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Beverly Woods Dinner Rolls a Thanksgiving Tradition

By Howard Ludwig | November 19, 2013 6:28am
 Beverly Woods sells 12,000 of its signature dinner rolls on Thanksgiving Day.
Beverly Woods Preps For Thanksgiving
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MORGAN PARK — Bill McGann keeps a recipe for dinner rolls in his wallet.

The owner of Beverly Woods realizes it's the most valuable thing in his billfold: McGann expects to sell 12,000 of the restaurant's signature dinner rolls on Thanksgiving Day.

The doors of the restaurant and banquet hall at 11532 S. Western Ave. open at 9 a.m. on Nov. 28. There's typically a line of customers waiting, and the rolls ($7 per dozen) sell out no later than 2 p.m.

One of the first customers in line several years ago returned about 20 minutes after buying rolls for his family's Thanksgiving meal. Surprised, McGann asked why he returned so quickly. The customer explained he resold the dinner rolls to an impatient customer at the back of the line.

"They were scalping rolls if you can believe it," he said.

McGann's father, Jack, opened Beverly Woods in 1954. The restaurant once had a booming business on Thanksgiving Day, serving upwards of 600 people for dinner in the 1960s.

"As time went by, we found out less and less people went out for Thanksgiving," he said.

Now, Beverly Woods is officially closed for Thanksgiving. The restaurant sells its signature rolls in the morning. In the afternoon, McGann packages turkey dinners to go. A complete meal that serves up to 12 people costs $115.95. It includes 15 pounds of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and cranberry sauce.

The prepackaged meal also includes a dozen dinner rolls. The recipe for the rolls is a story unto itself.

In 1963, Bill McGann's brother was attending a Catholic military academy in Indiana. One of the religious brothers working in the cafeteria made delicious dinner rolls. The chef was also in love.

Brother Tom asked Jack McGann for a job in the restaurant, promising to share his bread recipe in exchange for steady paycheck as a cook. He planned to leave religious life for his new career and pursue the woman of his dreams.

Beverly Woods already had a successful garlic bread recipe, but Jack McGann agreed to add the eager chef anyway. The rest is history.

The sprawling restaurant primarily operates as a banquet hall nowadays. Funeral luncheons, Christmas parties and weddings are the bulk of the business, along with modest sales from a small buffet and bar.

Bill and MaryLou Quinn of Morgan Park live within walking distance of Beverly Woods. Every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter someone is assigned to pick up rolls from the nearby banquet facility.

"Whenever you are having a big family dinner and you want rolls, that's where you go," MaryLou Quinn said.