For 30 years the lines at John’s Garage & Filling Station in Woodfield Mall wrapped around the mall area outside of the restaurant. There was almost always a wait at this popular eatery which was located on the lower level, just outside of Lord & Taylor. People came for the huge salad bar, the large portions, tall glasses of soda and the big menu that included the cheese-filled potato skins that were much beloved too. Obviously, the emphasis was on BIG.
The store was opened in 1975 by John and Pat Grivas. They later expanded their venture with locations at Westfield Fox Valley, Ford City Mall and Westfield Hawthorn. Pairing the menu and salad bar with the automotive-themed collectibles proved to be a winning concept. It was a nice alternative in the malls with a food court but at Woodfield where a food court was never part of the picture, the restaurant quickly became an important piece of the total Woodfield Mall experience.
It was a large restaurant that had many tables filled with countless customers who were served by a large staff of employees. Many who visited started with an appetizer followed by a meal that included trips to the mulit-item salad bar—or you could have the salad bar as a meal all by itself. And many did. It was more than enough to fill you.
The restaurant existed happily at the mall for many years. In 2005 though, after selling their location at Vernon Hills’ Westfield Hawthorn Mall, the Grivases were notified by Woodfield that it would be necessary to vacate in 90 days. John’s Garage had been having discussions with mall management and, apparently, a satisfactory agreement could not be reached between the two parties. As a result, the popular restaurant closed on Sunday, August 14 and restaurant choices at the mall were reduced by a big, sad, one.
Tell us your favorite item on their menu or why you miss this popular spot. Whether you came to Woodfield Mall for the four anchor stores, the specialty stores, the movie theaters, the ice rink, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, a trip to John’s Garage was always one of the best parts of the trip.
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
This posting was written with the assistance of articles from the Chicago Tribune (8/14/2005) and a column and review from the Daily Herald (8/7/2005, 10/24/1986 and 11/19/1999. The top photo is courtesy of the website, Craig’s Lost Chicago)