Glen Ellyn

December 2019 View more

Matt Bowen


When retired NFL player Matt Bowen, 43, talks about growing up in Glen Ellyn, he recalls summers days spent splashing at Sunset Pool and Saturday afternoon football games at Glenbard West High School, just steps from the village’s bustling downtown district. 

Now an NFL writer and analyst for ESPN, Bowen lives in nearby Elmhurst with his wife, Shawn, and their four sons. Bowen’s parents met at Northern Illinois University and settled in Glen Ellyn to raise him and his two siblings. “Glen Ellyn is a great place to grow up and a great place to raise a family,” Bowen says. 

He studied journalism and played football at the University of Iowa, then was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2000 and went on to play for the Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins, and Buffalo Bills. After retiring from the NFL, Bowen earned a master’s degree and worked as a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune (part of the same parent company as Naperville magazine). He appears on ESPN’s NFL Matchup during football season and is also an assistant football coach at IC Catholic Prep in Elmhurst. 

Bowen appreciates how Glen Ellyn has become a mix of old and new establishments. Read on for a few of his hometown favorites. 

Nice ice 
The labor-intensive process of removing snow from Lake Ellyn for community ice skating takes six
to eight hours, according to the Glen Ellyn Park District. 

Awarding excellence
The Glen Ellyn Community Awards are held annually in February to recognize educators, public servants, business owners, and more.

Roll call
Before being called Glen Ellyn in 1894, alternate names included Babcock’s Grove, Fish’s Corners, Stacy’s Corners, and Danby, according to the Glen Ellyn Historical Society.

Castle on the hill
Glenbard West High School, near downtown Glen Ellyn, is the setting for O.T. Nelson’s 1975 young adult novel The Girl Who Owned a City.

Illustration by Maeve Norton

Worth a trip

1. Lake Ellyn Park
This 28-acre park with its namesake lake and boathouse was one of many Glen Ellyn locations filmed for the 1986 movie Lucas, starring Charlie Sheen, Corey Haim, and Winona Ryder. “Right after Lucas the movie came out, we thought we were stars because we lived in Glen Ellyn,” Bowen says. “The boathouse is kind of like an iconic thing, in my opinion. They’ve redone it and you can rent it for smaller weddings and events.” The boathouse also serves as a warming house for ice skating on Lake Ellyn from mid-December through February 25, weather permitting. 645 Lenox Road,

2. Glen Art Theatre
“That’s your high school date night here,” Bowen says of this historic theater, built in the 1920s. “I’ve seen probably 100 movies there—good movies, horrible movies.” 540 Crescent Blvd., 630.469.1976,

3. Santa Fe Restaurant
“This place is, in my opinion, a Glen Ellyn institution,” Bowen says of this Mexican restaurant. Regulars rave about the massive margaritas, enchiladas, and Longy-style tacos—a crispy fried creation named for the long-closed Lombard bar Longy’s. 426 N. Main St., 630.790.3311

4. Busy Bee Barber Shop
This classic barbershop has been in business since 1922. “I shave my head now, but I used to go there for haircuts and I still drive my four boys from Elmhurst,” Bowen says. “It’s the same barbers: Joe, Norm, and Jim. They’ve been there since I was [in middle school] at St. Pet’s. They talk high school sports year-round and they know all the people that walk in the door.” 417 N. Main St., 630.469.1805

5. Alfie’s Inn
Just south of downtown Glen Ellyn, this family restaurant will catch your eye from the street with its Tudor-style paneling and red awnings emblazoned with the letter “A.” “It’s a classic for a burger and fries,” Bowen says. “I’ve been there a lot growing up.” Other popular menu items include the fish and chips and barbecued baby back ribs. 425 Roosevelt Rd., 630.858.2506,

Dignified ’tini

On the House

For a unique drink, plan a visit to Common Good Cocktail House (9560 Crescent Blvd., 630.474.0932,, which opened in September across from the Glen Ellyn Metra station.

The collective credits of the co-owners—Chad and Alicia Hauge and Mike Melazzo—include popular Chicago spots like Longman & Eagle, Mott St, and Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits. Common Good’s opening in Glen Ellyn is a homecoming of sorts, as Melazzo grew up in the area and Hauge attended Wheaton College nearby.

Their guiding principles are craft and community. “On the craft side, we want to make the best cocktails you’ve ever tasted in your life,” Hauge says. “And we want you to have that drink with us, or friends you’ve come in with, or the strangers you’re sitting next to at the bar. … That’s the reason we called it a cocktail house and not a cocktail bar.” 

An arsenal of cool tools fuels the drink-making, including a cotton candy machine to create fluffy garnishes and a centrifuge used to create apple-infused bourbon. That bourbon is used in a cocktail called the Orchard Tailgate along with mesquite-smoked rancio sec, a sherry-like fortified wine with a dry, raisiny flavor. “It feels like you’re brought your pickup truck and your grill to an apple orchard,” Hauge says.  

Photos courtesy ESPN and Common Good Cocktail House