Famous Chicago Restaurants Over 50 Years Old
Chicago apartment renters don't just lease an apartment -- they lease a neighborhood. So Domu has compiled this list of famous Chicago restaurants operating in Chicago's neighborhoods for 50 years or longer. It's part of our ongoing effort to educate our Chicago tenants about the neighborhoods in which they live. We figure if you can keep it going for 50 years, you must be doing something right, even if, as in the case of Jimmy's Red Hots (founded 1954), the entire menu consists of polish sausage, a hot dog, a tamale, french fries, and soda.
So have a look. Take a bite (or several). Then let us know if these classic Chicago restaurants still have the magic after half a century of doing business amidst Chicago apartments.
1 1881 Schaller's Pump - Back of the Yards
- Schaller's Pump was once the oldest restaurant in the City of Chicago. It opened at 3714 South Halsted Street in 1881 but had a different name until George "Harvey" Schaller purchased it at the end of the Prohibition era. It's called "Schaller's Pump" because, in the old days, the beer was pumped in from a brewery next door. At least five former Chicago mayors who hailed from the same Bridgeport neighborhood frequented the restaurant. Its mere location, across the street from the local Democratic ward office, nearby the old Union Stockyards, and a short walk from Comiskey Park (er, Guaranteed Rate Field), essentially confirms the notion that many plans and schemes affecting Chicago's history were hatched over drinks and dinner here. UPDATE: Schaller's Pump has unfortunately closed permanently.
2 1892 Daley's Restaurant - Englewood
John Daley moved from Ireland to Chicago and found a job working on constructing the elevated train lines developed for the Columbian Exposition, among other things. The young ironworker decided that the Woodlawn neighborhood needed a dining establishment to feed his fellow workers, so in 1892 he opened Daley's Restaurant at 803 East 63rd Street in the Englewood neighborhood. In 1918, he sold the business to two young Greek immigrants, Tom Kyros and Paul Emmanuel (which explains why the sign outside the restaurant says "since 1918"). Tom worked as a waiter and Paul as the cook. Together, they operated the restaurant until 1932, when they demolished the building, intending to construct a more extensive, better Daley's Restaurant. Unfortunately, their bank failed in the middle of the construction, leaving nothing but a big hole in the ground. By 1937, Tom and Paul had accumulated enough money from other jobs to complete the long-stalled project, and the eatery returned as the "New Daley's Restaurant." The business remained in the family even after Tom and Paul retired, and the restaurant went through a series of expansions in the 1960s that returned it to its original size. Today, it's the oldest restaurant in Chicago.
Trivia buffs will be happy to know that Muhammad Ali frequently ate here between training sessions at any one of many local gyms.
3 1898 The Berghoff - Chicago Loop
Herman Joseph Berghoff founded a brewery in Indiana and sold his beer at the Columbian Exposition (otherwise known as the World's Fair) in 1893. He opened a men's-only salon at 17 West Adams Street and served free corned beef sandwiches to patrons who purchased a stein of beer. Upon the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the Berghoff was awarded Chicago's first two liquor licenses, one for the bar and one for the restaurant, and each is hanging on the wall in the dining room today. It wasn't until the repeal of Prohibition that the Berghoff became a "full restaurant." The bar (as opposed to the restaurant) remained a men's-only hangout until 1969, when seven members of the National Organization of Women (Gloria Steinem included) sat down at the counter and demanded service. At the time, Herman Berghoff (from the third generation of the family) was allegedly so fearful of an encounter with the women that he spent the entire time hiding in his office. He did, however, consent to their being served.
The restaurant is now in its fourth generation of family ownership and is presently operated by Carlyn Berghoff. It is the second-oldest restaurant in the city. Diners enjoy traditional German and modern American fare, and root beer has always been a favorite (a tradition dating back to the Prohibition era).
By the way, movie buffs will be glad to know that Gotham cops arrested many gangsters inside the Berghoff in the film "The Dark Knight."
