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dining out

Elmhurst’s dining options are as diverse as the area itself. With many establishments serving three generations of the same families, there’s a lot of history hiding behind the checkout counters of your favorite eatery.

One great example is Mack’s Golden Pheasant. In business for six decades, Mack’s could be the oldest continuously running restaurant in DuPage County, with a location near North Avenue (IL Route 64) and IL Route 83. There’s no way for Steve and Debbie Mack to verify if that’s true or not, but they hope it is. “It’s been in the same family,” said Debbie Mack, for the entire history of the restaurant. “My husband Steve and I have been running it for about 30 years with my two children helping.”

Steve Mack’s grandfather retired from Commonwealth Edison at age 45 and decided to open the Golden Pheasant using a “borrowed” signature and high hopes. “He bought it without his wife’s permission and signed her name,” said Debbie Mack, “That’s how it all got started.”

The original Golden Pheasant burned in 1962, but was rebuilt with a design similar to the original. Today, the Golden Pheasant’s menu still features some of the original Bohemian cuisine, but the restaurant keeps up with the times, serving an eclectic menu.

Roberto’s Ristorante and Pizzeria on Spring Road is another stalwart Elmhurst dining option. Roberto and Aurora Pagano set up shop in 1962 and sold the restaurant to Vito Moreci in 1985. When the Moreci family took over, it was run as a carry-out restaurant and the business has grown steadily ever since.

Moreci’s son, Pasquale (pictured at right on page 24), says running the business for such a long time means getting to know many families. “You start off with the young children, parents and grandparents...people who grow up in town. Some move out, but they always come back for Roberto’s.”

Today Roberto’s not only carries on the pizza take-out/delivery tradition, but also has an acclaimed dining room with a traditional Italian menu, plus a catering service.


Bob Choi (pictured above center) opened his Red Dragon Chinese Restaurant in 1982 in downtown Elmhurst, serving Cantonese cuisine only; today the menu has expanded to a full range of Chinese dishes. Choi says the dining habits of his clientele have changed a great deal since his early days in the business, especially where the hot pepper is concerned. “Our clientele asked about chop suey, fried rice . . . today it has changed so much, now our dining clientele is young, college age kids eating a lot more spicy food. In fact, 40 percent of our sales is spicy.”

Choi’s business has grown steadily, but what keeps him rooted in Elmhurst is more than his bottom line. “I raised my children here in the last 20 years, it's a very safe town.”

Jack Island (pictured below right, third from left), Owner of the Silverado Grill on Spring Road, didn’t start out to be a restaurateur when he graduated from college. “For me it was actually being someone who was out of college without a career choice. I worked as a waiter in a Steak And Ale and I did enjoy it a great deal.”

By the time he got to Elmhurst in 1986, Island had more than a decade’s worth of experience in the industry and felt it was time to try his hand at running his own restaurant. He started the Silverado Grill with a partner and it has grown steadily ever since. “Our background was in steaks, seafood, chicken,” Island said. The Silverado’s western style was picked early on partly because Island wanted to work in a relaxed atmosphere. “We chose the casual theme because we wanted to wear blue jeans.”

Today, Jack Island no longer works with a partner; he’s taken full responsibility for the establishment, a challenge which includes keeping a menu relevant and interesting. “It’s the kind of business that lets you know right away how you're doing,” Island said.

In a restaurant which has been in the same location for 20 years, that can be a challenge, but Island says he’s up to it. “At this point it certainly is in my blood...I really enjoy it.”

He points out that in the Silverado Grill’s early days, the business landscape was a bit more forgiving. “Elmhurst has grown to be a very competitive industry,” Island explained. “It wasn’t that way when we came in.” In spite of tough economic times in general, Island doesn’t feel his work has been overlooked. “Elmhurst,” Island said, “ ...has been good to us.”


With so many establishments in the area running for 20 years or more, it’s no surprise the area is considered a competitive market. For the patrons that can only mean good things as Elmhurst’s longtime restaurant families strive to keep their tables full with quality food and customer service. Competition is good for any business, but when it comes to dining in Elmhurst, it creates a happy dilemma for diners trying to make up their minds where to try next.

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