Maple Tree Inn Reopens At New Site After Fire

Bernie Tafoya
February 12, 2020 - 5:17 pm
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HOMEWOOD (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A popular New Orleans-themed south suburban restaurant destroyed by fire 18 months ago has been re-born in a new location. 

The ribbon was cut Wednesday for the new Maple Tree Inn at 18849 S. Dixie Highway in Homewood.

Owner Katie Wennberg’s father first opened the restaurant 45 years ago.

“I’m so thrilled to be here, just to be in this town and be so welcomed by everyone,” she said.

Erich Wennberg remembers the fire that destroyed the restaurant; he lived above the place.

“We awoke to no power, the smoke detectors are going off, 20 foot flames above the roof line at the rear of the building,” he said.

It’s a different story now: “We are absolutely thrilled.”

He says he and his wife wanted to re-open before Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras. On Fat Tuesday, Maple Tree Inn will have the Joliet-based 10-piece brass band, The Big Lagniappe.

The restaurant is known for its live New Orleans-style music and even for bringing in bands from NOLA.

Maple Tree Inn New Location
Owners Erich and Katie Wennberg (WBBM NEWSRADIO/Bernie Tafoya)

The new Maple Tree Inn has the same vibe as the old, Wennberg said, with most of the same employees. Many have been with the eatery more than 10 years.

Wennberg says the employees had told him from the start they wanted to be with him when the place re-opened. He says he was able to help find temporary jobs for many of them in the interim.

The more than 100-year old bar from the former location on Olde Western Avenue in Blue Island is still being renovated. It sustained a lot of smoke and water damage.

“I want to maintain the historical significance of that bar. It's served hundreds thousands of people over 100 years.”

Wennberg expects to close down for a while in early summer to have the old bar installed in the new location.

He says customers can expect all their old favorites – including hickory butter barbecued shrimp and Creole jambalaya -- and some new ones on the menu.

Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld took part in the ribbon-cutting.

“We’re delighted to have the Maple Tree Inn here. They’ll be very, very successful, and they’re an absolute pleasure to work with.”