4 1907 The Walnut Room - Chicago Loop
- The Walnut Room at 111 North State Street has served hungry shoppers at Marshall Field's (and now Macy's) since 1907. Back then, there were no local dining options for women, so one of the clerks in the millinery department, a certain "Mrs. Hering," baked homemade chicken pot pies and brought them in to keep her clientele from defecting when suffering from hunger pangs. These same chicken pot pies remain on the menu today. The cavernous 17,000 square-foot, seventh-floor restaurant features walls constructed with Circassian wood imported from Russia and chandeliers fabricated with original Austrian crystal. During the holidays, the Great Tree is a monumental attraction. It approaches 50 feet in height and contains about 19,000 lights. Dining under the Great Tree has been a longtime Chicago tradition, and some groups have been coming for 60 or more years in a row. The annual spring flower show is another major attraction in the Walnut Room.
5 1908 Cafe Brauer - Lincoln Park
- Cafe Brauer at 2021 North Stockton Drive (also known as the South Pond Refectory) has served Chicagoans for over 50 years, though not consecutively. It was perched along the edge of the South Pond in Lincoln Park, on the grounds of the Lincoln Park Zoo; the cafe initially opened in 1908 in a classic, elegant, highly-acclaimed, prairie-style building designed by Dwight H. Perkins. Originally commissioned by the Brauer family, the restaurant was one of the most popular eateries in Chicago in the early twentieth century. It gradually fell into decline following the repeal of Prohibition, in part because state law forbids the service of alcoholic beverages in public parks. Cafe Brauer ultimately closed in 1941 and remained dormant for nearly 50 years while the building served as a storage facility for the zoo. After years of community efforts to revive it, a renovated Cafe Brauer reopened in January 1990. Its stunning, expansive reception hall has become popular today as an event space and has served as a beautiful backdrop to exchanging many vows. In the summer, zoogoers and other passersby can enjoy a nice meal on the patio adjacent to the cafe, at the brink of the recently restored lagoon.
6 1909 Pompei Bakery - University Village
- Luigi Davino established Pompei Bakery back in 1909 at 1531 West Taylor Street. He named his restaurant "Pompei" because of its proximity to the Our Lady of Pompeii Church (which, like the bakery, remains active today). Luigi, his wife, his four sons, and his daughter lived above the bakery, and the entire family participated in the pizza-making operations. (In the early years, they exclusively served cheese pizza.) After the Davino boys returned from the Second World War in 1944, they helped Luigi run the business. Today, members of the fourth generation of the Davino family are involved in running the operation, which has since expanded to include several locations in the Chicagoland area.
7 1921 Margie's Candies - Humboldt Park
- The "Security Sweet Shop" was founded in 1921 by a Greek immigrant named Peter George Poulos. Peter soon handed off the operations to his son George, who renamed the confectionery "Margie's Candies" in honor of his wife, whom he met at the store during his youth. Margie managed the shop at 1960 North Western Avenue in Humboldt Park during the Second World War while George served in the armed forces. She ultimately assumed complete control in 1954 after George passed away from an ulcer. A widow for the next four decades, Margie continued to run the legendary local restaurant and candy shop until she died in 1995 when her son Peter assumed complete control of the business. Al Capone is said to have been a frequent patron, although Margie's "fab" moment arrived in 1965 when the Beatles dropped in with five girls after a concert at Comiskey Park and ordered several six-scoop "Atomic Sundaes." Since then, the interior has been abundantly adorned with Beatles memorabilia, which complements the original Tiffany lamps, the marble soda fountain, and the old-fashioned booths with miniature jukeboxes. (By the way, the Rolling Stones have been here too.) In 2005, Margie's son Peter opened a second location in the North Center neighborhood.
8 1921 Valois - Hyde Park
Valois (pronounced "Valleys" by the locals) has been serving up heaping portions for bargain prices since 1921. The cafeteria-style eatery was initially opened at 55th Street and Harper Avenue by William Valois, who previously worked as the chef at the Chicago Beach Hotel. Valois sold the business to Walter Allman in 1957, when the building was slated for demolition, and Allman kept hope alive by moving the restaurant to its present location at 1518 East 53rd Street. In 1969, the restaurant changed hands again after Allman had a sudden heart attack and died. Open for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Valois most recently achieved notoriety for being a favorite local destination of President Barack Obama, although Harold Washington was a regular too. The book "slim's table: race, respectability, and masculinity," authored by Mitchell Duneier and published in 1992, chronicled African-American life in Chicago and was modeled on customers that Duneier encountered nearly every day over four years of eating at the restaurant.
