"I've cried a river over this decision," Cristal tells me, "and every time I cry, I tell myself, That's it, I'm done. But then the phone will ring with someone else telling me how much they loved the restaurant, or I'll get another dozen e-mails, and I start crying all over again."
With so much retail and entertainment growth in the Northland, it might seem that business at the Iliki Café, which is right across the street from the wildly popular Bonefish Grill (6334 North Lucerne Avenue), would be booming. But with so many new dining venues open at nearby Zona Rosa and the even newer (and snazzier) Shops at Briarcliff Village, some of Iliki's hardcore fans were tempted to dine elsewhere even if no other restaurants in the area served the same Middle Eastern cuisine.
But the biggest reason for closing, Cristal says, is her biological clock. The 35-year-old was hearing it ticking quite loudly. "For a long time, I didn't want babies, and now I do. In fact, I want a herd of them. And the restaurant business just isn't conducive to raising a family. As much as I've enjoyed running this restaurant, I finally decided that I wanted a life outside of this business."
The Fullers first opened the Iliki Café in 1995, on 39th Street's restaurant row (in the space that's now Friends Sushi & Bento Place). They moved to the less picturesque Picture Hills Shopping Center a year later. The couple offered an interesting mix of Turkish, Syrian, Greek and Armenian dishes and built a respected wine collection. Most of that vino was auctioned off at the restaurant's farewell party last week, and everything from wineglasses to ice machines is still being sold.
Until she gets pregnant, Mrs. Fuller is keeping at least a hand in the food game. "I'm writing a cookbook now, and after January 1, I'll start catering again," she says. "I love food, which is the reason we got into the restaurant business in the first place. It wasn't for money, which, as it turns out, was a good thing."