Branko’s, the family-run sandwich shop with all of the American classics, has reopened after a year of closure in Lincoln Park at 1118 W. Fullerton Ave.
The restaurant initially opened under Branko and Jelica Jordanovska, who were fleeing impending turmoil in former Yugoslavia. While Branko still lives above the restaurant, unable to work after a recent stroke, Jelicia worked there for four decades until her death last year at the age of 84. Now, Gordana Jordanovska, one of the family’s daughters, has returned home from San Francisco and reopened the restaurant on November 5, according to Block Club Chicago. She brought her nephew, Nenad Jovanovic, to help behind the counter.
“She made us promise to keep the doors open,” Gordana Jordanovska tells Block Club Chicago. “And by that, she meant keep the community open. This shop is Lincoln Park’s living room. All she [her mother] wanted to do was feed people. She’d look at you in the eyes and smile while you ate.”
The husband and wife grew up in small villages in Mavrovo National Park, now in North Macedonia and formerly Yugoslavia, according to Block Club Chicago. The two opened the restaurant across from DePaul University in January 1976 after working at a South Side commercial bakery owned by Jelicia Jordanovska’s brother. The family restaurant eventually became a staple in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, offering everything from breakfast to burgers and sandwiches, complimented by handmade bread.
“My parents left behind two lucrative bakeries, a farm and their families to come to a country where they didn’t speak the language. They were fearless,” Gordana Jordanovska said. “We came to O’Hare with maybe four boxes.”