The Palace Grill is closed after a kitchen fire on Thursday that resulted in significant damage to the 86-year-old diner on the Near West Side.
Firefighters were called just after 10 p.m. to the diner at 1408 W. Madison Street, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford announced on X. After a preliminary investigation, it appears that the blaze began as a grease fire beside a grill in the diner’s kitchen. Though firefighters were able to extinguish it “relatively quickly,” they had to cut a hole in the roof to pour water on the flames, Langford tells the Sun-Times. Palace Grill was closed at the time and no injuries were reported, but interior damage is “extensive.”
Fire strikes the Palace Grill 1408 west Madison across from Chicago 911 center. Interior damage extensive but no injuries. Cause under investigation. Business established in 1938 pic.twitter.com/M4758Yzw65— Chicago Fire Media (@CFDMedia) February 9, 2024
Owner George Lemperis, whose family has owned Palace Grill since 1955, was stunned by the severity of the destruction, he tells NBC 5 Chicago. There’s no sense yet to how long repairs will take or what’s needed to reopen.
An old-school haven for nearly nine decades that’s served fans of Chicago Stadium and United Center, Palace Grill is seen by many as a pillar of Chicago diner culture. Founded in 1938, the restaurant bore witness to massive changes in its surrounding neighborhood and has served celebrities and politicians including Oprah Winfrey (she used to work nearby at Harpo Studios) and Al Gore (who shared a meal with then-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin). It’s also a longtime destination for Blackhawks fans and even players, who on several occasions have held Stanley Cup victory celebrations in the diner, which was draped in team jerseys, posters, and memorabilia.
As news of the fire circulated on social media, fans began to extend their condolences. “My thoughts are with George and his great staff with the brutal news of the legendary Palace Grill having an extensive grease fire,” Darren Pang, an NHL analyst and former Blackhawks goalie, writes on X.
My thoughts are with George and his great staff with the brutal news of the legendary Palace Grill having an extensive grease fire. I was there 2 days ago, showing the @NHL_On_TNT gang about it. I sent @NHLBarryMelrose picture of him still on the walls! @NHLBlackhawks pic.twitter.com/RGEu0RgyAe— Darren R Pang (@Panger40) February 9, 2024