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The fire which authorities determined was electrical in nature broke out in the early morning hours on June 13. The fire began in the rear wall of the building and the flames spread upward and traveled through the ceiling causing widespread damage.
DiStefano plans to quietly reopen The Dugout on Oct. 23. A grand-reopening ceremony may follow in a few weeks but he wants to get his feet back under him after being closed for over four months.
“It’s all brand new,” DiStefano said of the restaurant. “Only the outside bricks are the same. Every piece of insulation, every wire, all the equipment...it’s all brand new. It came out amazing!”
DiStefano is excited about a new drive-through window that has been added to the restaurant but other than that, don’t look for big changes. DiStefano said he plans to stick to the same game plan that made The Dugout so successful for the past 33 years. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.
DiStefano said he was at rock bottom in the immediate aftermath of the fire but was buoyed in the following days by the amount of well-wishes he received from the community.
“Everyone has been amazing,” DiStefano said. “Mayor Foy has been unbelievable. The whole city has been amazing. The outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming!”
Look for the same smiling faces behind the counter, DiStefano said that all the same employees will be there. “Everyone is coming back.”
The Dugout has built a loyal following of customers and has racked up a large number of glowing reviews since it first opened in 1984. Their pepper and egg sandwich was a favorite of legendary Chicago Sun-Times food critic Pat Bruno. Last year the restaurant was inducted into the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Hall of Fame.
“It’s been an amazing 33 years and I’m looking forward to another 33,” DiStefano said.