Bob Bong on Business: Sal’s Philly Steaks opens in Hickory Hills

Bob Bong on Business: Sal’s Philly Steaks opens in Hickory Hills

Sal’s Philly Steaks now open in Hickory Hills

Bridgeview resident Sal Bal is the man behind the scripted Sal’s sign that adorns four different Philly cheesesteak restaurants throughout the southwest suburbs.

Bal opened his first shop at 78th Street and Cicero Avenue near Ford City Mall around 2005.

In 2015, he made his first move to Justice.

“The rent was getting too high and the landlord didn’t want to negotiate,” said Bal, who decided to move the restaurant closer to home. “I grew up in Oak Lawn and wanted to come back to the neighborhood.



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“I didn’t want to sign another 10-year lease with yearly rent increases,” Bal said.

Sal Bal (left) and his wife Natalie stand in their newest eatery, Sal's Philly Steaks in Hickory Hills. (Photo by Bob Bong)

Sal Bal (left) and his wife Natalie stand in their newest eatery, Sal’s Philly Steaks in Hickory Hills. (Photo by Bob Bong)

He opened Sal’s Famous Cheesesteak at 8025 W. 79th St. in the shopping center at the corner of 79th Street and Roberts Road in Justice. It’s still there, but Bal sold it to his partner a couple of years ago.

He opened a second Sal’s Famous Cheesesteak shop on Harlem Avenue in Worth, but it didn’t last.

“It wasn’t a good move. The parking was not good,” Bal said.

Last year, he opened Sal’s Phillys in Homer Glen and a second Sal’s Phillys in Palos Park earlier this year.

“Those are franchised,” he said last week from the dining room of his latest entry, Sal’s Philly Steaks in a shopping plaza at 8609 W. 95th St. in Hickory Hills.

The new Sal’s is pretty much the same as any of the old Sal’s.

“They all have my signature specials and the same concept,” he explained. “I’ve been making them for 15 years. I have a good recipe and all the locations use my recipe.”

Sal’s Philly Steaks opened Sept. 17 and the response has been good, he said.

“We’ve gotten a warm welcome from the people,” he said. “The city has been very supportive.”

This Sal’s, like his earlier ventures, is a family affair.

“It’s me, my wife, Natalie, and my son, Ishmael” he said.

Bal said the new location has 12 seats for dining in and offers carry outs.

Bal said the best-seller is the Philly steak, but their extensive menu also includes hot dogs, hamburgers, gyros, grilled chicken and salads.

The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

For information, call 708-658-6137 or visit their Facebook page at Sal’s Philly Steaks.

Bal said this may be his last move.

“I’m going to try and stay here as long as I can.”

Eva’s Bridal closes in Oak Lawn

Eva’s Bridal of Oak Lawn, which came back stronger than ever after a devastating fire in 2010, announced that it would be shutting its doors.

Third-generation owner Ronia Ghusein said the iconic bridal shop’s last day would be Nov. 6 at 5269 W. 95th St.

A sister store in Orland Park, Eva’s International Bridals, will remain open.

Eva’s was opened in 1964 by Ghusein’s grandmother, Eva Sweis, in Chicago. The shop moved to 95th Street in Oak Lawn 36 years ago and its current location after the 2010 fire.

Meat company to close in Bridgeview

Colorado Premium announced last month that it would close its operation at 7661 S. 78th Avenue in Bridgeview and permanently lay off 109 workers starting Nov. 9.

Colorado Premium acquired the former Beudel Fine Meats & Provisions and Vlcek Fine Meats in Bridgeview in July 2014. The companies were leading distributors of meats and poultry to restaurants, hotels, casinos and country clubs.

No reason for the closing was announced.

Calls to the company’s headquarters in Greeley, Co., were not returned. Calls to the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union Local 1546 also were not returned.

Two former Con-Agra/Monfort executives founded Colorado Premium in 1998. The company markets a variety of retail and restaurant-ready beef, poultry and other protein products under its own brands and more than 60 private-label brands to customers in the United States, Central America, the Caribbean, the Philippines, Taiwan, UAE and more.

Cooper’s Hawk opens in New Lenox

Countryside-based Cooper’s Hawk opened its latest wine-themed restaurant in southwest suburban New Lenox.

The New Lenox location at 2307 E. Lincoln Highway is the chain’s 33rd restaurant. It’s located in a new development across the street from Portillo’s Beef.

The new location has seating for 303 guests and can accommodate private parties. It has about 170 employees.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

For information, call 815-320-7500 or visit

The chain was started in 2005 by CEO Tim McEnery. Other south suburban locations are in Burr Ridge, Oak Lawn and Orland Park.

McAlister’s Deli to open in Mokena

McAlister’s Deli has opened its second south suburban location in the Mokena Marketplace at Wolf Road and U.S. 30.

The Mokena location opened Nov. 2 at 11215 Lincoln Highway, next to the newly opened Nothing Bundt Cake.

Mokena will be the third location for a McAlister’s Deli operated by The Hari Group, a franchise development company based in Naperville. The first one is in Naperville and a second location opened in April in Orland Park’s Gateway Plaza at 143rd Street and LaGrange Road.

Ravi Patel, one of the co-owners, said McAlister’s has a large variety of sandwiches, salads and soups. It also has a menu item called Spuds, which is a large baked potato that can topped with a variety of items from black olives and jalapenos to grilled chicken and black angus roast beef.

McAlister’s is also famous for its iced tea, which can be regular or sweet or a combination. You can also get it mixed with lemonade.

Patel said McAlister’s will offer dine-in, carryout and catering.

The company started in 1989 in an old service station that had been turned into a 1950s diner by a film crew. It now has more than 400 locations in 28 states.

There are now 22 restaurants in Illinois and two in northwest Indiana in Schererville and Merrillville.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America. 

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

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His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.

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