WOODLAWN — A viral video of Denzel Washington getting lost on the South Side as he searched for a long-closed barbecue restaurant has persuaded the owner to reopen the Woodlawn location.
The Rev. Leon Finney Jr., whose father started Leon’s Barbecue in 1940, said Washington tipped the scales toward reopening several of the old locations as the family debated whether to get back into the restaurant business.
“Denzel pushed us when he identified with us because we had been going back and forth on it for over a year,” Finney said Wednesday.
Finney said Washington “brought it back to life” when a video went viral of him stopping in Avalon Park to ask for directions to Leon's from 86-year-old Juanita Hubbard.
He said since Washington was close to 82nd Street and Harper Avenue at the time, he could have been looking for the locations that used to be at 8259 S. Cottage Grove Ave. or 1640 E. 79th Street.
Finney said after the video got people talking about Leon’s again, the family decided to reopen the Woodlawn location at 1528 E. 63rd St., which closed in 2010.
Finney said that although that probably wasn’t the one Washington was looking for, it was the location that could be opened the soonest, with an expected opening date of Nov. 22.
He said the family is also considering reopening the other locations.
There are still Leon's restaurants at 4550 S. Archer Ave. and 3309 E. 106th St. run by former employees.
Finney also promised to send Washington a case of ribs and 2 gallons of sauce, when he announced the new location on ABC7’s “Windy City Live.”