Editor’s Note: Cafe Wheaton is now Muldoon’s.
Ah, Wheaton. The town of my youth. Birthplace of evangelist Billy Graham, and comedians John and Jim Belushi – giving the place a bit of Heaven and Hell dynamic. Wheaton is the seat of DuPage County and home to Wheaton College, where you’ll get kicked out for having premarital sex, drinking or even dancing (although square dancing is permitted – whew!) Downtown Wheaton, where Café Wheaton is located, is quite picturesque with its colorful awnings, old-fashioned street lamps, and historic storefronts. Café Wheaton blends in nicely with its surroundings, while offering thirsty patrons a chance to have a beer, some good food and watch the game in what is also Wheaton’s only pub-status restaurant.
Café Wheaton is located in a red brick building at the corner of Hale and Front Street, and is easily spotted with its green awning and white “CW” logo. Front Street, paved with brick, separates the Café from an area with flowers, wooden benches and a white fountain. The railroad tracks run parallel to Front Street, and the Wheaton Metra stop is located one block west – making Café Wheaton rather accessible from downtown Chicago.
Step through the handicap-accessible entryway with its double wooden doors and past the old-fashioned gas tank now converted into a gumball machine. There you’ll be greeted by a friendly server who’ll direct you to the room of your choosing: the front room with tables and booths, or the back room with elevated tables surrounding a smallish, wooden bar enclave. I suggest asking for one of the black vinyl booths along the west side of the room unless you’re there just for drinks. Both rooms are adorned with pictures of Old Wheaton and a dark green, pressed-tin ceiling, giving the atmosphere a unique Wheaton feel. There is also a large panel listing all Wheaton mayors, past and present.
Café Wheaton opened its doors in the early 1990’s, which is significant because it became the first pub-status restaurant in Wheaton’s history. And that history goes back to 1832, when Wheaton was founded. The opening of Café Wheaton ended a dry spell of over 160 years. In fact, Wheaton itself was a dry suburb up until the late 1970’s, and was only outlasted by Evanston. The bar itself offers a smattering of tables and a few televisions. Seating around the bar is almost completely blocked off by a wooden partition and hood hanging from the ceiling. Café Wheaton has gone to great lengths to make the bar area as innocuous as possible, perhaps to prevent civic leaders from regretting their decision to let Café Wheaton serve booze.
The menu offers a variety of mouth-watering American classics, like baby-back ribs, hickory smoked grilled steak sandwiches, tropical chicken-walnut mélange, angel hair pasta in a Vodka marinara sauce, Chicken Thomas (sautéed chicken breasts in a cream sauce with artichoke hearts, mushrooms and white wine), portabella mushroom sandwiches, and sirloin steak. All the food there is excellent, and none of it is that expensive.
Much of downtown Wheaton has been converted into brick condos, attracting a lot of younger people and other business, giving the area more of a downtown feel. Even though this is a recent phenomenon, Café Wheaton fits right in offering its upscale pub and grub. Franklin Middle School parents, teachers and alumni will appreciate that every Monday at Café Wheaton is “Bulldog Monday,” where if you identify yourself as a Bulldog supporter, Café Wheaton will donate 10% of your bill to the school. Perhaps due in part to the Café Wheaton’s success, the owner has recently opened the Egg’lectic Café located one block north where the Round the Clock restaurant used to be, and kitty corner to the old Cock Robin. This new Café offers patrons a more upscale atmosphere to the greasy diner that preceded it.
While the Café Wheaton bar is still the only pub-status restaurant in Wheaton (serving all 55,000+ residents), there are now several restaurants that serve alcohol. However, the Café Wheaton is one of the best because of its friendly atmosphere, excellent food and its support of the community; it’s an All-American restaurant for an All-American town. The Wheaton Brothers, whom first settled there, would be proud.