WICKER PARK — The owner of an American-style fast food eatery who has tried a number of different businesses in the neighborhood over the years — including his third restaurant in 10 months — says he is quitting.
"It was not making enough money. I sold the lease. A new restaurant is coming," said Wasif Syed, who shuttered Flat Iron Grill & More at 1571 N. Milwaukee Ave. on Sunday.
The new restaurant taking over the lease, which runs through 2017, may be Japanese-themed, offering Ramen, a source said. It could open by early next year.
Located in the iconic Flat Iron Arts building, the grill, which offered Vienna beef hot dogs and hamburgers, opened on July 8.
"I will miss the people in the neighborhood," Syed said.
For Syed, the Flat Iron Grill & More was his last stab at staying inside the Flat Iron Building, which anchors the southeast corner of Wicker Park's Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection.
In 1996, Syed opened Food Mart, a convenience shop inside of the building's northernmost corner, which was then shared with Filter Cafe and is now rented by Bank of America.
Over the years Syed saw "a lot of changes," he said.
"When I started it was a rough neighborhood... it was a long time," he said.
After the bank opened in 2007, Filter Cafe eventually relocated to 1373 N. Milwaukee Ave. and Syed's Food Mart moved a few doors south within the same Flat Iron building, which encompasses several storefronts.
Syed closed Wicker Park Food Mart in 2013, citing increased competition from a new Walgreens, which opened one-half block north of the mini mart and sold many of the same items but for lower prices.
In November, Syed transformed his convenient mart into Flat Iron Pita Grill, which served up falafel, hummus and other dishes.
Syed said there were "too many options" for falafel and Middle Eastern foods near the area's main intersection, so he rebranded into Rasoi Indian Kitchen, which opened in May.
Though Rasoi Indian Kitchen had attracted what Syed described as "a small but loyal lunch crowd," the Indian food had not pulled in a late night customer base, primarily those leaving bars around 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.
In July, the concept changed to American-style fast food, which was doing better than the previous two eateries but still did not do enough sales to sustain the operation, Syed said.
"Maybe I will go work at Walgeens now," Syed said.
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