Myron & Phil Steakhouse’s fire recovery could take 10 months
BY NATALIE HAYES | Contributor June 19, 2013 6:14PM
Lincolnwood Wednesday 5-8-13 State fire marshall conducts his fire investigation at Myron and Phil's restaurant Wednesday morning 5-8-13. | Kevin Tanaka for~Sun-Times Media.
Updated: August 26, 2013 2:10AM
Mark Freedman’s ambitious plans to reopen steakhouse Myron & Phil for business a month after a May 8 blaze have been pushed back as long as eight to 10 months, Freedman said this week.
Freedman, Myron’s son and the restaurant’s current owner, said he’s been in “cleanup mode” during the six weeks since the fire, and new estimates from the insurance and restoration companies he’s working with have pushed a reopen date back to sometime next spring.
“When you walk in the restaurant, it’s an eerie scene because all the tables and settings are set up like we’re ready for dinner service — that’s how we left it the night before the fire,” Freedman said. “But the soot is everywhere — the smoke just permeated everything from the kitchen to the dining room.”
Workers have since been busy gutting the interior, tearing out carpet and dry wall, scrubbing the ceilings and planning the installation of a new electrical system, Freedman said, adding that the insurance company had not yet come up with an estimated total cost of the damage.
“It’s the battle of the insurance claim now and what they’re willing to cover,” he said.
In the weeks leading up to the fire, Freedman had been optimistic about a recent upturn in business and was excited about a new direction for Myron and Phil, centered around a revamp of the restaurant’s menu and an extension of the hours of operation in time for spring.
He even planned to stray out of his comfort zone of offering the strictly old-world steakhouse fare coined by his dad and uncle, and was ready to embrace new temporary cuisines.
Meanwhile, he was prepping staff to adjust to new extended hours that would open the restaurant to the lunch crowd.
But the fire but an abrupt stop to those plans.
The early-morning flames — sparked by a faulty electrical fixture in a storage room at the back of the restaurant — didn’t spread to the interior of the building, but smoke infiltrated the kitchen and dining areas, leaving those areas unusable.
The timing of the fire caught the public’s attention last month because the blaze started just 30 minutes after 95-year-old founder Myron Freedman died in his sleep.
Some even pointed fingers, raising suspicions about the timing of the two events, but local authorities found no evidence of arson, determining the cause of the fire to be accidental.
“Some people say things like, ‘oh his dad died and then he burned down the restaurant,’” Freedman said. “Well that’s simply not true. My dad was 95 and had dementia; It was a sad thing that he passed away, but not a bad thing. He just picked a bad day to do it.”
Freedman knows the odds are against him. There’s a tremendous load of work required to rebuild after a fire, and with corporate-run restaurant chains dominating the modern-day dining scene, the chances for a mom-and-pop family-owned restaurant like Myron and Phil to survive seem diminished.
Myron and Phil could, however, be the exception to that notion. Its presence in Lincolnwood for more than 40 years has generated a strong following of regulars, who mostly keep coming back because not much about the place has changed since it opened in 1971.
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.
“Being an individual restaurant owner is hard,” Freedman said. “But I want to be that person. I’m going to fix this and make it the shining star of Lincolnwood.”