Janson’s Drive-In in Beverly gets makeover
By DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org October 3, 2012 3:41PM
Owner Gus Pettas stands in front of his restaurant Janson's Drive-In where renovations are under way in Chicago, Illinois, Wednesday, October 3, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media
Updated: November 5, 2012 11:05AM
In 1960, Harper Lee published “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a band named the Beatles formed in Liverpool and Janson’s Drive-In opened at 99th and Western.
More than a half century since the popular hangout in Chicago’s Beverly community served up its first hot dog, Janson’s is getting a makeover, one that will take patrons back to a time when rock ‘n’ roll was as young as the cheese dog.
All summer, work crews were ripping out flooring, replacing the air conditioning and putting in a new patio.
More important, says new owner Gus Pettas, who bought the eatery in May with Mike Ford, when the restaurant reopens, it will have a menu that harkens back to a time when even fast food was cooked to order.
“We’re trying to get it back to its original shape,” Pettas said. He and Ford are working with members of the Janson family to bring back the original menu, featuring the hamburgers, hot dogs and cheese fries that for decades made Janson’s a South Side staple, not to mention a destination for school kids.
Pettas said fans can expect a grand opening in early November.
Among those planning to attend is John Janson, son of the eatery’s original owner.
“I think (the new owners) are dedicated to putting it back to what it was,” Janson said. “I think they will do the place proud.”
In August, 1960, Jack Janson and his two oldest sons, Joe and Tom, opened Janson’s Drive-In. Jack Janson also owned Snackville Junction, another popular Beverly restaurant, located further south on Western Avenue.
Almost immediately it was a hit with the community.
A month later, Joe left for the Navy. Tom and his dad pretty much ran the show until Joe returned in 1974, with youngest son, John, working the french fryer. Over the years, various members of the Janson family cooked, cleaned and took the helm.
John Janson said the place became known for its burgers, dogs and banana splits.
Many patrons met their significant others at Janson’s, including members of the Janson family. John met his wife, Susan, and Joe met his wife, Maureen at the restaurant.
“It was a hangout,” John Janson said.
After Jack Janson died in 1984, different family members ran the business. In 1996, they sold.
Since then, Janson’s has had a couple of owners, each of whom expanded the offerings considerably.
By the time Pettas and Ford bought the place, there were more than 100 items on the menu, Pettas said, yet much of the physical structure had fallen into disarray.
“We’re going to fix it up, make it look nice and give the customers the food they loved,” Pettas said.
Janson said while he and his brother were on site, consulting with Pettas and Ford, about 10 cars pulled into the parking lot, even though the eatery had been closed for more than a week. The would-be customers tried the door, then spied the notice saying Janson’s had closed but would reopen soon.
And when that happens, what was old will once again be new.