurants back in the 1920s in Chicago before the family closed them and opened Freedman’s Cafeteria in the mid-1940s.

Freedman’s grandmother operated the register while her sons (Myron and Phil) were in charge of food prep. In the late 1960s, the University of Chicago bought out the business and converted the land into housing units.

Myron and Phil began searching for a new spot to open their own restaurant, and found what was then called Brady’s Steakhouse. They bought the steakhouse and turned it into Myron & Phil in 1971. The old world steak and seafood house has been a staple in Lincolnwood ever since. Mark Freedman took over the restaurant in 1999.

Mark Freedman grew up at Myron & Phil. He started running the dishwasher and bussing tables for his father and uncle when he was 11 years old. In the 1980s, he became assistant manager after leaving college to return to work in the family business.

As a child, he remembers training the staff on how to operate the dishwasher, and helping his father mix homemade salad dressings.

Myron & Phil has a strong following, in part because not much about it has changed over the years. Guests are greeted with a table spread that’s rare to find these days: chopped liver pate, a bread basket, peppers, green tomatoes, raw onions and pickle relish.

Freedman is determined to get the restaurant reopened soon.

“I know I have great friends out there to support me and help me get going again,” Mark Freedman said.

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