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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Son of Alps East Owners Opens Diner In Same North Center Location

Irene’s Finer Diner opened Friday morning. The Irving Park Road spot changed hands at least twice since the owner's family closed Alps East in 2012.

Some of the diner staples available on the menu at Irene’s Finer Diner, 2012 W. Irving Park Road.
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NORTH CENTER — Irene’s Finer Diner customers can enjoy free cold brew and the chance to win a year’s worth of pancakes from the North Center diner when it opens Friday.

The restaurant opens 8 a.m. Friday at 2021 W. Irving Park Road. The first 50 customers will get complimentary cold brew coffee on draft from Passion House Coffee, said co-owner Petros Papatheofanis.

And taking inspiration from “Willy Wonka,” the diner’s owners will also run a contest Friday where one customer will win a year’s worth of free pancakes, Papatheofanis said. 

“We’re going to pick a random number on an order of pancakes, and whoever gets that golden pancake is going to get pancakes for a year,” Papatheofanis said. 

The diner is open 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
Irene’s Finer Diner co-owners Petros Papatheofanis (left) and Cristian Mendoza and standing outside the diner Aug. 29, 2022.

Irene’s menu features diner staples made with ingredients sourced from local farms and vendors such as Slagel Family Farm and Nichols Farm & Orchard, and craft sodas made with pure cane sugar from Jones Soda Co., Papatheofanis said. 

Papatheofanis’ father opened Alps East at the same address in 1986 and ran it until he died in 2000. His mother and other relatives continued to run the business until they closed it in 2012, Papatheofanis said. 

Before Alps East closed, Papatheofanis worked alongside his family at the diner, and his mother, Irene, was the inspiration for the new diner’s name, he said. 

After Papatheofanis graduated college, he started working in the hospitality industry and kept an eye on the North Center location of his family’s former diner. When he saw the most recent tenant had moved out, he reached out to the landlord in March 2020 to secure the location, he previously said. 

Co-owners Papatheofanis, Cristian Mendoza and Norah Zamler navigated pandemic disruptions and months of renovations before getting ready to open this weekend, Papatheofanis said.

“Opening restaurants in this day and age has been a wild ride,” he said. 

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