John's GarageFor 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. John's Garage







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.

Jane Rozek
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)


  1. illinoislibariesmatter Says:

    Nice post Jane. I have not been to Woodfield for long I did not even know John’s was gone- what a shame.

  2. Dave N Says:

    When I was a kid, if I didn’t have school that day, my Mom loved going to the mall and would of course bring me with. We had a bit of a ritual… she shopped for a few hours and I became cranky and hungry..ha ha.

    We would always go to John’s Garage. She loved the salad bar. I usually got the “JG’s Long Dog”… a foot-long all beef hot dog with all the fixins’. I would sometimes get the salad bar too (weird that as a little boy I loved salad). Their multi-item salad bar introduced me to tofu for the first time. I wasn’t much of a fan of that. We would always sit by the interior window that allowed you to watch people skating on the ice rink, or if I was lucky and it was a weekend I might catch a glimpse of a Schaumburg Kings youth hockey game.

    Thanks for posting about John’s Garage! Lot’s of memories there.

  3. SB Says:

    Yes, the best part for me as a kid of going to John’s Garage was the windows into the ice rink. My mom was always kind enough to wait the extra time. Thanks for the memory Jane.

  4. KenLenard Says:

    I went there so many times with my girlfriend, now my wife. We eventually brought our kids and everyone just loved everything about it. It was either the basket of chicken fingers with the onion strips or the bacon cheeseburger. Salad bar was always good and the atmosphere was awesome. You could look at all the signs and other decorations for hours. We went to the Hawthorn location many times as well. So sad to see it gone.

  5. Paul Troy Says:

    In the early days when the mall had the ice rink, there were windows in the back of the restaurant that allowed patrons to watch the skaters. Often times, adults congregated here while their kids had skating practice – or even brought the kids in after practice. Boy, I really miss this place!! Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane!!

  6. Peg Willey Says:

    My first visit to John’s Garage was in the late 70s with a college roommate when I spent the weekend with her family in Elmhurst. She recommended the mostaciolli with meat sauce and the salad “car”. I came back many times with family and friends and always had to get the same thing. So sad it’s closed. Lots of pleasant memories.

  7. eileen kimmey Says:

    I went to john’s garage&filling station at ford city mall sometimes forlunch before a movie or having lunch with my grandmother after a great gAME OF BOWLING!!! IT WAS THE GREATEST RESTAURANT TO ME AS A TEENAGER &AS AN ADULT THIS WAS A GREAT HOT SPOT FOR EVERYONE!! I LOVED IT BECAUSE OF HOW THE CARS WERE ARRANGED AT THE RESTAURANT IT WAS THE SUPER COOLEST RESTAURANT &EATERY EVER!!!!! EILEEN K.

  8. joe Says:

    loved the salad bar and view…..waiting in line was the only downside.

  9. Bill Says:

    I remember going to Woodfield specifically for the “deep dish” at John’s Garage…..stellar among the Chicago “trade marked” pan pizza shops.
    Sorry to see it’s no longer.

  10. Kerri Kolacinski Says:

    I grew up going here with my Mom. We loved the salad bar and especially the candy that was on the salad bar. What was it called? Chocolate and vanilla. It was cut up in little squares and it was some european candy. Great memories!

  11. Beth Loftus Says:

    I went to John’s Garage with my dad who ran the security for Woodfield Mall. It is a treasured memory for me thinking back to all the times we shared a pizza at this special part of the Woodfield Mall experience. So sorry to hear it closed.

  12. Tom Says:

    Back when John’s Garage was brand new, my Mom took us there and during lunch we listened to Paul McCartney and Wings Venus and Mars album in it’s entirety. I’d never heard it before and because the food and the music were so good I find I always think of John’s Garage any time I hear a song from that album.

  13. Robert Malohn Says:

    I consider myself a pizza officianado. I have tried 1000 pizza joints. I have made 1000 pizzas from scratch. John’s was HANDS DOWN, the best pizza EVER created! I couldn’t wait to stand in line for that pie! I will die wishing that I could have it again! Life memory, unless someone wants to share the secret……..Actually skated on the rink with a piece once…….

  14. Robert Dedina Says:

    I remember the malt squares at the salad bars were awesome…never seen them anywhere since…of course the beer battered pizza

  15. Ariel Styles Says:

    After John’s Garage left Woodfield Mall, we can’t find a decent restaurant there, at all. John’s Garage was there almost from the beginning (I helped Marshall Fields open, fresh out of high school, and worked a few other stores and restaurants during college). In my mind, Woodfield made a big mistake I removing one of their original treasures.

  16. Bill McInerney Says:

    I miss John’s garage so much. I would go there and have their salad bar and Chicken Fingers. Before leaving I would order 2 additional orders to go to take home. I would walk through the mall and people would stop me asking what the delicious smell was. I would tell everyone it was from John Garage and start to walk away. They would stop me and ask me, well which way is it. I have never found any place that compares to them and being 55 I have tried in every state that I could find them.

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