Lincolnwood restaurant celebrates 41st year
06/30/2012 Lincolnwood Mark Freedman, owner of Myron and Phil's in Lincolnwood, looks out at the dining room floor from the kitchen at the restaurant on Saturday, June 30, 2012. Freedman who's father and uncle started the business 41 years ago took over in 1999. | michael jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 6, 2012 11:52AM
Lincolnwood has changed a lot over the past four decades, but Myron & Phil—an old world steak and seafood restaurant that has sat at 3900 W. Devon Ave. since 1971—has remained a staple in the community, and today continues to serve up the same steaks, fish, chopped liver and old school feel that made it famous so long ago.
Now run by Mark Freedman, son of Myron and nephew of Phil, this month marks Myron & Phil’s 41st anniversary.
Not much has changed about Myron & Phil’s since the 1970’s. The walls leading into the dining room are still covered with autographed photos of celebrities who have stopped in over the years, and the dining room still has the same vintage black leather chairs and old school feel it did back then. The food has also stayed the same.
In contrast to modern day corporate-run steakhouse chains that charge for the extras, Freedman is proud to offer guests all the fixings included in one price.
“I’ll put my steak up against the competition—you’ll pay $35 for a steak but everything extra comes along with it,” Freedman said. “We know that what’s important to people is good food at a good price with equally good service in a great environment, so that’s what we focus on.”
Guests are greeted with an old-school table spread that is rare to find these days. Each table is filled with all the fixings including chopped liver pate, a generous bread basket, peppers, green tomatoes, raw onions and pickle relish.
Freedman said the key to Myron’s & Phil’s success is his hands-on approach to running the business. During business hours, Freedman can be found running around taking on different roles from cook to bartender to manager and even janitor.
Freedman personally inspects each piece of food before it comes out of the kitchen and arrives on the customer’s table. If it’s not something he would eat, he sends it back and remakes it himself.
He operates the place like any successful restaurant owner should, visiting with tables to make sure each guest leaves satisfied with their experience, and also has no qualms about mopping the bathroom floor after closing each night.
And if a guest wants to order one of the few dishes that have been taken off the menu, all they have to do is call Freedman a day or two in advance and he’ll gather the ingredients and cook it especially for them.
“Most restaurants will end up failing within the first two years of opening, so this really is a victory story,” Freedman said. “Look at us—we’re still there and there aren’t a lot of restaurants that can say that.”
For Freedman, the restaurant business is in his blood. He started running the dishwasher and bussing tables for his father and uncle when he was 11-years-old, and later became assistant manager in the 1980’s 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.
Freedman took over the restaurant in 1999, and today he often puts 120 hours per week into the business, working around the clock to make it a continued success.
“I don’t wish working in this business upon anyone unless they’re dedicated to it and they love it as much as I do,” Freedman said. “This is hard work but I’m pursuing my dream of what I really want to be doing.”
The Freedman family comes from a long line of restaurateurs. His grandmother operated a chain of casual cafeteria-style restaurants back in the 1920’s 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 1960’s 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’s in 1971.
Freedman’s favorite memory was meeting Bill Clinton when he came to dine at Myron & Phil’s in 1993 while he was president.
“I remember my dad sitting me down and telling me ‘son, the president is coming to Myron & Phil’s,’” Freedman said. “I said ‘you’re lying to me,’ but they put me on the phone with the secret service so we could discuss what accommodations would have to be made and I realized it wasn’t a joke.”
He continued, “So on a Monday night Clinton came in and we made him dinner—and he absolutely did love it.”
Looking to the future, Freedman has no plans to make Myron & Phil’s more than a one-location steak house, but instead plans to continue maintaining the success of the Lincolnwood location.
As for passing Myron & Phil’s down to another generation, Freedman said he encourages his three sons to pursue their own interests, but leaves the door open if any of them decide to enter the family business. His two older sons are in college pursuing degrees in marine biology and physical therapy, but his 11-year-old son has developed an early interest in working with his dad.
“Like I did, he seems to really have the passion for it at a young age,” Freedman said.
Myron & Phil’s is open Tuesday through Sunday from 4-10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4-11:30 p.m. For reservations call (847) 677-6663.