The Flaming Grill Buffet has been extinguished for good.
Taking a page from the Robert Irsay playbook, the owners of the Chicago Ridge restaurant left town for good about two weeks ago without a word to anyone.
“They’re gone. They disappeared in the middle of the night,” Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said. “It’s very peculiar.”
Irsay, the former owner of the Baltimore Colts football team, required a fleet of moving trucks in 1984 to move his team and its possessions out of the city under the cover of darkness to its current home in Indianapolis.
The Flaming Grill’s departure wasn’t quite so elaborate.
Tokar said he received a phone call from Chicago Ridge Commons management informing him that the embattled restaurant had closed.
“Can you believe it? After all the nonsense they put us through,” Tokar said.
While the Flaming Grill Buffet left the premises without reason, the Hibachi Grill and Grand Buffet in Orland Park was evicted in early March by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office for non-payment of rent, a sheriff’s spokesperson said.
A notice of code violation in the entrance window said Flaming Grill was cited for “nuisances regarding premises.” Specifically, the notice said, the restaurant had an overflowing dumpster and the area around the dumpster had to be cleaned.
But it seemed things were looking up for the Asian-American buffet in recent weeks, Tokar said.
Management apparently resolved the issues village health inspectors had raised in recent months, and the village board recently approved the business license transfer required when the restaurant changed hands.
The saga between the village and Flaming Grill, 101 Commons Drive, has gone on for several months. The village threatened to close the restaurant late last year after it did not pay several months’ worth of food and beverage taxes it owed the village. Restaurant owners also failed to appear at numerous village hearings regarding the taxes.
The sanitation issues were identified by village health inspector Rich Ruge who said he was concerned with the way the Flaming Grill has been conducting its day-to-day operations and ticketed the restaurant in January for some sanitation violations.
Ruge said he made a routine inspection on Jan. 15 and saw some things he didn’t like and gave the restaurant officials time to conform. But when he returned on Jan. 20, the restaurant was still “not following the best-case practice for Chicago Ridge.”
He wouldn’t get specific on what he saw but said “it was nothing severe that would cause us to close it down.’’ He said he identified some sub-par sanitation practices that required immediate attention. When he conducted a follow-up inspection, the restaurant had not rectified the problems and Ruge issued a ticket, he said.
The buffet, which served a mixture of Japanese and Chinese cuisine, opened in the former Old Country Buffet location. The restaurant also features American food, desserts and a hibachi grill.
Tokar said Chicago Ridge Commons management will attempt to fill the space, which might be difficult because it features three dining areas.
“It’s an opportunity for some restaurant to come in there,” the mayor said.