So regular are the regulars at Georgious Family Restaurant in Burbank that owner George Pappas can name the time of month by scanning the faces in his booths.
If the Crazy Ladies are here, it's the third Tuesday of the month. If the Square Posters are around, it must be the second Wednesday. If it's the Lions Club, it's the second Tuesday.
The Counter Rats, though, sidle up to the counter daily to discuss "sports, politics and a lot of BS," said Pappas.
"We came here to beautify the area," "Rat" John Talty, who emigrated from Ireland in 1958, before Burbank incorporated, said with a laugh. "It was just Stickney Township then." He works as a bricklayer with his son and fellow Rat, Kevin.
Twelve miles southwest of the Loop, Burbank is witnessing a second generation of homeowners. Many, like Kevin, are children of the first arrivals, who were Irish or German, while newcomers include Hispanics and Muslim immigrants. Most of Burbank's families are Catholic, so it's no wonder the Taltys' church, St. Albert the Great, is the hub of activity.
"Blue-collar and hard-working" is how Mayor Harry Klein defines this Cook County city of about 29,000 people.
"The old German in me says we must keep it financially strong," he said. "We can't cut vital services, and we can't spend money we don't have."
In the 20 years he has been mayor, his greatest accomplishment has been maintaining the city's infrastructure, which in turn helps maintain property values, he said.
Burbank offers South Siders a "suburban but urbanized" city, said Klein. Homeowners enjoy quiet, tidy neighborhoods without venturing too far into suburbia. Maintaining a strong police presence at the high schools and community events is a priority, said Klein.
Although Burbank lacks an old-fashioned downtown, it has a collection of chain stores at the Burbank Town Center and mom and pop restaurants and taverns on its main drags.
Instead of heading into Chicago to eat out, many residents stay close to home for favorites like the Voodoo Margaritas at Chuck's Southern Comforts Cafe, Big Baby hamburgers at Kojak's and pizza at Little Frank's Pizzeria.
Georgious stays open until 9 p.m., "but if you're still here at 9, we're not leaving," said Pappas.
Burbank is one of Chicago's youngest suburbs. It was part of unincorporated Stickney Township until it incorporated in 1970 to avoid annexation by Chicago.
"Instead of being a small fish in a big pond, we wanted to be our own city," said Klein.
Before that, it suffered a series of false starts, with housing developments that didn't materialize because of the city's flooding problems. The creation of the South Stickney Sanitary District in 1952, though, enabled the area to experience a surge of development.
Burbank's name honors the city's namesake, American botanist Luther Burbank. The name has nothing to do with its better-known cousin in California, said Klein, "but we did have the mayor of Burbank, Calif., in our 25th anniversary parade."
Things to do
Chicago is next door, but residents who want to stick around on weekends can choose from a variety of family-oriented activities.
The Burbank Chamber of Commerce hosts an annual golf outing and a luncheon for the high schools' top scholars. It co-hosts an Independence Day party with the Burbank Park District.
The park district sponsors a Halloween party, Winterfest, breakfast with Santa and the Frosty 5K Run.
Deep in the heart of White Sox country, Burbank's parks host kids' baseball and softball leagues.
"If you can find it — because it's hidden — the favorite park is Harr Park, where we have a walking path with fitness equipment built in," said Beth Gelecke, recreation supervisor for the park district.
In the summer, residents cool off at Stevenson Park, which features a swimming pool and water park. The park district has been awarded a $2.475 million state grant to help pay for the construction of an addition to the Stevenson Park Recreation Center, which will include a fitness center and gymnasium.
Haunted Trails, on Harlem Avenue, is a popular year-round family entertainment center and birthday party magnet, with its go-karts, kiddie roller coasters, miniature golf courses, batting cages and arcades.
On Nov. 11, the community will observe Veterans Day with a program that begins at the Veterans Memorial on State Road and Melvina Avenue and winds up at the Prairie Trails Public Library at State and Moody Avenue.
Residential streets are a patchwork of 1950s tri-levels, ranches and Cape Cods, with teardowns scattered throughout. Brick construction is the rule here, per South Side tradition.
Recent sales range from a 2008 two-story brick home that sold for $400,000 to a 1950s teardown candidate that sold "as is" for $45,000, said Realtor Ann Patellaro of Century 21 House of Sales in Burbank.
Most of the multifamily housing consists of the three-flats that line its main drags.
"Many are owned by one family member and rented to others in the family," said Klein.
Homebuyers who compare municipal tax rates in the area buy in Burbank, said Klein. The 0.759 rate beats rates in many nearby towns, he said.
To commute to Chicago's Loop, residents can pick up the Orange Line at Midway International Airport, which is a mile to the north along Cicero Avenue. Seven Pace bus routes crisscross Burbank, while Interstate Highway 294 is easily accessible.
Burbank School District 111 includes public schools for K-8. These schools feed into Reavis High School in Burbank.
St. Albert the Great School (K-8), Queen of Peace High School and St. Laurence High School — all in Burbank — serve the city's Catholic population.
Burbank is also home to AERO special education cooperative, which serves several area school districts.Copyright © 2015, CT Now