Monti’s Cheesesteaks owner David Weissner next to the bar's new tap system on on Feb. 9, 2022. Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago

LINCOLN SQUARE — Monti’s Cheesesteaks has reopened in its Lincoln Square home more than a year after a fire badly damaged the popular neighborhood spot.

In September of 2020, an electrical fire forced the restaurant, 4757 N. Talman Ave., to close its doors and temporarily relocate to a North Center ghost kitchen.

After more than a year of navigating the insurance process and rebuilding, owner David Weissner quietly reopened the Talman Avenue location about three months ago.

In response to how dining has changed during the pandemic, the restaurant now includes a takeout window and reserved spots out front for delivery driver parking.

“We really learned a lot being at the ghost kitchen and it taught us an immense amount about how to do delivery that we had never actually known before, both the good and the bad,” Weissner said. “So we were able to get ahead of things like traffic and parking based on those experiences.”

Operating without dine-in capacity for more than a year also helped Weissner rethink his approach and reopen at Talman Avenue with more flexibility for shifting between dine-in and delivery. 

“I think all restaurants are all really still trying to navigate that with COVID,” he said. “But we’re really happy to be back in the neighborhood.”

Monti’s Cheesesteaks owner David Weissner poking his head out of the new takeout window on Feb. 9, 2022. Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago

The layout of the restaurant’s bar has also changed to accommodate the new takeout window and a new draft keg system now has four taps instead of the original system’s one. 

Monti’s menu of cheesesteaks, fries and hoagies is mostly unchanged, aside from ditching pizza — something that wasn’t selling well.

“But we’re going to explore flat breads in the future,” Weissner said. 

While working out of the North Center ghost kitchen, Weissner also launched a second brand called Wingman Wings focused on a variety of chicken wing flavors including atomic wings, mango habanero, lemon oregano and traditional buffalo wings. 

“We’re in the process of folding that menu into Monti’s. We just added some new flavors to our wings and by having a different brand it adds a little bit more exposure on the internet apps,” Weissner said. “We call it our secret menu.”

Monti’s quickly became a neighborhood favorite after opening in 2012. Weissner took over the business from the original owners in 2019.

When the fire broke out, it also destroyed the restaurant’s collection of college pennants. Now that it’s open again, Weissner has slowly been collecting new ones to put on the walls.

“If any customers want to bring one in, we’re more than happy to hang it on the wall and take pictures of them,” he said.

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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park reporterrnrnalex@blockclubchi.orgnnLincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park Twitter @avhndz