January 18, 2017
9:01 am

Dino's Pancake House Ready to Roll

Dino Tripodis says he's almost completely worn out, but at the exact same time he is pumping on all cylinders ready to return his tradition of great roadhouse style cuisine to the market a little behind schedule but in tip-top form. He opens for business on Monday...the day after Christmas.

After more than two and a half years off-line...Dino and his crew are ready to put Dino's Restaurant & Pancake House back on the map and back in service for hungry fans who have missed his flair for breakfast and lunch in Michigan's Great Southwest since he closed up shop on St. Patrick's Day of 2014 to make way for Buffalo Wild Wings.

Just a couple clicks down the road, Tripodis' team has worked closely with his Chicago landlord, his architects at Tera Architects and the construction team at Pearson Construction to put the finishing touches on what he says will be a "true tribute to, and asset of the St. Joseph market." 

Dino has been overwhelmed by passersby who have stopped in during the renovation process at what had been the old Honey Baked Ham shop asking about specific menu items that he had featured for years at his former establishment, and says he was flabbergasted, and flattered as well, that they were so eager to get his cooking style back on their plates. 

The new Dino's opens Monday with a capacity of 160 seats both in booths and free standing tables. Knowing his customers' penchant for bringing the whole family or a group of friends, he made sure that a number of the booths are oversized, with seating for 6 and 8 people at a time. He says that the booth contractor,Tommy Shelef from Selected Furniture Company out of Knox, Indiana (a commercial seating manufacturer) did a remarkable job with Tera Architects in providing a "very comfortable atmosphere with a great color scheme and a very nice, modern, up-to-date appearance" that he is very proud of.

Tripodis had planned to be open considerably sooner, but ran into a delay when inspectors issued a state mandate for installation of a fire-suppression sprinkler system which required installation of a full 6-inch water line all the way from the Niles Road entrance zone to the back of the house at the restaurant. Nevertheless, he's "very excited to get the doors open" with a staff of two dozen or more people.

Dino says, for those who have asked, "Yes...all of your favorite dishes from the old menu will be very much in place and ready for your order." The new Dino's will be open 7-days a week from 7am until 4pm, although expanded hours "are not out of the question in the future, since we always carried a great selection of entrees from our dinner menu if we are able to acquire a beer and wine license, but time will tell."

The newly remodeled and expanded space will feature a strong Southwest Michigan feel in the decor with dozens of photos of St. Joseph and surrounding communities along a more than 70-foot wall and other areas of the restaurant giving the space "a real hometown flair and design." 

Tripodis is leasing the space from Chicago Lawyer and Developer George Hanus of Shopping Plaza, Inc. and GNH Developers. He says Hanus, who owns nearly 200 shopping plazas across the United States like the one in Southtown St. Joseph, was extremely gracious and very helpful in creating the changes necessary to build-out the new restaurant.

Contractors also integrated a very special window into the interior decor that Dino has had for more than 20 years from its original space in his South Bend restaurant in 1996. They were successful in blending the artifact into his new decor which Dino calls "absolutely beautiful, and guaranteed to impress" his customers for years to come. 

Dino's story is a true bootstrap lifestyle which started when he served as a bus-boy for his uncle's restaurant in Gary, Indiana at the age of 10. His uncle was the original founder of the Round the Clock restaurants of that era. His father gave up the life on an industrial painter to launch an Arman's Restaurant franchise and he went to work for him as a teen. After graduating from high school, Dino did what every other young man in town did, tried his hand in the steel mills, but decided in short order that it was definitely not the life for him, so he started Dino's of Michigan City in the late 80s and early 90s until he opened Dino's on Western Avenue in South Bend in 1996. He held onto that property until 2005 when he sold it out. Meanwhile, in 2004 he had purchased the former Nicholsen's Restaurant in Southtown St. Joseph and converted that into Dino's Family Restaurant until he sold it to Jones for the Buffalo Wild Wings.

With the pent up demand in anticipation of the return of Dino's offerings, everybody should plan to be patient and allow the crew to get settled back into a groove, and do yourself a favor -- if you're in some kind of grand hurry, wait a while before making a trip to the new Dino's to be fair to everyone concerned. You'll find them at 2080 Niles Road just off of the intersection with Hilltop Road in St. Joe. 
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