Apple Villa Famous Pancake House & Restaurant, in Hoffman Estates and Batavia, uses a marketing slogan that speaks to the core of the business: “Breakfast, the best meal of the day, at any time of the day.” Pancakes, eggs, omelettes – you name it. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Apple Villa has built a solid reputation on its breakfast menu. “It’s what sets us apart,” says co-owner Andy Spentzos, who, along with his brother, Peter, has run the business for the past eight years.
The menu features German, Swedish, chocolate chip and gold rush pancakes. There’s a pancake flight, which includes a sampling of s’more, turtle and brownie pancakes, and Georgia pecan pancakes, loaded with pecans inside and out, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with whipped butter. A seasonal favorite is pumpkin pancakes, sprinkled with candied pecans. “All batter is made in-house, and we have separate batter for each pancake,” Andy explains. “We don’t add the ingredients to pre-made batter. We physically make the batter.”
It seems everyone knows about Apple Villa’s oven-baked apple pancake, made with crisp Granny Smith apples and pure cinnamon glaze, which can be served ala mode. The apple pancake is so popular, it can be purchased frozen and shipped anywhere in the country. “If you can bake a pizza, you can make one of these,” says Andy.
In addition to pancakes, the menu includes a full range of omelet and skillet breakfasts, lunch items such as burgers, grilled chicken breast sandwiches, salads, wraps and long-time favorites like tuna melts, French dips, BLTs and club sandwiches.
The Spentzos grew up in the restaurant business; their parents ran Chicago eateries for years, and Andy started bussing tables at age 14. After college, he spent five years working for a major corporation before joining the family business. “It’s a good fit, and I always wanted to be in business with my brother,” he says. “In this business, you get to meet a lot of nice people.”
Along with good food, one of the most important elements of any successful restaurant is an inviting atmosphere. This fact isn’t lost on the Spentzos brothers. Apple Villa restaurants have a simple, clean décor – tables and booths surrounded by earth tones. A pleasant hostess is stationed at the front door and customers are met with prompt customer service. “We try to make it feel warm, like you’re at home,” says Andy. The Hoffman Estates location is popular with business folks who work at nearby companies. The Batavia restaurant, which has a 60-seat private dining room, is packed with shoppers who visit nearby retailers.
“We’re always making adjustments,” Andy says. “It’s very important to adjust according to your guests’ tastes. I equate it to stock car racing. You have to know what the competition is up to so you don’t fall behind. It’s important to go the extra step and pay attention to the customer’s needs.”
While pleasing customers is a given, the Spentzos believe it’s equally important to treat staff members well. That includes their mother, Bessie, who helps out wherever she can. Many of their employees have been on board since Apple Villa first opened. “Our staff is an extension of our family,” Andy says.
Consistency, after all, is critical to any restaurant’s success.
“You always know here what you’re getting, and we keep doing that, over and over, without changing the quality,” Andy says. “The only two things I have to offer are food and service. If I can’t do those right, I’m not going to be in business for long.”
Apple Villa Famous Pancake House & Restaurant has locations at 1961 W. Wilson St. in Batavia, and 3101 N. Barrington Road in Hoffman Estates. ❚