Des Plaines’ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church transformed into Mediterranean restaurant, The Foxtail On The Lake Opeka

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DES PLAINES, Ill. — For close to 70 years, the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Lake Opeka in Des Plaines was a place where the community could receive the Lord’s Table. Now the 15,000-square-foot building is home to The Foxtail On The Lake, a modern Mediterranean restaurant serving brick chicken, beef shawarma and paella.

“We kept the original lights and we kept the original stained glass,” said David Villegas, a managing partner at The Foxtail On The Lake. “We also have a piece of the altar that we kept and that we’ve placed over the host stand.”

Growing up near the church, Villegas admired the shiplike shape of the building and would often ride his bike on its surrounding trails. When he heard there was a possibility the structure could be razed, Villegas began to dream that the building could continue to serve the community as a dining establishment.

“That’s when I decided to jump into action,” Villegas said. “I knew what was missing here.”

Villegas joined forces with restaurateur Tim Canning and Chef Maya Nahouli to import the menu and concept of Downers Groves’ The Foxtail to the new location. With his partners and with the help of a grant and tax rebate from the city of Des Plaines, the year and a half long renovation of the religious center began, adding a 5,000-square-foot patio and 3,000-square-foot kitchen.

“I didn’t know how much work it would entail, coming into this building, but it’s truly a work of art,” Villegas said. “Now it’s alive, and it’s rolling.”

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The Foxtail On The Lake seats 210 inside the restaurant and another 115 on the patio. Colorful art, brass trim and green plants accent what was once the sanctuary.

“This has been a word-of-mouth situation that has just exploded on the scene,” Villegas said. “Everybody in the community has been well receptive, and the neighboring communities have been drawn into our space.”

Villegas said that The Foxtail On The Lake means everything to him. Grateful for having grown up in the city of Des Plaines, he’s proud to be able to bring this concept to his old neighborhood and his family.

“It means that I can look my children in the face and tell them that everything is possible,” Villegas said. “That if you follow your dreams, this could really happen.”

Villegas hinted that this may not be the last time his group reinvents historic locations destined for demolition. He said he understands the impact Good Shepherd Lutheran Church had in the city, and hopes Foxtail On The Lake does the same in the building’s newest incarnation.

“This congregation was a blessing for nearly 70 years in the city of Des Plaines,” Villegas said. “We look forward to being a blessing to the community through incredible memories that are built here for the next 70 years.”

For more information on The Foxtail On The Lake, visit thefoxtailonthelake.com.

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