Tom McAuliffe. | Supplied photo
Updated: September 25, 2012 10:53AM
It all started with a neighborhood bar in Burbank and a pizza recipe.
Now, the family that operates seven Durbin’s restaurants throughout the Southland is preparing to mark 25 years of success, struggle and perseverance.
“He has more ambition and determination than anyone I’ve ever known,” Kelly McAuliffe-Tsenes said of her father, Tom McAuliffe, who in August 1987 bought a bar called Durbin’s on 79th Street.
Raising his family, he worked as a butcher for Jewel and supplemented his income delivering pizzas and serving as a police officer in Bridgeview, she said.
In 1974 he bought the pizza place in Burbank he worked for, J&B, but sold it in 1980 to focus on his career with Jewel, according to his daughter.
After buying Durbin’s, McAuliffe worked with other family members to add a kitchen and, using the recipe from J&B, began making pizzas for customers. The pizzas were a hit, and the family had to add on to the building to accommodate diners.
In 1995, after retiring from Jewel, he bought a Chicago Ridge restaurant, Patsby’s, followed by Henry’s Pizza in Palos Hills, which is now called Durbin’s.
Two chefs who worked at Patsby’s had worked at the original Branding Iron restaurant in Oak Lawn, and McAuliffe was able to obtain the rights to the restaurant’s famous recipes, including its ribs, salad dressings and even doughnut holes.
He briefly resurrected the Branding Iron in the former Ken’s Guest House at 99th Street and Southwest Highway in Oak Lawn, but it later closed.
Those two chefs, however, still work for Durbin’s, at the Tinley Park restaurant, which opened in 2006. Additional Durbin’s opened in Evergreen Park in 2008 and Midlothian in 2010. A franchised location in Frankfort co-owned by his son opened in early 2011, and the newest restaurant, in Plainfield, opened three weeks ago.
“Every day I go to work for him I am so amazed at everything he has created,” his daughter said. “I am 26 years younger than my dad, and he can run circles around me and everyone else around him.”
McAuliffe-Tsenes said sales at the restaurants have taken a hit during the recession, but “they’re all still going.”