I love breakfast food. It is my favorite meal of the day. Omelets, pancakes, waffles, you make it. When I heard about the new, recently opened Irene’s Diner, located in the Chicago neighborhood of Northcenter, I knew I could not pass up the opportunity to try it out.
Chef Noah Zamler
Irene’s Diner first opened this past October in 2022. It is a neighborhood dining gem that presents the traditional diner, while adding modern components. Chef Noah Zamler has elevated your typical diner menu classics, while putting his own twists on dishes. Examples include an array of house made breakfast and lunch plates, a variety of Benedicts, carrot cake pancakes, smoked salmon Benedict, Short Rib Grilled Cheese, Fried Chicken Sandwich, and much more, establishing Irene’s as Chicago’s finer diner.
Diners at Irene’s enjoying breakfast
Irene’s is led by three hospitality veterans who bring 20 years of industry experience – Petros Papatheofanis, Noah Zamler and Cristian Mendoza. Irene’s pays homage to co-owner and partner, Petros Papatheofanis, whose family owned and operated the space from 1986 until 2012.
Irene’s offers tables and cozy booths for dining
“This space has a lot of sentimental value to me, “ says co-owner/partner Petros Papatheofanis. “Growing up as a kid, I remember going into work with my family and the incredible aroma lingering from the griddle with my Dad, who passed away in 2000 when I was 11. Since then, it has been my dream to get involved and open a restaurant in the exact location he did. I’m excited to bring back those memories, and offer the neighborhood a new go-to spot where residents of all ages can enjoy and find something they like for breakfast and lunch.”
Family photographs and art decorate the walls at Irene’s
Guests can look forward to breakfast and lunch favorites seven days a week, with a selection of homemade bread, pies, fresh donuts, and more. The menu is curated to feel approachable and offer something for everyone. For those looking for a health-conscious option, Irene’s offers an array of skillets and a section dedicated to salads. Perfect for families with little ones, Irene’s expansive kid’s menu features a variety of healthy and hearty options. For the beverage program, Irene’s has coffee from Passion House Coffee Roasters, fresh juices made in-house and a selection of smoothies. Pies from neighboring Bang Bang Pie Shop provide delicious dessert options as well.
Old-fashioned food product containers are on display around the diner
What makes Irene’s Diner the “finer diner” is the family-oriented mindset and quality food that is locally sourced and house made, including the chorizo, bread and jam. The entire space feels very homey once you step inside. All of the local food and ingredients used for the menu are from the area, including good quality eggs and meats from Slagel Family Farm.
The dining room showcases large booths, a small counter space and subway tiled floors, evocative of old-school retro diners. Photos of the restaurant in its previous iteration are on display throughout the space, as a tribute to Petros’ family. Not only is the diner decorated with old photographs of past and present family members and art by family, the walls and shelves display items from the past such Mrs. Butterworth’s Syrup bottles, old-fashioned margarine and butter boxes, and Carnation Malted Milk containers from family basements. The walls are painted with calming yellow that makes the small dining space bright and charming.
The Farm Raised Slagel Burger
When my friend and I dined at Irene’s for breakfast, we met with Matt, one of the owners, and he explained that while the diner contains history in the space, there is new history as well, which was apparent with recent, additional family photographs and art/collage made by his wife.
The service was outstanding at Irene’s. We did not need to wait long to be serviced once we were seated at our table. Our server brought my friend decaf coffee, which was aromatic and fresh, without his needing to request it (the server heard it during our conversation).
The menu itself listed a wide array of delicious breakfast and lunch items, so it was difficult to choose what to order and try. We wanted to sample the entire menu! In the end, my friend had the Farm Raised Slagel Burger (double quarter pounder, cheddar, special sauce, shredded lettuce, pickles, onion) with a side of crinkle fries. He loved the perfectly cooked and juicy beef. The fries were delicious-crisp and not greasy. For myself, I ordered the Breakfast Burrito, complete with scrambled eggs, potatoes, black beans, pico de gallo, chihuahua cheese and a side of breakfast potatoes. The burrito was very flavorful and satisfying. The portion size was huge and I felt very satisfied after consuming half of it. Since the burrito itself already had potatoes in it, I think that a side of fruit would have sufficed instead of more potatoes.
Irene’s Finer Diner is now one of my favorite Chicago diners. It respects all of the details of a classic diner, while also bringing along contemporary, new and healthier aspects, which results in a successful dining spot to visit, meet new people, have great conversation and eat amazing food. No wonder Irene’s is considered “the finer diner.”
Photos: Jennifer Lunz
For more information on Irene’s Finer Diner, please visit the website, email in**@ir***********.com or call (872) 272-0303.
Irene’s is open seven days a week for breakfast, and lunch from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm Monday through Friday and on Saturdays/Sundays from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm. The neighborhood spot is located at 2012 W Irving Park Road.