If you had the chance to go back in time and cruise into a drive-in burger joint circa 1963, do you see yourself in a Chevrolet Impala, Corvette Roadster, 210 sedan or a Corvair Monza convertible?
It doesn’t matter what kind of car you drive, as a community member or a passer-by, Graffiti Grill owners Dan Rogers and Mike Popp and their families will welcome you with open arms and serve you up a signature ’55 Chevy burger with cheese.
Graffiti Grill, a new local eating establishment at 715 Rockland Road, Lake Bluff, is named in honor of the 1973 George Lucas film American Graffiti. The restaurant harkens back to the era of 1950s and 1960s cruising and rock ’n’ roll culture popular with baby-boomers. Like the film, the restaurant seeks to evoke a nostalgic portrait of the teenage years and the iconic drive-in burger/hang-out joint.
“My dad has always wanted to open a restaurant,” said Kellie Rogers, grill manager and daughter to owner Dan Rogers.
“He has always loved to grill,” she continued. “He loves to make burgers, and we thought it would be great to have something like this (locally) to get burgers and fresh sandwiches in the area and come and sit with your family.”
Though the restaurant looks freshly built from the ground up, it is actually a renovated version of the building that housed the Rogers' family-owned landscaping business dating back to 1954.
With a future intention to host vintage car gatherings and other theme-related events, the Graffiti Grill is born of Dan's love of the 1950s and ’60 s era.
“I came to my partner with the idea and he liked it. We gutted the (existing) building on nights and weekends with the help of friends and family. It just came together. We wanted the theme to be cars and music, but not have it turn into a 1950s train-wreck with a bunch of 1950s objects all over the place,” said owner Dan Rogers.
Surrounded by a number of eateries, Graffiti Grill is unique amidst its neighbors.
“We don’t feel like there is anyplace around this part of Lake Bluff or Knollwood where you can get an ice cream cone,” said Kellie Rogers. “We think we have something to offer that is different. We are not trying to compete with anyone. We want to be different. Our burgers are hand-packed. The food is not pre-packaged. It is all fresh.”
Serving ice cream from a local dairy, working with a local coffee roaster who will help them create their own blend of coffee, custom made build-your-own sandwiches, hearty salads, and big ol’ signature juicy burgers, Graffiti Grill offers the kind of food you might imagine in the bygone era of the drive-in diner but suited for a modern palette.
Offering many sandwich options, the kids can order a traditional grilled cheese and the adults can order the “Grown-Up Grilled Cheese,” which boasts brie, bacon and apple on grilled sourdough.
Do not be fooled, the burgers are the main attraction. Big, juicy and paired with options like perfectly crisp sweet potato fries, the burgers are hearty and satisfying.
Chef Jever Saravia, who has worked locally for over 10 years, helped Graffiti Grill come up with its signature burger. “My specialty is burgers. He (Dan Rogers) wanted a good burger and I said, ‘I think I have the recipe!’ ”
“We are so excited to be part of the community. That is the biggest thing for us,” added Kellie Rogers. “We want to be a community place where families come.”
Open in the morning for breakfast and at midday for lunch, Graffiti Grill is considering the future.
“It's a family restaurant. We are not currently doing dinner or serving alcohol. We want it to be a place where you can just be with your family,” said Kellie Rogers. “We are totally open to changing up the menu. We are taking a lot of input from our friends and family and community members. We are always open to new ideas. Our coffee cups are mismatched. Our silverware is mismatched; all in keeping with a retro feeling.”