Big Willy’s Italian Beef is bringing Chicago to Eastown. The new restaurant opened last week in the former The Pita House location and is serving a selection of Italian beef sandwiches, Vienna Beef Chicago and Polish dogs, and Italian sausage.
Diners can also get hand cut fries and gluten and dairy free Italian ice drinks in strawberry, lemon or mango flavors.
Will Karadchy, who owns Big Willy’s along with his wife, Valerie Karadchy, said it was important to him to bring authentic Chicago food to Grand Rapids.
“I’m from Chicago and I grew up eating it,” Karadchy said. “When my parents moved us up here there was nothing like that and I missed it.”
Karadchy said Big Willy’s sources its bread, meats and other items directly from Chicago, giving it its authentic moniker. “It’s very authentic. Big Willy’s is the same as going to a place in Chicago,” he said.
“It starts with the bread and the giardiniera made in Chicago that we bring in. Our dogs are from Vienna Beef in Chicago. Vienna Beef is the only meat you use to make a Chicago dog, same with the Polish dog. We use poppy seed buns, just like Chicago.”
This is the second restaurant for the Karadchy’s. The pair also owns the Windy City Grille, 5751 Byron Center Ave. SW, across from Metro Health Hospital in Wyoming. They opened that restaurant in 2009.
“I’ve had this concept in my mind for the last four or five years,” Karadchy said. “I felt like it would work better in Eastown or downtown Grand Rapids. There are a lot of Chicago transplants that live in the area so that is why we felt that concept would be perfect there.”
Karadchy’s been biding his time, waiting for the right location to come available, and it seems like his patience paid off.
“We’ve had a monster first week. It was unbelievable,” he said.
The restaurant has an urban and industrial feel with a fast, casual concept. Customer orders are taken at the counter and the receipt number is called when the order is ready. Big Willy’s menu items cost under $10.
Customers can dine-in or carry out. The restaurant seats up to 30 patrons and is looking to expand its seating to accommodate up to 50 people at a time. It is also working with the city to add outdoor seating.
Big Willy’s is located at 1450 Wealthy St. SE.