As in years past, this month I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. 2016 marks my fifth anniversary, so to celebrate, I’m hosting Friday Blog-Ins here in San Diego; you can find out more info about where we’re meeting each week on my A to Z Challenge page.
My monthly theme is Chicago From A to Z, so stay tuned from Monday to Saturday for new posts on the Windy City. Or sign up for my mailing list (delivered weekly, on Fridays) so you don’t miss a thing!
Growing up in a suburb of Chicago, I can assure you that my memories of consuming food from restaurants actually located within city limits are sketchy, at best. (Indeed, the only place I can think of off the top of my head was Trader Vic’s, which changed locations and finally closed in 2011.)
So I’m not going to pretend that I have any idea what the hip, happening or delicious places to dine in Chicago, circa 2016, are. That would be redonkulous.
Instead, this post is all about the restaurants from the Chicago suburbs whose menus I still pine for, 20 years later. Several of them have gone out of business (the restaurant biz being both fickle and insanely fast-paced), but I hope you enjoy this elegaic ode to Restaurants Past. And, by all means, if you’re familiar with any of them, please jump in with your own cheers or jeers!
Tong’s Tiki Hut
Tong’s Tiki Hut always enchanted me as a wee young’un for its awesome combination of American-style Chinese food, awesome Tiki decor, and funky cocktail-ware that they’d let you take home with you – because who doesn’t need a skull-shaped grog mug?
Yes, this place is a chain. Yes, it’s been years since I’ve set foot inside one. But OMFG, you guys, their pies are to die for. I still have delicious dreams of their French Silk pie. And I have no idea what kind of crack they put in that Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup pie, but it was UH-MAZE-ING.
More a chocolatier than a restaurant, per se, Fannie May is still a childhood icon for its delicious truffles, Trinidads, Pixies (turtles), and ridiculously oversized cream eggs at Easter. Although many of the brick-and-mortar shops have been shut down, since a corporate takeover, the Elmhurst location at 116 N. York Street is still going strong.
If you’ve never been to Portillo’s, then you’ve never lived. This fast-food restaurant embraces the 50s-throwback diner style, as well as all of Chicago’s most famous foods: Chicago-style hotdogs, Italian beef, cheeseburgers (double-decker and bacon cheeseburgers also available!), tamales (my mom’s favorite), chili cheese dogs and chili fries, classic cheese fries, and the all-American milkshake. Way better than the crap they serve at Mickey-D’s, this was our family’s go-to fast food place.
Nuts to KFC. Brown’s Chicken was my family’s favorite place for fried chicken. There used to be a franchise within walking distance of our house, which made the fatty, greasy food that much sweeter, since you’d have to get your exercise in before you consumed it. Their buttermilk biscuits, mashed potatoes with gravy, mini corn-cobs, and coleslaw were all part of the deal. Where’s THAT kind of value menu, I ask you?
A restaurant I remember from my childhood, Konis was a Lombard diner with a Greek name and Italian flair. They regularly served a soup of the day that was cream-of-something, with pimento bits floating in it. As a weird young’un, I was certain pimentos were actually tomatoes (they’re actually peppers, and therefore delicious), and picked them out with aplomb. I still remember my typical order at Konis: mostaccioli! Bring this back to your menus, Italian snob spots, and you’ll have some truly devoted fans.
There’s currently a restaurant called Omega located in the space I remember as Konis… could they be run by the same family? They’ve got mostaccioli on their menu…
What are some of your favorite restaurants – currently or from your childhood memories?