THREATENED: After 86 Years in Business, Palace Grill Damaged After Grease Fire

Fire at the Palace Grill Sandwich Shop on February 8, 2024, 1408 W. Madison Street. Opened in 1938. Photo credit: Chris Jones / Chicago Tribune
Help the Iconic Palace Grill Rebuild From Fire GoFundMe page

“A fire caused ‘extensive’ damage to a well-known restaurant on the Near West Side Thursday night.

“Firefighters responded just after 10 p.m. to a fire at Palace Grill, 1408 W. Madison St., Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said. The restaurant was closed at the time. No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

“A preliminary investigation indicates a grease fire started in the kitchen near a grill. It was put out “relatively quickly,’ Langford said, after firefighters cut a hole in the roof and poured a ‘considerable amount’ of water on the flames.

“The interior sustained ‘extensive’ damage in the kitchen area, but the building ‘appears to be intact,’ he said.

“Palace Grill, about five blocks from the United Center, opened in 1938 and has been a popular spot over the years for athletes, cops and firefighters. (Heather, Chicago Sun-Times, 2/9/24)

“In its more than eight decades on the Near West Side, the Palace Grill has seen its share of history — from hosting then-Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in 1997 to surviving the riots after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

“On Friday, owner George Lemperis said the popular restaurant near the United Center would survive the fire that caused extensive damage the night before.

“They rebuilt the World Trade Center. I can certainly rebuild this,” Lemperis told reporters Friday outside the restaurant at 1408 W. Madison St. “But it’s not good. Eighty-six years, we were here.” (Struett and Heather, Chicago Sun-Times, 2/9/24)

“It thrived when Madison Street was home to tony nightclubs, and survived riots when the area was was regarded as ‘skid row.’ The eatery also went 30 years without ever closing its doors once — back when it was open 24 hours a day

“‘Seventy-five years in business is really an honor for any business, let alone a restaurant,’ said owner George Lemperis, 65. ‘There’s a lot of history here. It’s a cool place.’

“‘In 1938, Madison Street was the Rush Street of Chicago,’ Lemperis explained. ‘All the clubs were here, and people would come from all over the world to come to these clubs.’

“It became known as the Palace Grill in 1950 and has been in the Lemperis family since 1955, back when a customer could buy a hamburger for just $10 cents.

“George Lemperis’ great-uncle and cousins — George, Mike and Gus Alpogianis — originally ran the restaurant, and it’s since been handed down from generation to generation. George and his father, Pete, took over in 1978 and operated for years with no menus.”

“His daughter Christina, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, plans to represent the fourth generation to run the family business.

”All my life I’ve always wanted to work here and do what Dad does,’ she said.

“Her plans include expanding the catering and private event side of the business, and possibly getting their famous hash browns carried in grocery stores. But the friendly scene at the Palace Grill won’t ever change, she added.

“‘People come here when they’re stressed out. If you have a bad day, you go to the Palace,’ she said. ‘People come here to feel better.'” (Pazderski, DNAinfo, 2/11/2013)

Read the full story at Chicago Sun-Times and DNAinfo

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