Not even two years ago, Ted Angeloupolos enjoyed his first and only meal at legendary Pat’s Place in downtown Skokie where it had been located for more than 30 years.
That’s when Angeloupolos, of Morton Grove, approached Pat to see if she was interested in selling. He had been scouting out locations for his own restaurant for some time and thought this little corner on Oakton Street would make an ideal spot.
“What I liked about it is the corner location and the size of it,” he said. “But I didn’t get very far. She said, ‘no I will never sell.’ So when I drove by here and saw the sign, I wondered what happened.”
A number of issues, including a dispute with the landlord, caused Pat to finally close her doors, which opened up doors for Angeloupolos.
Like Pat’s Place, Alexander’s is open only for breakfast and lunch. But the space has been redesigned, the interior airy and highlighted by natural light.
Angeloupolos could not afford a professional interior designer, he said, so he made his own design decisions, which turned out to be successful. The interior is comfortable and attractive and lends itself to a tasty breakfast and lunch spot.
It’s not surprising that Angeloupolos should open his own restaurant. His father, Christos, was a chef and cook at various Chicago eateries, and he always knew he wanted to go into business for himself.
Angeloupolos initially ran a fast-food business with a partner before operating Cafe Mozart in Evanston for the last 11 years. He helped make the cafe a success, but he was still interested in his own full-service restaurant.
So now, he’s selling the Evanston cafe so he can focus all attention on Alexander’s, he said.
“I don’t have a kitchen at Mozart, and I always wanted a full kitchen,” Angeloupolos said. “Being here though, I know I definitely have big shoes to fill since Pat’s Place was here for 32 years. I don’t know if I want to break that record.”
Whether he does or doesn’t, Angeloupolos is off to a good start. Alexander’s is consistently crowded and has become a gathering hub for people who work in or near downtown.
The owner uses natural ingredients to make delicious omelets and other egg dishes, French toast, waffles and pancakes and crepes, the menu-recommended breakfast chile relleno, sandwiches, wraps, salads and more. He also has more vegetarian offerings at Alexander’s than one might expect.
“I think offering vegetarian definitely brings a market into Skokie that they don’t have,” he said.
Angeloupolos named the restaurant after his nine-month-old son, Alexander. Long before he opened two months ago, he had almost everything planned out in his mind.
“I was just waiting for the right spot,” he said. “I think I’ve been to every breakfast place in Chicago and the suburbs taking mental notes. My wife would wonder why we’re always going out for breakfast and I said one day she’d find out.”
That day is here, and there are benefits for the whole family.
Angeloupolos can close Alexander’s in the afternoon and be home with his family at night, something he couldn’t always do running Cafe Mozart. Having more time to spend with his wife and children, in fact, was one reason he chose breakfast and lunch hours.
Customer compliments have been plenty over the last two months, but he’s also heard some grousing over the prices, which he admits are higher than Pat’s Place.
“People tend to compare us because Pat’s Place was at the same spot and we’re both breakfast places,” he said.
He notes, however, downtown Skokie is changing with more higher-end restaurants, and using natural ingredients somewhat boosts the cost. Once people try the food, he firmly believes, Alexander’s will win them over.
It has won many over already.
Two months later, Angeloupolos now has regulars who bump into each other all the time. And he also has new customers coming every day to check out the food.
“This is our first time here and everything was really good,” said Betsy Plant who recently had breakfast with her husband, Andrew and her toddler, Adam Andrew, at Alexander’s.
“It’s not the typical breakfast fare here. It’s different, and we like that. We’ll be back.”
That’s just the kind of response that fulfills a new restaurant owner’s appetite.