As in yesteryear, patrons still grab trays and move down the cafeteria line where you can "See Your Food" (as the awning has proclaimed since Walter Allman first hung it in the late 1950s). Valois continues to serve meals to the entire Hyde Park demographic, from pensioners to professionals, but remember Cash only.
9 1921 The Green Door Tavern - River North
After the Great Fire incinerated most of Chicago in 1871, a local engineer named James McCole built a two-story, balloon-frame wooden structure with a detached garage at the southwest corner of Huron and Orleans. A few months later, the city council passed an ordinance prohibiting the construction of wooden buildings in the downtown district, making McCole's structure one of the few remaining wooden structures built before the "new" law. In 1921, Vito Giacomo opened a restaurant on the first floor, replacing a grocery store that had operated there for the preceding 49 years. The restaurant, known as "The Green Door," snuck through the Prohibition era as a speakeasy (which explains its name). The building tilts slightly toward the north because it began to settle into the Earth in the early 1900s.
The tavern has changed very little through the years and is peppered with "bric-a-brac" as antique signs, posters, photographs, and other nostalgia. The soapbox car hanging from the ceiling was once used in a race in which Illinois native and former United States President Ronald Reagan participated. Harry Caray was a frequent visitor, and one of his Budweiser commercials was filmed at 678 North Orleans Street.
10 1923 Lou Mitchell's - Chicago Loop
William Mitchell entered the restaurant business in 1923 by opening a diner named after his son, Lou. The entire Mitchell family was involved in the operation, and in 1949 the thriving eatery moved directly across the street to 565 West Jackson Street in the Loop, from which it continues to serve hungry patrons today. The restaurant looks the same now as it did at its inception, both inside and out, and a neon sign trumpeting the "world's best coffee" remains in place from the beginning. Travel and trivia buffs may know that its proximity to the starting point of Route 66 caused it to be known as "the first stop on the Mother Road." In 1958, Lou Mitchell, who had assumed control from his father, initiated the restaurant's signature tradition of serving donut holes and Milk Duds to waiting customers. Lou continued to run the business until he was in his seventies, but as of 1992, his niece, Katherine Thanas, has overseen the operations.
The restaurant claims Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush (41), Clinton, Bush (43), and Obama have all eaten there.
11 1924 Lindy's Chili - McKinley Park
Lindy's Chili has been dishing it out to hungry Chicagoans at 3685 South Archer Avenue in McKinley Park since 1924. In 1974, Joe and John Yesutis purchased Lindy's Chili and Gertie's Ice Cream Company (a Chicago institution since 1901) and combined them into a single enterprise. They franchised the business in the 1980s but still hold the franchise rights.
Diners have the luxury of a full menu, including sandwiches and burgers of all types, although Lindy's is renowned for its chili. As of this writing, there are ten Lindy's Chili and Gertie's Ice Cream locations in the Chicagoland area.
12 1924 Orange Garden - North Center
At 1942 West Irving Park Avenue in North Center, Orange Garden is the oldest Chinese restaurant in Chicago. It opened for business in 1924, making it nearly a quarter of a century older than the People's Republic of China. However, it didn't adopt "Orange Garden" until 1932. The sign that hangs outside is the oldest neon light in the city. The clock that hangs inside has been on the wall since 1932. The frescoes were painted in 1944, and the restaurant, to preserve its heritage, follows a simple rule: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Ownership has changed hands only once, and the current owner was a family friend of the original owners.
Though the online reviews tend to be all over the map, it ain't easy stayin' in business nearly 100 years without doing something right, and there's no shortage of locals who swear by the food.
