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A Cheesesteak Whiz Returns to Lincoln Square 17 Months After A Devastating Fire

Monti’s is back in business with a new pickup window

A man waves through a sliding window under a red awning.
Monti’s Cheesesteaks has reopened on Talman.
David Weissner

Nearly a year and a half after it was destroyed by a fire, Monti’s Cheesesteaks, a piece of Philly in Lincoln Square, has moved back and settled into its former location at Talman and Lawrence with almost its entire staff and menu intact.

The fire and subsequent remodel (covered by insurance) gave owner David Weissner a chance to give the restaurant a few much-needed upgrades, mostly to infrastructure, like wiring, and a few adaptations to the COVID-19 era.

A ladle drops melted cheese onto an open cheesesteak sandwich on a metal tray with a pile of fries.
The cheesesteaks remain the same.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

The official move-back-in-date was October 28, a little more than 13 months after the fire, but it took a few months for Weissner and his staff to get completely settled in. They’d spent their year of exile doing takeout and delivery from the Rockwell Food Center, a ghost kitchen in North Center, and the experience made Weissner realize how necessary those elements were to restaurants in a time when people have been more cautious about dining out.

“We did very little delivery before,” he says, “but [a cheesesteak is] definitely good comfort food. It travels well and reheats well.” So the new-model Monti’s has a separate delivery window where drivers and takeout customers can pick up orders without having to go inside the restaurant. There are also three dedicated parking spots outside.

Interior of a storefront dining room with tables in the foreground and a bar to the right, with liquor shelves and TVs behind it.
The bar was redesigned to make room for the takeout window.
David Weissner

Aside from the window, though, and the bar, which is now straight instead of L-shaped, Weissner did his best to make the new Monti’s look as much like the old Monti’s as possible. Between the bar and the tables, the space has room for 48 diners. “If people had a favorite table,” he says, “it’s in the same spot.” The most significant change is the decorations on the wall. All the old Philly memorabilia was destroyed, and Weissner is still replacing it. He’s most excited by a replica of the Robert Indiana “LOVE” statue that lights up when the doorbell rings and a rotating triptych mural of Philly scenes, but he’s also accepting donations of college pennants.

The cheesesteak and hoagie offerings are also unchanged, and there are still fries, wings, and other bar snacks, but when he was redesigning the kitchen, Weissner decided a pizza oven would take up room that could be better used for the preparation of cheesesteaks, Monti’s key product, and jettisoned that part of the menu. “Pizza made up three percent of total sales,” Weissner says with a laugh. “And now everyone who walks in the door says they ordered at least one pizza a week for, like, forever.” To appease that clientele, Weissner plans to start serving flatbreads, as soon as the operation is fully up and running.

Overall, though, both Weissner and his customers are glad that Monti’s is back. “It’s good to be home,” Weissner says.

Monti’s, 4757 N. Talman Avenue, Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Monti's

4757 N Talman Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60625 Visit Website

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