Iconic restaurant Port Edward sails into new era 60 years after opening

The seafood restaurant got a makeover, but strong legacy of late founder remains

Some impactful changes have been made to the longstanding downtown Algonquin restaurant Port Edward.

Its dark wood walls are now a bright white, many mirrors reflect the Fox River and clutter is out of the way after 50 years without a revamp.

These renovations breathe new life into the establishment, Port Edward owner Ziya “Z” Senturk said.

Senturk took over the seafood restaurant after founder Edward Wolowiec, known as Mr. Ed, died in 2022 at the age of 92.

The iconic sailboat, windmill and all of Woloweic’s artifacts remain; the place just needed to be “rejuvenated,” Senturk said.

The designs come from Senturk’s wife, Tulay, and his niece, Nuray Oksuz, who is an architect based in Turkey. It all started when Oksuz was having dinner at the restaurant and said the place needed to be brighter and freshened up, he said.

“She said it was too old and too rustic looking,” Senturk said. “This is now giving folks an inviting and welcoming feeling.”

Some rooms of the 14,000-square-foot restaurant still are in need of upgrades, but Senturk expects everything to be completed by Port Edward’s 60th anniversary in June.

Edward Wolowiec, founder of Port Edward Restaurant in Algonquin. Provided by Brett Christophersen

“I promised (Wolowiec) I would carry his legacy for as long as I can,” Senturk said.

The restaurant was built by Wolowiec in 1964 and an addition was constructed in 1973, Senturk said.

All the updated designs were made with Wolowiec in mind. There is even a sign that hangs at the kitchen entrance that reads, “What would Edward think.”

“I still say Mr. Ed owns it and I run it,” Senturk said. “Having him in my head and my heart keeps me going.”

Keeping the historic bones of Port Edward was important for restaurant staff since everything in the building was repurposed by Wolowiec.

The wood on the walls is from old buildings, including three McHenry County barns, and the windmill was saved from demolition on a nearby farm, said Scott Puckett, a food and beverage consultant and longtime friend of Wolowiec. The tables were made from a World War II ship named the USS Liberty and some of the seating comes from old churches.

The walls still are filled with Wolowiec’s artifacts, from his own artwork to harpoons, but now they stand out more against the white walls, Senturk said.

Port Edward owner Ziya Senturk shows off pictures and history of late founder Ed Wolowiec. Michelle Meyer/Shaw Media

Senturk, who started working at Port Edward about eight years ago, describes Wolowiec as the creator and himself as the implementer. Senturk has worked in the restaurant industry since he came to America when he was 17 years old and has owned restaurants in Marengo and Woodstock.

“Z brought in so much and came in during hard times,” Puckett said. “He’s a big part of why the restaurant is still here.”

Now Senturk hopes the revamped interiors will get more people to return to the restaurant and “rekindle an experience.” It’s not unusual to see four generations of a family at a table and people celebrating anniversaries at Port Edward, he said.

And that is the most satisfying for him.

“Anyone who walks through this door is like a guest to our house,” Senturk said. “Now they come into Ziya’s Port Edward.”

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