13 1927 Won Kow - Chinatown
Won Kow has been on the second floor of the same building at 2237 South Wentworth Avenue, guarded by the same fu dogs, serving the same chow mein since 1927. Some early menus from the 1930s and 40s are framed on the wall. Ownership has changed hands only twice since its inception, and each owner has had a profound and long-standing connection to the neighborhood. Today, loyal customers rave about the stiff drinks, the dim sum, and the reasonable prices.
Mob enthusiasts will be delighted to know that Al Capone loved the food here and could often be spied at the table in the far northwest corner as his bodyguards stood outside in the hallway, at the top of the tall staircase that leads to the restaurant. UPDATE: Won Kow has unfortunately permanently closed.
14 1927 Italian Village - Chicago Loop
Alfredo Capitani was born in Sao Paolo, Brazil, but moved to Florence, Italy as a child. After serving in the Italian Army during the First World War, he emigrated to the United States in 1924 to escape from Benito Mussolini's fascist regime. He settled in Chicago and found work as a dishwasher before opening the Italian Village restaurant at 71 West Monroe Street in the Loop neighborhood of Chicago in 1927. His authentic Italian eatery is now the oldest Italian restaurant in the city. Capitanini's kitchen was trendy among performers at the Lyric Opera, which counted Alfredo's wife, Ada, among its loyal patrons. Therefore, it should be no surprise that Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo have dined here. Of course, the restaurant has also been immensely popular with other celebrities over the years, as the wall photographs demonstrate. Frank Sinatra held his wedding reception here. Al Capone (a celebrity of sorts) was a frequent diner. Barbra Streisand took her first meal in Chicago here, and such rock 'n' rollers as Bon Jovi and the band "Kiss" have been known to eat here. And, yes, local Chicago politicians have always been all over this place.
The Italian Village continues to be renowned for its extensive wine list, and the restaurant's design remains unchanged. The booths are named after different places in the "village," including the library, the convent, the hospital, and the jail. The rotating water wheel is still here, as are the twinkling lights on the ceiling.
In 1955, Alfredo Capitanini opened La Cantina (a steak and seafood house) on the lower level, which is notable for its long, dark, narrow wine-cellar decor and cozy booths. He passed away in 1988, but the restaurant remains in the third generation of his family today.
15 1931 Tufano's Vernon Park Tap - University Village
Joseph and Theresa (Tufano) DiBuono opened Tufano's Vernon Park Tap in 1931 at 1073 West Vernon Park Place in the heart of Little Italy's golden age, long before the University of Illinois crashed the neighborhood. Theresa, the family matriarch, used to live right next door. She would cook the meals from her kitchen and then pass the plates through an interior window connected to the restaurant. That tiny opening still exists today. Throughout the years, Tufano's has been a favorite dining spot for celebrities of Italian origin, such as Frank Sinatra (would you have guessed anyone else?), although Chicagoans of all ethnicities have enjoyed this classic red-sauce experience, including, most notably, novelist and northside Nelson Algren, who made the joint a habit before White Sox games.
Tufano's was designated one of "America's classic restaurants" by the James Beard Foundation in 2008. Today, it's owned and operated by Joey DiBuono, grandson of the founders, although many other family members continue to work there. Joey says he recognizes most of his customers, an added touch that undoubtedly contributes significantly to its ambiance and success.
16 1932 Twin Anchors - Old Town
- Twin Anchors arguably enjoys more notoriety than any other restaurant in Chicago. Since 1932, it has served its famous brand of baby back ribs to everyone from humble neighbors to international celebrities, including its most famous "regular," Frank Sinatra. With its nautical theme and cozy decor, the restaurant has been cooking ribs from the same building since its inception: a three-story brick edifice built in 1881 and served as a brewery for some time before the First World War at 1655 North Sedgwick Street. Two major motion pictures captured the ambiance of the restaurant ("Return To Me" and "The Dark Knight"); Conan O'Brien listed the restaurant as one of his ten "must-haves;" the HBO drama "Boardwalk Empire" selected the Twin Anchors for its "Speakeasy Tour" documentary, and Emeril Lagasse showcased the restaurant on his television show "The Originals With Emeril."
