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Resurrected Red Poppy Bistro to open in strip mall spot on South Randall Road – Chicago Tribune

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Just months after they closed their last Elgin dining venture, Matthew Habib and Jennifer Polit are planning to resurrect The Red Poppy Bistro — this time as a strip mall restaurant in South Elgin.

The couple is taking over the 322 S. Randall Road location last occupied by Honey Berry Pancakes and Cafe, which opened in January 2021 and closed in November 2023.

“It was dumb luck that we found this space,” Habib said. “Now we’re shooting for an opening in early May.”

Work is underway to convert the former Honey Berry Pancakes and Cafe at 322 S. Randall Road in South Elgin into the new Red Poppy Bistro, which was located in downtown Elgin from 2020 to 2022. (Matthew Habib)
Work is underway to convert the former Honey Berry Pancakes and Cafe at 322 S. Randall Road in South Elgin into the new Red Poppy Bistro, which was located in downtown Elgin from 2020 to 2022. (Matthew Habib)

The decision to open a new restaurant — their first not to be in downtown Elgin — was made shortly after they closed their third downtown business, Rogue’s Corner pizzeria at 109 E. Highland Ave., in late January. Rogue’s Corner was in the same space as the previous incarnation of The Red Poppy Bistro had been.

At the time Rogue’s closed, Habib cited two reasons — his recovery from injuries suffered in a November car accident in Wisconsin and chef/kitchen manager Jon Kiley being diagnosed with cancer and needing to undergo surgery.

While Habib continues to receive therapy and treatment, he’s been able to do some work and their chef is able to return to kitchen, Polit said.

“(Matt’s) a trooper. He’s been keeping active and helping out,” she said.

The move will mean operating in a significantly larger and newer space. Whereas their downtown location could seat 40, this one will accommodate up to 100, Habib said. And while their downtown building dated back to the 1870s, this one started out as a Panera Bread store.

Jennifer Polit and Matthew Habib are taking another stab at the restaurant business, resurrecting The Red Poppy Bistro, which had been in downtown Elgin, at a new location on Randall Road in South Elgin. (Matthew Habib)
Jennifer Polit and Matthew Habib are taking another stab at the restaurant business, resurrecting The Red Poppy Bistro, which had been in downtown Elgin, at a new location on Randall Road in South Elgin. (Matthew Habib)

“This space was built to be a restaurant,” Polit said.

With a kitchen four times bigger than the one they had been working with, Habib and Kiley will be able to offer more menu options. They plan to make bread, paczkis and beignets fresh daily, Habib said.

As was true with the original, this version of the Red Poppy will retain its ties to Habib and Polit family recipes, reflecting Polit’s Polish and German roots and Habib’s mother’s experience as a French pastry chef known for pot pies.

“It will be like home cooking from scratch, which is a lost art form — even something like mashed potatoes,” Polit said.

The new business will be open seven days and week and will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also plan to offer alcohol and hope to present occasional live entertainment, they said.

Habib and Polit’s first foray into the Elgin dining scene was in 2016, when they launched Legit Dogs & Ice as a food truck business and then opened inside Dream Hall at 51 in downtown Elgin the following year. The business closed in 2019.

It was followed by The Red Poppy Bistro, which was open from 2020 through 2022, and then Rogue’s Corner, which opened in May 2023 and closed eight months later.

Habib estimates he’s spent about $100,000 on labor and renovations at the series of restaurants over the last few years.

They’ve been able to keep going with the financial support of developer Andrew Cuming and his wife, Britta, who own the Highland Avenue location and continue to back the couple at their South Elgin location, Habib said.

“We have no money, but they are willing to take a risk with us,” he said.

Jennifer Polit and Matthew Habib are taking another stab at the restaurant business, resurrecting The Red Poppy Bistro, which had been in downtown Elgin, at a new location on Randall Road in South Elgin. (Matthew Habib)
The menu at the new Red Poppy Bistro in South Elgin will be similar to the one the owners had when the restaurant was in downtown Elgin, focused on family recipes, home cooking and from-scratch methods. (Matthew Habib)

For his part, Andrew Cuming said the couples are friends as well as business partners.

“I like their food. I like the restaurant industry,” Cuming said. “This will be a great place for people to enjoy.”

Randall Road traffic should help draw customers, he said, parking will be more convenient and it’s in a location where people are accustomed to looking for places to eat.

Habib admitted he’s a bit terrified by this latest endeavor and making sure there’s a return on the investment.

“What has been reassuring is all the support I found on social media when I recently posted about the move. We’ve had quite a positive response, a tremendous outpouring,” he said.

Mike Danahey is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.



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