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Avalon Restaurant is 'Cheers' of Gurnee

Patricia Bellefeuille works on a crossword in her usual spot Feb. 1 at Avalon Family Restaurant's coffee counter.
Patricia Bellefeuille works on a crossword in her usual spot Feb. 1 at Avalon Family Restaurant's coffee counter.

GURNEE – All the world's problems are solved at the coffee bar in Avalon Family Restaurant, said server Jill Stadelmeyer.
"It's like Cheers [the television show]," said Stadelmeyer, who has worked at Avalon for 24 years. "We talk and solve things – we have every sport and political issue figured out."
Snowy roads didn't stop regular customer Patricia Bellefeuille, of Gurnee, from coming in for coffee and a crossword puzzle Saturday. Bellefeuille comes to Avalon, 4821 Grand Ave. in Gurnee, for weekly meetings with old friends, coworkers, and takes her granddaughter and friends in for breakfast after they have sleepovers. 
"I favor the liver and onion and chopped steak," Bellefeuille said as Stadelmeyer refilled her coffee.
Pete Souferis, who's co-owned Avalon with partner Peter Evagelou for 11 years, said Avalon has been owned by his family almost 40 years.
When the Petes took over, "We pretty much tried to maintain the same standards. We made changes to the menu and cosmetic jobs. I think we have good food, good service, a clean place and try to be good to our customers," Souferis said.
Open 24 hours, Avalon attracts long-time Gurnee residents, Warren Township high schoolers, Exchange Club members, judges, retired teachers and others in the community.
"We always get people who know what's going on in town," Souferis said. 
Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik enjoyed the local eatery on Saturday, saying, "Isn't it great to get out in the community?"
Many of the staff members have been at Avalon for more than 10 years, which is rare in the restaurant industry, Stadelmeyer, of Zion, said. She's known some regulars as long as she's worked there, and they're like a second family.
"I've waited on people since they were in high school, that got married, went to college, had babies," she said. "It can be packed in here, but for my regulars I don't even have to go to the tables. I already know what they want. I get their soups, I get it all - it makes everything run so smoothly."
Stadelmeyer said having students stop by from Warren High School is always a treat.
"We get a ton of high schoolers in here and they're so well-behaved," she said. "They play cards, they pay, they tip. It says a lot about the high school that you don't dread the tables of teenagers."
The staff and regulars are so close that they attend each other's baby showers and even share a holiday drink when Avalon closes at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve each year, she said.
Server Antonio April said Peter Evagelou is like a father to him.
"He's like the dad I never had," April said. "He looks out for me, gives me advice, helps me whenever I need it. [Avalon] is my comfort zone."
April, of Waukegan, has worked at Avalon for 15 years alongside many family members. "At one time, there were seven of us [from my family] working here," he said.
Jeff Kephart and his wife Phyllis Kephart, of Grayslake, shared a weekend breakfast.
"We come here once a week - the service is outstanding," Jeff Kephart said.
Phyllis Kephart said the staff doesn't bring them menus anymore, because staff members know what the Kepharts want. 
Before they married, they'd come to Avalon with work outings, Jeff Kephart said. They look forward to coming each week, seeing the servers and other regulars and knowing they'll enjoy the food.

• If you go
• ❥ What: Avalon Family Restaurant, 4821 Grand Ave., Gurnee
• ❥ When: Open 24 hours, seven days a week
• ❥ Information: Call 847-244-0777

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