TINLEY PARK, IL — Tim LaFreniere points out the second-floor window of his workplace, to the spot he used to hold a lemonade stand as a kid. Near both the fire station and the Metra parking lot, it was a prime location for dealing Dixie cups of the sweet drink on a hot summer day—savvy entrepreneurs, he and his cousins.

Now the Tinley Park High School alum finds himself chasing another business dream, alongside fellow Tinley Park native and head chef Chris Gagner. The two are commanding the kitchen—and crafting the menu—at downtown Tinley Park’s newest brewery Banging Gavel Brews, 17400 Oak Park Ave. With backgrounds in various restaurant scenes, the pair share a desire to make Banging Gavel—and Tinley Park—a destination spot.

With its home in an historic building smack in the middle of a downtown both hold dear to their hearts, it seemed an opportunity neither could pass up.

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“For me, this was my first shot at running the whole kitchen,” Gagner said. “I jumped on that right away.”

LaFreniere “has been staring at this building being built-out for six or seven years,” and can still picture the building depicted on village stickers throughout his childhood.

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For both, it’s bringing their love and passion of culinary arts right back home. The two pride themselves on fresh ingredients and unique dishes, prepared in a less-than-traditional kitchen where space is limited and everything runs on electric. There’s no grill, no deep fryer, no flat-tops.

Housed in the historic Vogt Building, opening a brewery and restaurant in the space came with challenges, including tighter spaces for chefs. It’s a different kitchen setting than both were used to, and each took a different path to get there. Victor J. Andrew High School grad Gagner started cooking in college, where he got a degree in graphic design. He went on to gigs at 3 Floyds Brewery in Munster, Indiana, Maple Tree Inn in Homewood, Creative Cakes in Tinley Park, and Off Square Brewing in Crown Point, Indiana. But it was his time at 3 Floyds that brought things into focus.

“That’s where things kinda set in,” he said. “‘This is what I’m good at, this is what I want to do.'”

LaFreniere touts time on the Chicago restaurant scene, at notable names like Girl & The Goat, Cafe Marie-Jeanne, and Avec.

Gagner had briefly left the kitchen and was working as a forklift driver, when Banging Gavel was nearing opening.

“My roots are here,” he said, “and this kinda pulled me right back in.”

The two work closely together to try new things and bring a fresh twist to the brewery’s fare, constantly tweaking the menu.

“We’re just trying to do stuff that you can’t find in Tinley Park,” Gagner said. “… We want to bring out all of our knowledge of food, and really show it off.”

The menu is small plate-centric, designed for sharing and passing. Some might be disappointed to not find traditional pub food on the menu, but they think many will be pleasantly surprised.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Gagner said. “… It’s the stuff you can’t get around here.”

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Ingredients are as fresh as possible. They’re making their own sausage and cheese in-house, and they’re playing with fermenting for dishes like Kimchi. Produce and proteins are also locally sourced, specifically by Dwight, Illinois-based Catalpa Grove Farm.

Spent grains from the brewing operation are used to make their own bread, with an aim of wasting as little as possible.

“Kind of what a kitchen might have looked like in 1865,” LaFreniere said. “This building was built in 1865: how did people eat then, and how were their foods prepared?”

Gagner said they pull from that often.

“How can we make that relevant,” he said. “How can we use that as inspiration?”

It’s a step away from more common fried foods and other options that can be found in the area, and the two turn to each other and teammates often to brainstorm.

“We just have conversations all day long in the kitchen,” LaFreniere said. “What sounds feasible … what’s something you’re inspired by.”

“You think a brewery, you think typical fried foods,” Gagner said. “We really don’t have a deep fryer, so we’re really keeping everything fresh, and it’s on the healthy side. … You could really get anything different here.”

LaFreniere said he’s proud of their ingenuity and creativity.

“Given our limitations, I think that we’re really showing off,” LaFreniere said. “‘Hey, you guys pay attention to what we’re doing!’ And we’re doing it with hardly any space or equipment. And it still looks like what we want to see from our restaurant.”

The challenges push them to think outside the box, LaFreniere said.

“I think that’s what excites us about it, is we’re doing a lot of scratch cooking here,” he said.

It’s a labor of love for Gagner.

“The most exciting part is being able to say this is ours,” Gagner said. “It’s our name on the menu. We come in every day, we take pride in having that name on the menu.”

Both enjoy eating locally, with each noting Isabella in downtown Tinley Park as a favorite, and Gagner also enjoying the Mexican food items at Soundgrowler, deep dish at Arrenello’s, burgers at Smashburger, dishes at Siam Marina, and sushi at Sushi Nova in Orland Park. Both like the Banging Gavel Offshore Trust IPA, and Legal-Ese Helles. The bar also serves craft cocktails and wine, as well as hosting guest taps from local breweries.

Chain restaurants might be prevalent in Tinley Park and Orland Park, but “peppered in there’s a few gems,” Gagner said.

With Tinley Park’s Irish Parade set for Sunday, March 3, Banging Gavel is hosting live music Friday and Saturday nights, as well as tapping new beer Firkin’. The bier garten will be open Saturday and Sunday, as well. They’ll also feature a special menu for the weekend, including an Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage, mac and cheese, Irish nachos, a Reuben flatbread, and bangers and mash. The bier garten menu will include the Irish stew, and a corned beef sandwich. A portion of the proceeds all weekend will go to two Irish charities, Cork Penny Dinners, and Music Generation. Cork Penny Dinners is based in County Cork, Ireland, and aids those in need by providing meals. Founded by U2 and The Ireland Funds, Music Generation helps communities across Ireland by providing music education and support for youths.

Gagner hopes people will stop in, grab a bite, and be inspired to come back.

“I want to put Tinley Park on the map, make this a real destination,” Gagner said. “… People talk about the food, talk about the beer. They can come here, and still visit the other places—but this is a central location on Oak Park Avenue.

“We kind of want to be the ambassadors of Oak Park Avenue.”

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