by Susan O’Neill
A chalkboard sandwich sign in the doorway announces the breakfast and lunch specials at the Hinckley CafÃ©. The cafÃ© is not open for dinner, but owner Nicole Weissenborn said she would like to try that again at some point.
For now, the cafÃ© is open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Breakfast is anything from a cup of coffee to a home-baked cinnamon roll, eggs, pancakes, meat and potatoes or an omelet. Lunch features a variety of soups, sandwiches and other dishes.
Nicole and her husband Tim have lived in Hinckley for five years. Tim grew up in Naperville, where the couple lived when they where first married. Nicole grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in the Homewood/Flossmoor area. She said Hinckley reminds her a bit of what Homewood was like when she was growing up.
â€œYou know your neighbors; the people who live on your street,â€ she said. â€œPeople talk over the fence and have dinner together.â€
Nicole said she likes the idea of a community cafÃ© where people can gather. She and Tim do a lot with the community. The children from the pre-school come in to the restaurant and put on plays. Last Halloween, they served treats and the children sang songs.
Once a month, the restaurant offers dinner and a movie, and serves a kid-friendly meal. She makes special dinners for the holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
â€œIt’s more than just a restaurant,â€ she said. â€œI want it to be the heart and center of Hinckley.â€
When Nicole and Tim were living in Naperville, Nicole had a full-time job at an insurance company. She also had a part-time job as an assistant food and beverage manager at the Village Greens of Woodridge Golf Club, where she did a lot of the catering.
Tim, an architect, always did a lot of research on homes and neighborhoods in the general area. One day he found an Arts and Crafts home located in Hinckley on the Internet. Knowing she loved that style of house, he brought her out to look at it.â€œI walked in and started to cry,â€ Nicole said. â€œHe had to buy it for me.â€
The day they signed on the house, Nicole was laid off from her full-time job. The cafÃ© had been there for years, and had been empty for a time. When she saw the â€œfor saleâ€ sign, she thought about how much she loved what she did at the golf course.
She said they almost didn’t go through with it because of the economy. In the end, however, they decided it was â€œnow or never.â€
Two weeks after they signed the lease, she found out she was pregnant. She laughed as she recalled painting the ceiling when she was six months along.
They opened the restaurant in May 2008. The farmer regulars begin coming in at 6 a.m., she said. They play cards as they eat breakfast before they head out to the fields. Some come back for lunch.
The Goerlichs were the longest-term owners of the restaurant, from the 1950s to the 1970s. She said they gave her many of the old recipes, such as the famous lentil soup Goerlich made every Tuesday. It was his mother’s recipe from Germany, made with frankfurters.
â€œHe’s welcome in my kitchen anytime,â€ she said. â€œHe comes in about once a week.â€
She tries to make things from scratch; her cinnamon rolls and brownies are a favorite. She said sometimes a farmer will bring her apples and ask her if she will make a pie. Her sister and her cousin work with her, and there are two cooksâ€”Nicole herself and Aaron Clark, a local resident.
She said they have begun to do a lot of catering, for weddings and the recent holidays.
â€œI’ve gotten to know so many amazing people,â€ she said. â€œIt’s really changed my life.â€
116 W. Lincoln Highway, Hinckley