17 1932 Vito & Nick's Pizzeria - Ashburn
- Vito and Mary Barraco, natives of Sicily, opened a small tavern near downtown Chicago in 1923. They opened "Vito's Tavern" nine years later at 80th and Halsted. In 1939, they moved the tavern to 79th and Carpenter, adding table service and a menu of Italian-style sandwiches. After their son, Nick returned from the Army at the end of the Second World War; they added cracker-thin pizza and a wider variety of home-cooked meals. The restaurant was now known as "Vito and Nick's," The pizza soon became a southside Chicago sensation. On June 25, 1965, Vito and Nick's moved to 84th and Pulaski, at 8433 South Pulaski, in the Ashburn neighborhood of Chicago, where it remains today. In its third generation, the Chicago restaurant remains famous for its crunchy thin-crust pizza, featuring popular toppings such as Italian beef or eggs with deep-fried pepperoni and another traditional Italian fare. Located in a nondescript brick building with an Italian tricolor awning, the pizzeria retains its authentic family feel with plenty of tables and ample seating at the bar. Nick passed away in 2002, and his daughter Rosemary George runs the show today. Rosemary's brother Nick now operates Vito & Nick II, although the pizzerias are no longer related
18 1933 Bruna's - Pilsen
- Bruna Cani, also known as "Bella Bruna," opened this restaurant in 1933 in a neighborhood then rich with immigrants from the Tuscany region of Italy. Bruna, who would dance at the bar to delight her hungry patrons, continued to dish out Italian fare until illness forced her to retire in 1981. At that time, she sold the restaurant to Luciano Silvestri, a fellow native of Tuscany who, like Bruna, specializes in northern Italian cuisine. Since it first opened, the restaurant has been operating in the same location, at 2424 South Oakley Avenue in Pilsen. Over the years, many celebrities and dignitaries had dined here, including Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Tommy Lasorda, Cardinal Bernadine, all the Daley brothers, and Dennis Farina. As of February 2012, Bruna's 93-year-old daughter was still the landlord of the building. He lived a few blocks away while still a police detective.
19 1934 The Billy Goat Tavern - River North
- The Billy Goat Tavern has easily achieved more notoriety than any burger joint in Chicago history. Initially opened in the shadow of the old Chicago Stadium by the eccentric William (Billy) Sianis in either 1934 or 1937, it gained its first blast of publicity in 1944, when Billy hung a sign saying, "No Republicans Allowed" during the Republican National Convention. The following year, the Billy Goat Tavern became indelibly and supernaturally entangled in the city's sports history. Before the fourth game of the 1945 World Series, with the Cubs leading the Detroit Tigers two games to one, Sianis attempted to bring his pet billy goat into Wrigley Field but was turned away, allegedly by William Wrigley himself and allegedly because the goat smelled terrible. Sianis, angry and upset, retaliated by purporting to place a curse on the Cubs, vowing they would never return to the World Series again. The hapless northsiders lost the 1945 affair and, ostensibly because of the "Curse of the Billy Goat," have not returned since, despite being painfully close on several occasions. Some observers of paranormal activity insist that the curse reared its ugly head in the form of a black cat tiptoeing past Hall-Of-Famer Ron Santo at Shea Stadium shortly before the Cubs blew a monumental first-place lead during the 1969 season. Other mediums of the supernatural claim that the curse caused a routine ground ball to pass unobstructed through Leon Durham's legs in the 1984 National League Championship Series.
- Still, other psychic observers assert that the curse reappeared in the form of Steve Bartman in 2003. The Billy Goat Tavern relocated to 430 North Michigan Avenue (Lower Level) of Michigan Avenue in 1964. It soon became a favorite lunching spot for journalists at the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, most notably Mike Royko. Bill Murray, a frequent diner, made the Billy Goat Tavern the subject of a famous Saturday Night Live sketch in which the proprietors famously shouted "Cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger!" and replied, "No Coke. Pepsi." (Or "No Fries. Chips.") Today, there are several additional BIlly Goat locations around the city, "No Pepsi. Coke."
