The WiseGuys Chicago-style restaurant that gained a loyal following at Westview Village will return to its former space there with a similar menu, TV sets for viewing sporting events and a decor that brings to mind the gangland days of the Windy City.
Barbara Klyczek, 49, said she has received a license to operate a WiseGuys eatery from concept founder Bill Nychay. She is tweaking the look of the space that once housed a WiseGuys but most recently was occupied by Tony’s Chicago Grill.
She is shooting to open by Aug. 1 in the shopping strip at Waco and Valley Mills drives, and reportedly will seek a beer and wine permit.
Klyczek, a native of Chicago, said she worked at the Waco WiseGuys, which Nychay opened in 2012. She always told herself she would have one of her own someday, and Nychay, also from Chicago, made her an offer she could not refuse.
The previous licensee of the Waco location terminated Nychay’s involvement in its operation, though it had become a popular gathering place for those craving Chicago-style sandwiches and pizza. The restaurant’s name was changed to Tony’s Chicago Grill in 2014, but it went out of business with a whimper this year. The owners of Westview Village locked its doors without public explanation.
Klyczek said that was the opening she needed to get back into the Waco market and call her own shots.
She said she has no doubt she can return the restaurant to its former glory and bring back the days when it was especially popular with law enforcement. Men and women in uniform occupied many of the seats at lunchtime.
Nychay also encouraged those with concealed handgun permits to patronize WiseGuys, and his decor included images of law enforcement and their encounters with bloodied gangsters as shown in newspapers from Chicago’s Prohibition-era past.
“I think the decor will be pretty much like the original, with a few minor changes,” Klyczek said. “I may have customers come in gradually. As they enter the first part of the dining room, I’ll have a skyline that will make them think they are entering Chicago. As they proceed into the restaurant, they will run into the history of mobsters such as Al Capone and Frank Nitti.
“I want everybody to feel like they’re stepping into the city of Chicago when they come here to eat, especially those from Chicago and those who may have visited the city and would love to get back but can’t.”
Being a Chicago native, Klyczek said she “knows the lingo” of her hometown and the subtleties of a Chicago-style meal.
“I know some people from Chicago who tried the food at WiseGuys and just absolutely loved it,” she said.
Barbara’s husband, Gary, also a Chicago native, will oversee catering for WiseGuys and book live entertainment. During an interview Monday, Barbara Klyczek said she was hoping to restore a stage that had served the original WiseGuys in Waco.
After being stripped of his involvement in Waco’s restaurant, Nychay said he turned his attention to other markets. He has licensed the opening of a WiseGuys in San Antonio, where he now lives, and hopes to open four more.
“Waco was one of the best stores I ever had, but I don’t want to harp on what happened in the past or the Tony’s fiasco,” he said. “I told people I would come back, and I even looked at locations downtown.”
But when the space at Westview Village became available, Nychay and Klyczek knew they had to have it.
Nychay opened his first WiseGuys Chicago Eatery in Harker Heights in February 2010. To meet growing demand, he took on new partners and opened two more WiseGuys locations, both in Killeen. Then came the move to Waco.
He said he was gratified by the warm reception Waco gave him — “a Yankee” — and his restaurant. He said many fans and customers kept in contact with him via social media, wishing him well and hoping for a return of WiseGuys.
“If you offer good food and good service, the people will be back,” he said, adding the establishment will add TVs for watching Baylor University and Dallas Cowboys games, which it didn’t have before, and will sell a variety of cakes and cookies.
Mike Nott, managing partner of the Bronc’s restaurant at Westview Village that features homestyle dishes, said he welcomes another restaurant nearby. Nott said competition keeps everyone sharp, and that WiseGuys likely will generate traffic for the center.
Westview Village is home to a third dining establishment, Vegas Buffet, which anchors the southern corner.