Got yak? Wild Fork meat market would also offer wild boar, ostrich in Vernon Hills

  • Rendering of the new Wild Fork, an upscale meat market, and Heyday Med Spa, offering therapeutic massages, proposed for the redeveloped former Denny's restaurant near Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills.

    Rendering of the new Wild Fork, an upscale meat market, and Heyday Med Spa, offering therapeutic massages, proposed for the redeveloped former Denny's restaurant near Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills. Courtesy of village of Vernon Hills

  • A plan to convert the former Denny's restaurant near Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills into two commercial spaces is under review. Wild Fork, an upscale meat market, and Heyday Med Spa, offering therapeutic massages, are the prospective tenants.

      A plan to convert the former Denny's restaurant near Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills into two commercial spaces is under review. Wild Fork, an upscale meat market, and Heyday Med Spa, offering therapeutic massages, are the prospective tenants. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/28/2022 8:58 AM

A former Denny's restaurant in Vernon Hills could become home to a new business offering wild boar, yak and other specialties.

As proposed, the familiar sit-down restaurant at 890 Milwaukee Ave., on the perimeter of Hawthorn Mall, would be renovated and expanded to create two new tenant spaces.

 

The pitch from a company called Gateway 9 LLC calls for two growing national brands to occupy the redeveloped space.

Wild Fork, an upscale meat market, would be on the north end of the building, and Heyday Med Spa, offering therapeutic massages and health care products, would be located to the south.

Gateway wants to build a 490-square-foot addition at the southeast corner to create a total of 6,200 square feet of available space. The redevelopment also calls for a new roof, HVAC equipment and curbing, a complete landscape upgrade, a resurfaced parking lot and new LED lighting.

The facade at each main entrance would feature fiber cement siding on the walls with a decorative metal canopy over the doors. New windows also are planned.

"When they're done it would look like a new building," said Mike Atkinson, community development director.

These would be the first locations in Vernon Hills for Wild Fork and Heyday Med Spa.

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Wild Fork is a meat and seafood market offering a large selection of high-quality frozen meats and specialty foods including ground wild boar, ostrich or yak, bison hot dogs, and New York strip steaks, elk medallions, and alligator tenderloins.

According to its website, the company wants to "transform the way we shop for and consume meat." By controlling the steps in the "farm-to-fork" process, Wild Fork says it can offer a large, consistent, high-quality selection.

The beef is from Nebraska and Colorado, aged in a climate-controlled environment for 17 days and blast frozen to preserve flavor and tenderness.

A Wild Fork recently opened in Mount Prospect and is included in a proposed development under review in Buffalo Grove. It also has stores in Skokie, Evanston and Chicago.

Heyday is in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and other regions and is targeting dozens of metro areas including Chicago, according to the website.

The company advertises as "a one-stop skin care shop with facials and routines crafted by experts who believe in healthy habits, not quick fixes."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Both potential tenants have contingencies based on village approvals, said Diane Menza, representing Gateway 9.

Village officials unofficially support the idea of redeveloping the Denny's building and property for new commercial uses.

Detailed plans will be reviewed by the village staff in advance of a public hearing before the advisory plan commission, possibly in six to eight weeks.

Denny's closed a year or so ago and is within sight of an ongoing $252 million repurposing of Hawthorn Mall to include a mix of new retail and 563 luxury apartments. That work could be attracting businesses that may not otherwise have been interested in the area, Atkinson said.

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