WEST TOWN — Greasy spoons are becoming harder to find and, as of Sunday, there will be one less place to enjoy a hamburger and fries for under $5.
Everado Salgado, the owner of Chicago Carry Out, 1760 W. Chicago Ave., said he's been notifying customers "one by one" that Sunday will be the last day for the fast food place.
"A sign [announcing the closing] would make me feel even more bad," said Salgado, 53.
The fourth owner of Chicago Carry Out in its nearly 30-year history, Salgado said his lease was up and his landlord, George Kokoris — who owns three storefronts in the building at the northeast corner of Chicago Avenue and Wood Street — decided to take over the Chicago Carry Out space as well as an adjacent Windy City Mini Mart at 1756 W. Chicago Ave, which is also slated to close.
"Back in the 1980s, it was a bad neighborhood. They wanted hot dogs and hamburgers. Now we figure something else out because the neighborhood is changing," Kokoris said.
Kokoris and his brother, Ted Kokoris, are transforming the Chicago Carry Out space into a Mediterranean restaurant, tentatively to be called "Koko's Mediterranean Kitchen." The plan is to open in the fall, George Kokoris said.
"Kabobs, paninis, wraps, salads, fresh-squeezed juices, cappuccinos ... The prices will be affordable. We're not here to kill anybody, just want to make a living," Kokoris said.
Kokoris said that the Windy City Mini Mart would be remodeled and rebranded into a small grocery store that will "fit better with the neighborhood."
Chicago Avenue is rapidly changing.
Just a half block south of the Kokoris' complex, a developer is building a 39-unit residential apartment building with retail storefronts at 1822-50 W. Chicago Ave. At 1810 W. Chicago Ave. a third-story addition is being built to allow for more residential units, according to a work permit.
Across the street from Chicago Carry Out, on the southwest corner of Chicago and Wood streets at 1809 W. Chicago Ave., a 10-unit condominium building is in the works, too.
Amid the rapid gentrification, local residents said they will miss Chicago Carry Out.
Late Wednesday, Aileen Brown, 44, a bartender, was picking up an order of chicken and cream of mushroom soup.
Brown has lived near Chicago Carry Out for seven years and said she orders from the restaurant about five times each week.
"I'm not gonna cry but I am disappointed. It's not the best food for you but it's not full of preservatives either like other fast food like McDonald's. It's consistent. You know what you're getting when you come here," she said.
Brown added that she doesn't understand why it's closing because the restaurant is "always busy."
Salgado said the restaurant was busiest in the morning, with a lot of city workers from the Goldblatt's building at 1613 W. Chicago Ave. coming in for coffee and eggs.
"I will miss the customers the most. I know how they are, what they want. They know me, I know them," Salgado said.
Though there is another Chicago Carry Out at 63 E. Harrison St. in the South Loop, Salgado said that it was not related to the Chicago Avenue location.
Salgado, whose 20-year-old son, Everado Saldago Jr., worked with him at the restaurant, said they planned to open a mini mart at 1315 W. Chicago Ave. when Chicago Carry Out closed.
While Chicago Carry Out was a name Salgado inherited when he purchased the business in 2004, he's taken creative turns with the new venture.
Estela Mini Mart will be named for his wife of 25 years, he said.