The Scene

Wonder Lake restaurant looks to expand beyond pizza and ice cream to become ‘Wondervinia’

East End Pizza and Ice Cream took over former Paulee’s spot

Kim Doran gives a favorite customer, 9-year-old mastiff mix Ivy, her pup cup on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, outside East End Pizza and Ice Cream in Wonder Lake.

Kim and Bill Doran have plans for 7431 Hancock Drive, the home of East End Pizza and Ice Cream.

As owners of Pixie Dawgs food truck, the Wonder Lake couple have been cooking for customers throughout McHenry County for the past decade. But running a brick-and-mortar restaurant was something they both wanted to do, too. That dream came true in September when they purchased the former Paulee’s Pizzeria in downtown Wonder Lake.

What they see in the location, Kim Doran said, is potential.

The restaurant itself is small. The dining room can seat only 30 people, and there is just one bathroom. But the village of Wonder Lake annexed Hancock Drive in February with plans to expand city water and sewer to the area.

Once the village runs those utilities to the restaurant, the Dorans can abandon the septic tank and field behind the store. That gives them 1½ acres for an outdoor bandstand, dining area, fire pits, kitchen and expanded restaurant.

Bill Doran shapes pizza dough in the kitchen at East End Pizza and Ice Cream in Wonder Lake on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. The Dorans purchased the building in February and are looking at expansion.

They are calling their vision “Wondervinia,” a mashup of Wonder Lake and Ravinia, the Highland Park summer outdoor music venue.

“Now that we are annexed, it opens up a lot of opportunities. With the amount of growth in Wonder Lake, this is a central location for both sides of the lake to gather for activities. No one else has this much land” in downtown for expansion, Kim Doran said.

She’s envisioning live music outdoors, an expanded patio, bags tournaments and maybe frisbee golf. “I saw the future” possible at the location, Kim Doran said.

“With the amount of growth in Wonder Lake, this is a central location for both sides of the lake to gather for activities.”

—  Kim Doran, co-owner of East End Pizza and Ice Cream in Wonder Lake

Bill Doran is primarily in charge of the restaurant, while Kim Doran still is behind the counter at Pixie Dawgs as the food truck caters around McHenry County, in addition to her hours at the restaurant.

“This is his business. I have to make sure the corporate events are all taken care of” in the truck, she said.

They’ve expanded the menu since taking over. In addition to pizza, they have hand-dipped ice cream, malts, shakes and ice cream specialties, Italian beef sandwiches, pasta, burgers and salads. And because they also run Pixie Dawgs, Chicago-style hot dogs are on the menu.

They are doing well, with “numbers comparable to a chain” at the location, she said.

Their clientele, Bill Doran said, ranges from local teenagers to longtime residents. Through online services or their two drivers, the business is delivering from the far west side of McHenry to Greenwood to Bull Valley.

“It takes about 10 minutes to get to the other side of the lake” and some of the other small towns around them, he added.

Those teenagers can be seen sitting on the picnic tables for hours, sharing cheese fries. The old-timers seem to love a chocolate malt, too, Bill Doran said.

Ed Haspadura and his son, Brodie, are regular customers. So is their dog, Ivy, a 9-year-old mastiff mix with a fondness for whipped cream-filled pup cups.

“We like the convenience of it, and the great food,” Haspadura said. “Everyone will be made to feel welcome here.”

Janelle Walker

Janelle Walker

Originally from North Dakota, Janelle covered the suburbs and collar counties for nearly 20 years before taking a career break to work in content marketing. She is excited to be back in the newsroom.