FOR OVER 43 years, the late Fred Majewski presided over his service station on the corner of Green Bay Road and Spruce Street in Winnetka. Majewski and his old Mobil station may be gone, but they won’t soon be forgotten, as Fred’s Garage—a restaurant with a decidedly car-friendly vibe—opened on the same spot in late September.
Robert LaPata, Joe Krouse and Fred Gale, who also own the much-loved Ten Mile House and DB3 Donuts in Evanston, couldn’t turn down the prime North Shore location, but they wanted to honor the history of the spot. “Our partner Fred Gale said, ‘No way!’ but he got overruled,” LaPata says with a laugh. “We loved the name because it tells our new neighbors exactly where we are. It just works.”
Designed by Chicago’s OKW Architects, the space pays homage to the classic American service station. There’s an industrial feel to it, with plenty of metal elements and antique gas station memorabilia. They’ve kept part of the original Fred’s, now the kitchen and bar, and added a dining room complete with two rolling bay doors that will open in good weather. In place of the pumps is a spacious, covered front patio, while indoor seating is a riff on vintage ’70s sedan bucket seats, and the host stand is made of old toolboxes.
Executive chef Michael Luth (of Dusek’s, and Garage Bar in Louisville, Ky.) not only created a menu from the ground up; he also finds time to make all the pickles, kimchi, pasta and sausage in-house (especially impressive since he has an infant at home).
His updated comfort food hits the mark. Get your engine running with a vegetal High Octane cocktail ($10), made with Hendrick’s gin, muddled cucumber, celery bitters and lime. Move on to the addictive Asian-style wings ($10), which are tossed in a mixture of tamarind and fish sauce, garlic, chive, serrano and sesame seeds, with just the right bite. The crispy salami croutons (yes, you read that right) on the Garage Salad ($14) are like meat crack, and the Hokey Poké ($14) pairs cubes of fresh raw tuna with compressed cucumber, puffed forbidden rice and sweet soy to great effect. The fried chicken and biscuits ($20) is a must-order dish.
The chicken is marinated in buttermilk and hot sauce for two days, then dusted with potato starch and cornstarch, and fried to a shatteringly crispy crunch—still extra-juicy inside—and drizzled with burnt honey, then served with creamy chorizo gravy and a tender buttermilk biscuit. Diet be damned!
Pastry chef Amanda Warren, who does double duty at Ten Mile House, offers a deeply flavorful carrot cake ($6) with candied carrots, walnut brittle, golden-raisin and pineapple jam, rich cream cheese icing and a scoop of candied-ginger ice cream.
Mark your map and pay a visit to this reborn filling station. Though not a low-calorie proposition, the food merits repeat fill-ups.
574 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, 847.496.3733
Starters, $8-$16; salads, $12-$17; sandwiches, $12-$16; mains, $16-$30; desserts, $6-$8