Stone Eagle Tavern opens new location in Hoffman Estates
Two large historic carved limestone Eagles sit perched outside the front entrance of the new Stone Eagle Tavern in Hoffman Estates. These hand-carved federal style monuments were the guardian figures of an East Coast courthouse for over 100 years.
The Eagles are iconic symbols of Stone Eagle Tavern, the creation of successful Rockford restaurant entrepreneur Jimmy Vitale. Vitale opened the first Stone Eagle Tavern in Rockford in 2009, culminating a long career in which he has owned and operated six successful restaurants in the Rockford area dating back to the 1970s and owned and managed a large hotel operation.
The new Hoffman Estates restaurant is Vitale's second Stone Eagle location and the first in the Chicagoland suburban market. Conveniently located in the Prairie Stone Crossing shopping center at 4680 Hoffman Boulevard, the restaurant is just off the I-90 tollway at the Route 59 interchange and within minutes of the Sears Center Arena. The new 6,800-square-foot restaurant opened on Columbus Day, Oct. 8, 2012.
Vitale said he's excited to be opening a new restaurant in the western suburbs.
"I'm excited to try a new market and see if the formulas of success I've had for over 30 years will work with a larger population," he said. "I'm guessing they will because they're basic approaches to operating: fair play, great food, tremendous value and very friendly thoughtful service.
"People like to be treated well. It doesn't matter where they're from. If you treat people with regard and humility, they will be drawn to that. We really try to do a good job of treating decent people decently. I'm convinced the faceless chain operations overlook that on their march to profitability."
The new Stone Eagle offers a diverse menu that includes more than 120 menu items, with most items priced at $12.99 or less. The wide-ranging menu includes wood-fired pizzas baked in a brick oven, burgers, sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes, fish, chicken, homemade pot roast, beef stroganoff, and ribs, along with freshly made breads and desserts. The menu includes a "By Request Only Menu" for guests wishing to enjoy premier steaks harvested from area family farms.
"I think the direction I took with the Stone Eagle concept was to give it the look of an Old Classic Hotel dining room with the price of a high-end, fast food restaurant," he said.
The restaurant's bar area includes a large oyster bar featuring fresh hand-shucked oysters, boiled spiced shrimp and brick oven cooked mussels, as well as a full liquor bar. The oyster bar is a throwback to Vitale's wildly popular first restaurant, Jungle Jim's Oyster Bar, which Vitale started in 1975 and had almost a cult-like following until he sold it in the mid' 1980s.
"It carries a lot of fond memories so the Jungle Jim's African theme carries through to the new restaurants," he said. "The look is very similar to the original Jungle Jim's Oyster Bar, my very first place. I opened that operation when I was 24 years old."
The new Stone Eagle in Hoffman Estates has seating for approximately 200 guests, split between the main dining area and the oyster bar. The bar area has an upbeat, high-energy atmosphere with flat screen televisions for watching sports and popular music from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. The dining room is a more traditional sit down, low-key dining atmosphere, appealing to families and seniors. The restaurant also includes three small private dining areas for groups of between eight to 25 people.
The restaurant also features an outdoor patio with seasonal seating for approximately 30 to 40 guests and a complimentary bocce ball court for families to play before and after a meal. It's fun to play even if you don't know the rules.
Like all of the other restaurants Vitale has owned, the new Stone Eagle is filled with unique Historical Artifacts and Architectural Antiques he has collected over the years. Those include large limestone eagles located at both of the restaurants, which he acquired from a Federal Courthouse in New Jersey. The walls of the Hoffman Estates restaurant are decorated with the original walnut paneling from the former Continental Bank of Chicago and there are also decorative Iron Eagle gates from the original Federal Building in Chicago. Other unique artifacts include three bronze panels from a historic Chicago City Hall building, two, eight-foot tall, 500-pound bronze exterior wall sconces from the historic Michael Reese Hospital main entrance and a beautiful stained-glass ceiling from Long Island located in the main bar area.
"I think it's important to eat in an interesting atmosphere. Most chains are cookie-cutter formula designs whereas all of the places I've had including this one will be filled with unique Architectural Antiques. It's kind of like dining in a museum in that each artifact pops up after a couple of visits and you always notice something new and that's very exciting."
Vitale also believes a commitment to customer service is key to running a successful restaurant and he will often be seen personally greeting guests and going from table to table. He insists that his managers and staff recognize returning guests by name and recall their preferences.
"Dining is more than just eating food away from home," he said. "It's entertainment and it's genuine hospitality. We try to hire only upbeat, positive, people-loving staff."
Vitale has been heavily involved in the Rockford community over the past three decades, personally contributing significantly himself and helping raise funds for Rockford area hospitals, the Arthritis Foundation, the Boys and Girls Scouts of America and other charitable causes. He plans to continue that commitment to community service at his new location in Hoffman Estates.