Ariston Cafe likely will have new owners by mid-July

The historic Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, Illinois, is under contract to have new owners by mid-July after the Route 66 establishment belonged to the same family for more than 90 years.

Marty and Kara Steffens, co-owners of the Maverick Steaks & Spirits restaurant in Litchfield, are scheduled to take over the reins of the Ariston by July 10, give or take a few days.

Current Ariston co-owners Nick and Demi Adam’s last day will be June 30. Nick Adam said during a telephone interview Saturday afternoon he chose that time because it is the end of the fiscal year and when its annual liquor license comes due. The Adams also traditionally have closed the restaurant for vacation in early July.

“It’s bittersweet,” Nick Adam said of the pending sale, “but I’m thrilled because I think it’s going to the right people.”

Nick Adam began working at his father’s restaurant in January 1966. Pete Adam, a Greek immigrant, founded the restaurant in Carlinville, Illinois, in 1924. The Ariston relocated to  Litchfield in 1935, where it’s remained since.

It’s remains on the National Register of Historic Places and the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame. The Ariston contains historical touches, including well-maintained wooden booths, counter seating and neon signs.

“When I started work on the restaurant, my dad was 75, and I thought he was too old for it then. And here I am, and I’ll be 80 years old in August. It’s time,” he said.

Marty Steffens grew up in Litchfield, and Kara grew up in nearby Staunton, Illinois. They’ve operated Maverick Steaks & Spirits since 1998.

Kara Steffens, who spoke by phone Saturday afternoon from the kitchen of the Ariston, said she and her husband pursued buying the restaurant for “a few months.” The Ariston officially went on the market in fall 2014. Kara declined to reveal the purchase price.

Kara said little would change at the Ariston and that the couple will continue to also run the Maverick.

“Truthfully, we’re not here to reinvent the wheel,” she said of the Ariston. “Nick and his family have done a great job with this place, and it’s a Route 66 tradition. We are going to come in and further we he’s done all these years.”

Kara said one likely change would be opening the Ariston for more “traditional” hours. The restaurant is closed Monday and Tuesday, with dinner-only hours Saturday.and lunch-only Sunday. She said she hopes to eventually open the Ariston for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

Those who wish to greet the Adam family at their restaurant have about a week to do it. Word of the sale apparently has filtered into parts of the community.

“I can’t go anywhere without people crying and hugging,” Nick Adam said. “Father’s Day was rough, because I realized it probably would be my last one there. I’ve cried a lot in the last few weeks. We’ve had a lot of people we’ve known over the years, and I’ve hired the grandchildren of our customers.”

(Hat tip to Rich Henry; image of the exterior of the Ariston Cafe by Maggie; image of the interior of the Ariston Cafe by Stu Rapley)

3 thoughts on “Ariston Cafe likely will have new owners by mid-July

  1. Great food, awesome people who actually care for their customers. My wife and I have been there a few times when we have traveled Route 66. Nick Adam always would talk to us and we felt like family eating there.

    We will miss them on our next road trip…

  2. This is a bittersweet occasion, indeed. It sounds like the Ariston will come into good hands. God bless Nick & Demi as they embark upon their well-deserved retirement. May their Golden Years be many and happy.

  3. We have been to the Ariston MANY, MANY times over the years. It was always perfect! We loved the owners, we loved the soup, we loved the décor and the ambiance…it was PERFECT! While we wish the new owners the best (and will continue to visit) this is a VERY hard act to follow. Places like the Ariston are really special and deserve to last forever…Ann Parker and Willie Spoden

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