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EXCLUSIVE: Glenn Leaves Glenn’s Diner

By Mike Fourcher | Friday, November 2, 2012

In a March 2012 review, Victoria Wiedel said, “Glenn’s Diner almost lives up to its promise of the ‘best food in the world’.” Credit: Victoria Wiedel

“I’m absolutely light as air because I’m not in a law suit, and I’m absolutely devastated because I had to give up my restaurant.”

Glenn Fahlstrom, 60, creator of the eponymous Glenn’s Diner, 1820 W. Montrose Ave., has relinquished his ownership stake and cut all ties with the popular Ravenswood diner and seafood restaurant in order to terminate a long-running lawsuit with his one-time silent partner Larry Jones. Fahlstrom says the suit ruined his personal finances and the settlement, which requires him to leave the restaurant, was his only choice.

“I’m utterly devastated and heartbroken here. But I’m finally free of the lawsuit with my partner,” Fahlstrom told Center Square Journal. “I had to give up my restaurant to fix my finances and to avoid personal bankruptcy.”

The long-time restauranteur restaurateur, who claims a stint in the Playboy VIP Club kitchen and back-of-house experience in a string of Lettuce Entertain You restaurants, had his first ownership stake with Desire, a cajun spot on Old Town’s Wells St. Later he owned the Davis Street Fishmarket and the Belmont Harbor Fishmarket in the 1980′s, which provided him an experience that ultimately inspired Glenn’s Diner.

After the Fishmarkets closed, Fahlstrom returned to his original love, acting and directing. A classically trained actor from the Goodman School of Drama (now the Theatre School at DePaul University), Fahlstrom performed at the Victory Gardens Theater and the now-closed Body Politic Theater through the 1990′s. Eventually finding fewer roles as he aged, Fahlstrom went back to the restaurant business.

“I wanted to make an amalgam of what I liked to eat, like diners, and I had a great knowledge of seafood from my seafood background with Belmont Harbor [Fishmarket],” said Fahlstrom.

That brainstorm led to the famous wall of cereal boxes (“We’re probably the only cereal wall in the country,” said Fahlstrom), for the restaurant that quietly opened in 2005. But by 2008 it was a raging hit with an appearance on The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and long lines every weekend night.

Despite the success, Fahlstrom says he and his silent partner, Jones, never really got along and the feuding got worse as the years passed. Then in April 2009, Jones filed suit against Fahlstrom for undisclosed reasons, which taxed Fahlstrom personally and financially.

“I’d be walking around tables talking to people, with people saying ‘Hey, this is great! Good for you!’ and then at home I’d be wondering how I’d pay the bills. All the money went to the legal bills,” Fahlstrom said this afternoon.

“Once you get involved in these things [legal suits], it’s almost impossible to extricate yourself. Mounting fees, hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“I ran out of money. I didn’t have the money any more. The dichotomy of owning a successful restaurant and seeing my finances go down was stressful to say the least.”

Jones has taken control of the restaurant, Fahlstrom says, and he plans to take a few months off. What then?

“I’m going to open another restaurant, you can count on it,” said Fahlstrom. “The exact same thing.”

But a somewhat different name. Because the legal settlement doesn’t allow him to call it “Glenn’s Diner”.

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  • Mitchel Byrne

    Wishing Glenn the best of luck! I’m sure he will do fine!

  • markus

    Never liked you, Glenn. Good riddence.

    • http://www.facebook.com/april.metler April M Metler

      I think you meant good riddance. And I hope you’re joking.

  • Alea

    Glenn, Thank you for employing me for these last 6 years. You’ve been like a father to all of us- front and back of house. You created an amazing restaurant but not only that a family. You are sorely missed. Not everyone understands your methods but we know that you compassionate nature gave us each chance after chance and for that we sing, “For He’s the Jolly Good Fellow!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/jose.raygoza.127 Jose Raygoza

    suerte ,amigo que te valla bonito cuidate

  • siobhan

    Glenn you are a gentleman. Good luck to you

  • Bill

    Glenn thank you. For employing so many people that have become such very good friends for the past six years thank you so very much. Keeping so many people employed in the same restaurant for so many years is every rare and it speaks volumes as to the type of man/friend/boss you are. Thank you for not letting us leave when we wanted to, taking us back when we left, and for keeping us around when you wanted to let us go. Thank you for a restaurant so many people loved so much they would come over and over again and put lots and lots and lots and lots and lots money into our pockets. Thank you for your interest in our interests, be it acting, playing the clarinet, writing music, making jewelry, painting, doing hair and makeup and everything else that we all have done while working for you all this time. From your dream we have been able to build on dreams of our own and for that thank you Glenn.

  • hotfive

    It never seems like it ought to be so, but the word is spelled “restaurateur”–without the N.

    • vouchey

      Right you are! Fixed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mallorygillikin Mallory Gillikin

    Count me as one person who will be frequently the new Glenn’s – I just hope it stays in the Lincoln Square/Ravenswood area! Sad to see that Glenn couldn’t even keep his own name and all of the positive word-of-mouth that goes along with it. Judging from the comments here, his staff will follow him to the new restaurant and the old Glenn’s Diner will survive on its former reputation as long as it can.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Diane-Wageslave/100000996834102 Diane Wageslave

    I won’t ever go back to Glenn’s Diner. What a negative experience for his partner to cast on this.

  • Joan Nienajadlo

    Hi Glenn. Back in the day you knew me as Joanie Woods. My husband and I have owned and operated a restaurant in Northern Wisconsin for the last fifteen years. I understand the blood, sweat and tears it takes to run one. My heart goes out to you. If you’re ever in the northwoods of Wisconsin, stop by and see us, the restaurant is listed on my facebook page.

  • Catherine

    I totally get what you are going through – been through it myself. There are people out there that are just plain mean and angry and are never happy until they personally destroy the lives of others. Shame on all of them. By the way Karma really does have a way of working its way around in so many good ways. I am sure it will make its rounds to you in the hopes of making things right. Good Luck to you and your future!

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.metler April M Metler

    i can’t believe this! i never thought i’d see the day… what a same! you better count on me following Glenn and his staff wherever they go. i hope the new restaurant opens soon!

  • Brian

    Damn- one of the best places in Ravenswood for sure.
    Not sure I will frequent with new owners, too much bad blood. Good luck Glenn

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1142629063 Michael Dionis Rammer

    Love your diner. Can’t wait for your new restaurant where you can reap the rewards you deserve.

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