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Flip those flapjacks: Colonial Café celebrates 25 years
By Ann Piccininni | Daily Herald Correspondent

General Manager Diane Kruse and Colonial Café and Ice Cream both will celebrate 25 years in Naperville Tuesday when the restaurant offers pancakes for a penny apiece.

 

Marcelle Bright | Staff Photographer

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Published: 3/24/2008 12:09 AM

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If you've ever driven in Naperville -- or just sat in one of its legendary traffic jams -- you've probably seen a bumper sticker that says: "I Ate A Colonial Kitchen Sink."

On Tuesday, Naperville's Colonial Café and Ice Cream might want to offer a new sticker, something subtle like "I Ate More Pancakes At Colonial Than Anyone Thought Humanly Possible."

To celebrate its 25th anniversary in Naperville, the café is serving up pancakes from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. that day for just a penny apiece. Customers will be limited to a maximum stack of 25.

That's one shiny quarter for more pancakes than most of us can dream of consuming on the emptiest of stomachs.

"Pancakes are fun," said Colonial owner Tom Anderson, explaining the menu choice for the anniversary celebration. "You can have them for breakfast, lunch or dinner."

History lesson

There are seven Colonial Café restaurants in the St. Charles-based chain that has been scooping up its signature "kitchen sink" sundaes since 1976.

The Naperville restaurant opened in 1983 and demonstrated that both it and its gargantuan ice cream concoction have staying power.

That will be put to the test Tuesday, though, when the pancakes go on sale.

Diane Kruse, general manager of the restaurant at the corner of Washington Street and Gartner Road, says she and her crew are ready for the pancake panic.

Rumor has it, she says, that a group of 20 Naperville Central High School students are planning to pile on the pancakes for breakfast.

That's fine with Anderson, who's been around long enough to see just about anything that can happen in a restaurant.

He says his grandfather, Simon, started the chain in St. Charles and then passed the business to his son, Joe K., who passed it along to Tom Anderson. Tom's son, Clinton, is next in line to become Colonial's owner.

The stores sprung from a successful dairy business started by Simon Anderson in 1901. In 1958, the menu was expanded to include a variety of food choices, in addition to ice cream.

"Coffee used to be a nickel and burgers were 49 cents," Anderson said.

"Our menu has changed drastically," Kruse said. "It's huge."

While coffee, burgers and a myriad of other dishes have a faithful following, ice cream is still a major draw, especially in Naperville.

"We sell the most of all the units," she said.

One of the fixtures

Kruse, who started as a Naperville Colonial waitress in 1983, moved up to serve as general manager of Colonial stores about 15 years ago. She's been managing the Naperville store for 11 years, ever since the restaurant added seating for 80 more patrons, bringing the total seating capacity to about 290.

"I'm one of the fixtures," she said.

These days, she supervises a staff of about 50, including managers, waitresses, cooks and support staff.

She says she sees many groups of restaurant "regulars" come in, from business associates to friends to sports teams.

The restaurant, like the other Colonial locations in St. Charles, Aurora, Elgin, Algonquin and Crystal Lake, offers a program called Colonial Cares, whereby it helps community groups raise money for charitable causes.

"On a Colonial Cares night, we would donate 20 percent of our receipts (from customers involved with the fundraising group)," Kruse said.

It was one such fundraising drive that helped raise almost $9,000 for a new organ for St. Raphael's Catholic Church in Naperville.

She credits community spirit with the restaurant's continued popularity.

"It's so cool," she said. "You put back in the community what the community gives you."

Cool favorites

In addition to the Kitchen Sink, Colonial has been giving customers an array of sweet treats that include what Anderson calls a clear customer favorite, the Peanut Butter Fudge Chipper.

That's chocolate chip and chocolate ice cream drizzled with hot fudge and peanut butter sauce, and topped with whipped cream, a cherry and a Reese's peanut butter cup.

Others prefer the turtle sundae, he says, because it starts with vanilla ice cream and adds toasted, salted pecan halves, butterscotch caramel and hot fudge.

And then there are others who skip the ice cream altogether and head straight for the pancakes.

And pancakes will be in plentiful supply Tuesday.

"You have to eat what you order, because we can't let it go to waste," Kruse said. "If you're going to eat it, I'll feed it to you."