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New owner will keep Palmer Place name and burgers

By Steve Metsch

Palmer Place Restaurant and Biergarten, a mainstay in downtown La Grange for nearly 40 years, will soon have new owners.

But not much else will change.

The name on 56 S. La Grange Road will still read Palmer Place. The employees now there will still have their jobs. And the hamburgers that made it famous will still be on the menu.

“We hope to have it happen soon,” Dave Tarman said of the sale becoming official. “We’re excited.”

He and wife Leslie, who own The Silo Restaurant in Lake Bluff, were looking to open a second Silo location when they came to La Grange a few months ago.

“We went down to La Grange to look at another building that (we learned) was no longer available,” he said.

“But we fell in love with La Grange. We walked all over the town. Great architecture. It was so clean. People all over the place.”

He and Leslie decided to find a location in the village “and then we found out Palmer Place was for sale.”

Palmer Place opened in 1983.

“We went in there and what a great location. Down the street from the (movie) theater. … We just loved it. It didn’t make sense to turn it into a Silo. It’s an institution and the Palmers are a great family. We decided to leave it the way it is. We’re just going to update it a little bit,” Tarman said.

“The Silo Restaurant is pretty well known up here,” he said. “I can’t imagine anyone ever changing the name. I don’t think it makes sense to change the name of Palmer Place.”

That makes Steve Palmer happy. He and brother Phil have owned the eatery for years.

“We’re ecstatic. There were quite a few suitors interested in the property. We chose Dave and Leslie because they’re the same as we are. It’s what we want for La Grange,” Palmer said. “I feel they are the right people.”

Palmer’s parents, Mike and Ruth, bought The Spot to Eat deli at the location in 1976.

According to the website, The Spot to Eat had been in LaGrange since at least the early 1940’s. “The Spot” was open six days a week for lunch and until 8 p.m. two nights a week for dinner.

In 1983, The Spot to Eat was replaced by Palmer Place. However, the idea of a beer garden in downtown La Grange was not warmly received by village officials.

“Originally, the village was 100 percent against it,” Palmer said.

“My mom was able to talk to the village president at that time and the village clerk and convince them this beer garden was going to be a good thing for the community,” Palmer, 56, recalled.

Similar family ties are found at Silo. It opened in 1968 and has been known for pan pizza for generations, Tarman said.

“Palmer Place is known for their burgers. Both are family owned a long time. Both known for a primary dish,” Tarman said.

He and Leslie have owned The Silo Restaurant since 2015. They purchased it from his parents, sister and brother-in-law, His late parents had purchased the Silo in 1988.

At Palmer Place, the back room and second-level beer garden added in 1991 were a strong selling point.

“One of the things that attracted us to it is that beautiful outside area,” Tarman said. “It’s so unusual to see a beer garden like that.”

Tarman said he has assured current employees they still have their jobs. He is “excited to start working” with “a great team.”

He knows he and his wife have “big shoes to fill.”

“The longer the process went on, the more we found out about all the different things the Palmers were involved in. Steve and Phil are a real asset to the community. We can only hope to fill their shoes,” Tarman added.

Steve Palmer, on the board of directors for Metra, is not leaving the restaurant business. He now operates the Stadium Club at The Max in McCook. It replaces a restaurant that had been there.

He will be available to assist Tarman after the sale: “We’re not going to hand over the keys and run out the door. We want this to be a smooth transition.”

While the sale price was not disclosed, Palmer Place had been listed for $2.4 million on www.bizbuysell.com, which said the approximate gross sales in 2018 were $2,721,115.

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