It took a little longer than Shane Johnson expected, but the Clarendon Hills resident’s local cafe is finally open for business.
The Hills Cafe & Pizza had its first day of business at the corner of Prospect and Park avenues Dec. 22, after building problems delayed the opening that was originally set for December 2011.
“Every time we would try to open up a wall, we’d find a problem. Every time we opened a ceiling, we’d find a problem,” said Johnson, who was also sidelined for several months last year due to a health scare.
Throughout 2012, Johnson, who serves on the Clarendon Hills Special Events Committee, would be asked by residents when they could expect the diner doors to open.
“Every time I came downtown I’d get stopped,” he said.
Now it’s customers who are stopping in.
Johnson, a husband, father of two, and stepfather of one who has lived in Clarendon Hills since 2002 and formerly worked at the town’s Mid-America Bank, said his goal with The Hills is to bring back to downtown the family diner and pizza-joint atmospheres that were lost in recent years with the closings of Town Kitchen and Delicioso’s Pizza.
Despite the still-lagging economy, Johnson said he’s confident his business will succeed because he has found that unfilled niche.
“For years people have been telling me this is what they want,” he said.
The Hills’ menu features all that diner-goers would expect: omelets, Benedicts, and oatmeal among the breakfast served daily; sandwiches, burgers, salads, soups and, of course, pizza, included among the lunch and dinner options.
Geared himself toward healthy living, Johnson said it’s been important to him that healthy options be offered at his restaurant.
“We’re trying to accommodate a lot of different diets,” he said.
The Hills has a full liquor license, and Johnson says a craft-beer-of-the-month rotation started with Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale this month.
“It goes great with pizza,” Johnson said.
Johnson, a first-time restaurateur, owns The Hills with business partner Don Lindeman, a Willowbrook resident with a restaurant background.
The restaurant was originally going to be named Lindy’s, after the chain of chili places begun by Lindeman’s grandfather. But Johnson said the current Lindy’s Chili ownership was not thrilled at the idea of sharing its name with an unaffiliated restaurant.
“We wanted to personalize it for the town,” Johnson said of the name. “The Hills kept popping up. It kind of rolls off the tongue.”
Though the name and the old-time Clarendon Hills photos set to adorn the walls of the cafe are meant to appeal to local residents, Johnson said his goal is to bring in nonresidents, as well.
“We’ve got five great places to eat now in town, and they’re all different,” he said. “We [restaurateurs] all want the same thing: we want to take care of the community, we want people to come down, but we [also] want to bring new people down here.”
The Hills is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Breakfast is served until 11 a.m. during the week and until 11:30 a.m. on the weekends.