Deerfield diner showcases owner’s passion for food and people
Kevin's Place owner Kevin Quigley is all smiles Saturday while interacting with his customers. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 31, 2012 11:56AM
DEERFIELD — Kevin’s Place’s glowing customer ratings on Yelp are evidence that the Deerfield diner is a popular place to eat in the area. This is especially true when one considers that Yelp’s reviewers are typically those that unabashedly condemn businesses under the safe cover of anonymity, sometimes truthfully and other times out of spite.
However, those that continue to share their thoughts about Kevin’s Place have helped it become one of the most-reviewed and highest-rated places out of 46 others on the site’s list of Deerfield’s restaurants.
And if plates like the “Crunchy French Toast” --- aren’t reason enough for customers to give the diner a five-star rating, the service is. Ask any Deerfield resident about what makes Kevin’s Place so popular, and he or she will most-likely answer “Kevin.”
During the week, owner Kevin Quigley efficiently and effectively balances the managing, serving, conversing and engaging. His ability to run the whole operation, while still maintaining the highest level of customer satisfaction is what captivates the community, and keeps them coming back for more.
“I put on a performance every day, and it’s always changing,” said Quigley. “Everything I’ve been trained to do (in performance) is fulfilled by my restaurant.”
Quigley began working at the diner—then known as the Cherry Pit—as an assistant manager when he moved to Deerfield from New York about 23 years ago, following a decision he had made to cease acting in pursuit of more fulfilling vocation.
The Cherry Pit quickly became his passion, and after about 16 years of hard work with the restaurant, he bought and officially re-established it as Kevin’s Place on June 19, 2006.
Kevin’s Place was named to fit what had always been from the moment Quigley stepped through its doors—this continues to be the case today.
“All my ingredients are fresh; I try to make diner food as healthy as I possibly can, and there are ways to do that and still enjoy diner food,” Quigley said.
First-time diners are encouraged to try the egg white omelets; any or all of the whole wheat, oatmeal or butter pancakes; organic chicken apple sausage; and the cucumber dipping sauce for lunch items.
Quigley’s diner was recently featured on Chicago’s Best show on WGN-TV as one of Chicago’s best family diners. The piece that aired had show host Brittney Payton coming to experience the diner that she had always heard so much about over the years. In the episode, she made the popular Crunchy French Toast and later gave it her seal of approval through mouthfuls of the toast afterwards, saying “It’s amazing.”
Payton said on the show’s website that she “loved” some of the lunch items with the diner’s special cucumber dipping sauce.
The Crunchy French Toast and the cucumber dipping sauce are two items Quigley knows keeps his diners coming back, though he realizes that a large part of his customers’ satisfaction comes from his service.
“It’s a feeling of warmth and family here; they come in as a customer and leave as a family, and that’s what I want for the diner,” Quigley said.
Quigley is happiest when he’s inspiring the younger and less confident members of the community to develop their self-esteem, social skills and positive outlook on life through classes he holds at the diner called Survivor Island. He’s held similar courses at the local schools in previous years, and has changed the lives of students who felt incapacitated by either their disabilities or their insecurities.
Kevin’s Diner made headlines again earlier this month when CBS 2 News aired a short interview it did with Quigley and 8-year-old Wilmot Elementary School third-grader Eden Chaban regarding their efforts to help fill up the West Deerfield Township Food Pantry with more food and sundries.
Their effort, called a Guy, a Girl and a Bench, was hatched when Quigley was making his usual rounds at the diner and saw that Chaban, who was a regular that often came to eat with her family, looked sad.
When he found out she was upset because she had seen that the food pantry was empty on a school field trip, Quigley felt it would be good for him to help her start an annual event to change that.
As a result, Quigley and Chaban collaborated to form a second annual collection event for the food pantry around the holidays, to dovetail off of the annual 3 Guys and a Truck event that collects at the Deerfield High School track in the summer for the same purpose.
Quigley, of course, helps with that one too.
A Guy, a Girl and a Bench took place on Nov. 24 and 25, and had Quigley and Chaban collecting donations at the bench in front of the diner.
“The community will always have me here because they believe in me so much, because I believe in them and their children,” Quigley said. “There’s no other place I’d rather be.”