50 years and counting for the Village Squire in West Dundee

A community fixture in West Dundee is marking a half century of hospitality at the corner of Washington and Second Street downtown this month.

The Village Squire is celebrating its 50th anniversary of being “a good place to be since 1974.”

Karas Restaurant Group managing partner Bob Karas said the restaurant, opened by his dad and uncle, holds a special place in his heart and the hearts of community members because of its longevity.

“People tell me they got engaged here or had their first date with their wife here,” Karas said. “They’ve had celebrations, post-funeral luncheons. No matter what we’ve always delivered. Good food, good service, value for the price.”

  The Village Squire is celebrating 50 years in business in West Dundee. Rick West/

The Squire, as it’s known colloquially, has a number of promotions and events planned as part of a monthlong celebration.

A ribbon cutting is set for 11 a.m. Thursday, May 16, with lunch specials featuring flashback pricing until 2 p.m.

A limited-time menu with anniversary specials starts Monday and runs through the end of the month. And since May 1 the Squire has been giving each table of guests one of 5,000 golden envelopes, each featuring a surprise reward including a free appetizer, a percentage off the bill, and a $100 gift card.

The 50th anniversary celebration will take place from 5 to 9 p.m. on May 30 with special offerings and entertainment.

Greg Mardin was the original chef for the Village Squire when it opened in 1974. Courtesy of The Village Squire

The West Dundee mainstay was opened by Greek immigrants Paul and George Karas, Bob’s father and uncle respectively, who bought the business in 1974. Parts of the building date back to 1958.

“It was a dirty, dark place with peanuts and shells everywhere,” Karas said. “They had to close it for two months to clean it up and get rid of the rats.”

  Bob Karas and the Karas Restaurant Group now have 16 restaurants, but it all started with the Village Squire in West Dundee, which is celebrating 50 years in business this month. Rick West/

Karas was four when his dad and uncle bought the restaurant. He says his oldest memories of the place involve going there to eat when he was 6 years old.

“I remember because I was a big kid so I liked to eat, and I would always order a steak, a New York strip,” he said. “Later I found out that my dad would go back and tell the chef to give me a butt steak because it was cheaper and I wouldn’t know the difference.”

He started working there busing tables when he was 10.

“My dad would bring me in during the summers and I’d work lunch,” he said. “I didn’t know anything but it was great and it helped me learn how to talk to people and helped shape me.”

The Village Squire in West Dundee got an addition in 1989. Courtesy of The Village Squire

Following the brothers’ success in West Dundee, they opened a second Squire in Crystal Lake in 1979 and then one in McHenry in 1981. They added on to the West Dundee restaurant in 1989. Bob Karas and his sisters, Eleni Karavasis and Despina Karas, opened the South Elgin location in 2005, where Despina Karas serves as managing partner.

The Squires are now part of a 16-restaurant group that includes seven Rookies All-American Pub & Grills, two Alexander’s Cafes, Old Republic Kitchen + Bar and Rookies Rochaus. Squire Alehouse is scheduled to open in Campton Hills in the fall.

While many members of the big Greek family have gone on to other careers, Karas said everybody who grew up with that last name has worked at one of the group’s restaurants at some point in their lives.

“They all want to, it’s your family. You want to work with them, it looks fun, it looks cool,” he said. “It’s not,” he added laughingly.

By the time he was in his early 20s, Karas had more or less taken over the day-to-day responsibilities from his dad, providing him an opportunity for a working retirement.

“I’m glad I was able to give that to him,” he said. “He was still there daily — he would come in, eat some soup, yell at me, count the money and then go the bank and have lunch somewhere else.”

Paul Karas died in 2019.

“It would have been great for him to be able to see this,” Bob Karas said.

Paul Karas immigrated to America from Greece in 1961. His brother, George, joined him years later.

“No money, no English, not a word,” Bob said of his dad. “They worked their way up and learned. This place is a great legacy.”

  The Village Squire is celebrating 50 years in business in West Dundee. Rick West/
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