'Wonderful oasis': Dining pavilion opens in Woodfield Mall
While crowds gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Woodfield Mall's new dining pavilion Friday, Julian Toro of Miami, Florida, unwittingly found himself first in line at Blaze Pizza.
The food service company employee was fresh off the plane for a trade show at McCormick Place this weekend when he headed over to the mall from a friend's house nearby just to get a bite.
"I was the first customer!" he laughed over his pizza. "It's very good!"
For others, Blaze Pizza was the specific draw.
Brittney Wojcik of Palatine became familiar with the restaurant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she just graduated from college. She learned of its new nearby location only the day before.
"When we found out Blaze was coming, we were going to be here," she said.
Blaze Pizza and Maoz Falafel & Grill were the first of 12 potential tenants for the new, brightly lit space on the upper level of the mall's Sears wing. In addition to the eateries, the dining pavilion accompanies the first public restrooms and elevator in that wing, Woodfield General Manager Kurt Webb said.
Finishing touches were being put on a few other restaurants while Charleys Philly Steaks was already serving lemonades to visitors for the ribbon-cutting.
Sunny Ham, the partner for that location, said finding employees took longer than expected but that her restaurant will fully open next Friday, May 25.
That's also the date Suki Hana is aiming for. And Benjamin Brittsan, owner of Nic's Organic Fast Food, which has a location in nearby Rolling Meadows, said a June 1 opening is being promised but that his new site may also be open by next Friday.
Brittsan said such a densely populated part of the mall, coupled with the Whole Foods Market store nearby, makes it a good location for his restaurant and its distinct menu.
"It's new, it's invigorating and it's exciting," he said.
Dean O'Brien, director of operations for Blaze Pizza, said the pavilion was recognized as a perfect place for the chain's 14th Chicago-area site.
"What attracted us was the upscale nature of this dining pavilion," he said. "We were confident this could be a good location for us."
Schaumburg Economic Development Director Matt Frank said the new dining pavilion's quality-based mix of national chains and local flavor are what make it such a welcome addition to a destination already attracting 27 million visitors per year.
In his remarks before the ribbon-cutting, Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson referred to the dining pavilion as "this wonderful oasis in the desert of retail."
Other eateries on the way there are Wok A Holic and Chipotle Mexican Grill. Three confirmed tenants have not yet been announced, while space remains available for up to two more, Webb said.
Woodfield has already been home to about 30 other restaurants scattered throughout the mall.