For most “in the know,” Wheeling is synonymous with a wide variety of high quality dining establishments. Today, Chicago’s North Shore Convention & Visitors Bureau (of which Wheeling is a member) is working diligently to make sure that knowledge is conveyed to the young, digitally-connected professionals who are increasingly choosing where to dine with clients and business cohorts.
“Wheeling’s Restaurant Row plays a very important part in drawing travelers to the western part of our region. Where else can you find such a great group of restaurants so close together?” said Gina Speckman, executive director of the Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“There are lots of corporations located along I-294 because of its proximity to O’Hare International Airport, so the Wheeling area gets lots of business travelers who regularly patronize those restaurants,” she added.
The Bureau has been working to make Restaurant Row relevant to the young, up-and-coming diners as it has been relevant to their predecessors when planning business meetings and entertaining clients.
Its staffers have been working with digital media to educate young diners about these restaurants. The Bureau has employees who monitor social media postings and add their own input to the online conversations. In addition, they regularly host dinners and events for well-known Instagrammers and bloggers to introduce them to the restaurants and their delicious menus. They recently held such an event at Bob Chinn’s, in fact, and attendees were so impressed that they populated their blogs with wonderful photos of impressive menu items, as well as high praise.
There are currently over a dozen full-service restaurants located along Milwaukee Avenue between Hintz and Lake-Cook Roads, the official boundaries of Restaurant Row, said to John Melaniphy, Wheeling’s director of economic development. Wheeling generated $98 million in restaurant sales during 2017, a 6.6 percent increase over 2015. “Restaurant sales are growing with all the new apartment development in Wheeling and this is expected to continue with over 1,000 new apartment units in various stages of development,” Melaniphy said.
Ask anyone in the Greater Chicago area, but particularly on the North Shore or in the northwest suburbs, and they will immediately associate Wheeling with great restaurants and the village’s famed Restaurant Row, in particular.
Hot spots like Bob Chinn’s Crabhouse, Tuscany, Superdawg, Benihana, Buca di Beppo, Twin Peaks and Cooper’s Hawk continue to attract enthusiastic diners, just as their predecessors have fed and entertained area residents and travelers for well over a century.
Bob Chinn’s Crabhouse opened in late 1982 and is in the top 30 grossing independent restaurants in the United States according to Restaurant Business Magazine’s list. Superdawg opened a huge hot dog drive-in along Restaurant Row in 2010 and other restaurants also continue to flock there to take advantage of the area’s enormous following. And Boston Fish Market plans to open its second area restaurant in the former Pete Miller’s space later this year.
“The finest dining in the northern suburbs is found on Wheeling’s Restaurant Row along the west banks of the Des Plaines River. This stretch of Milwaukee Avenue is home to some of the best-known restaurants in the Chicago area and is the dining destination for connoisseurs to sample cuisine delights from around the world,” Wheeling proclaims in its dining guide.
“The more well-known restaurants that come to Restaurant Row, the better,” Speckman said. “Additional great restaurants help everyone and make the whole area rise. The addition of the 412-room North Shore Westin and its expansive ballroom and adjacent restaurants in 2006 had the same effect.”
Also “the existence of the Chicago Executive Airport which houses an elite executive fleet of aircraft is also a huge boost to Restaurant Row,” she added. “It brings in a nice clientele for the restaurants.”