20 1935 Miller's Pub - Chicago Loop
- In 1950, Miller's Pub was a dark, no-frills saloon and a reputed front for a mob-run bookmaking operation, so naturally, it fell on hard times following a police raid. The Miller brothers, who originally opened the dusty joint in 1935, were looking to sell when Pete, Nick, and Jimmy Gallios emerged to create a lively eatery from a dreary pub. Sons of working-class Greek immigrants, the Gallios brothers, couldn't afford to commission a new sign after sinking their life savings into the acquisition, so the name "Miller's Pub" remained on the door. The brothers were not strangers to the restaurant business, having all worked for Gus Sianis at the original Billy Goat Tavern on Madison Street. Located (back then) at 23 East Adams, Miller's Pub gradually expanded, even taking in a fourth Gallios brother, Vannie, as a partner. Soon, it became a popular celebrity hangout, catering to all entertainers and ballplayers, White Sox and Cubs alike. Bill Veeck became a close friend of the Gallios family, and there were said to be occasions when practically all of the White Sox could be found at the restaurant. Veeck apparently remarked that Miller's Pub is "one of the four or five best saloons I've ever been in, and I have spent a great deal of my life in saloons." Photographs of the many celebrity regulars through the years, including Jimmy Durante, Tony Bennett, George Burns, Jack Benny, and Rocky Marciano, continue to adorn the walls. Following a kitchen fire, the restaurant moved to 134 South Wabash, just around the block, in 1989, where it remains a Chicago Loop institution.
21 1938 Al's No. 1 Italian Beef - Tri-Taylor
- In 1938, a first-generation Italian-American named Albert Ferrerri opened an outdoor stand at Laflin and Harrison Streets and began serving Italian beef and sausages cooked over a charcoal grill. It was largely a front for a horse racing and baseball bookmaking business, but after the cops busted up the gambling ring, the sandwich-making operations continued unabated. In 1963, Albert and his brother-in-law Christopher Pacelli split the business in two and opened their own separate "Al's Barbeque" restaurants in the neighborhood. Pacelli's joint opened at 1079 West Taylor Street in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, and in the 1980's it was renamed "Al's No. 1 Italian Beef." Meanwhile, Albert Ferrerri, who remained a gambler and a hustler his whole life, passed away in 2001 at 90.
22 1938 Frances' Deli - Lincoln Park
- As the deco sign says outside the restaurant, Frances' Deli has been serving meals to hungry diners since 1938. Now located a few blocks north of its original hole-in-the-wall location at 2552 North Clark Street, Frances fancies herself a delicatessen. Yes, there are heaping, traditional deli-type sandwiches and such ethnic delights as fried matzoh and matzoh-ball soup, but a New York-style delicatessen atmosphere is not the schtick here. Still, the menu veers profoundly into modern American fare.
23 1938 The Pump Room - Gold Coast
The Pump Room opened in the Ambassador East Hotel on October 1, 1938, and quickly became a celebrity magnet. The roster of stars and power-brokers who dined there throughout the years is so extensive that it might be easier to create a list of people who did not eat there. Guests included Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, John F. Kennedy, Natalie Wood, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Redford in the heyday. But then the times "they were a-changing," and the customers included such rock 'n' roll icons as Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, and the Sex Pistols. The celebrities and heavy hitters were famously and inevitably seated at "Booth One," which came with its own telephone.
The restaurant grew old gracefully, then drifted into senility like Irving Berlin. In 2010, in the wake of a national financial crisis, the now-vintage hotel was acquired by Ian Schrager, New York City's perpetually uber-hip purveyor of the next big thing. The Pump Room was closed for extensive remodeling in January 2011. Still, it reopened eight months later in a completely new form, modeled after the ABC Kitchen in Manhattan, which won the James Beard Foundation's 2011 Award for the best new restaurant. Its chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, is no stranger to Chicago. In the meantime, the Ambassador East officially became a thing of the past. It has become the "Public Hotel Chicago," part of a newly created hospitality concept at 1301 North State Parkway.
24 1939 Blackie's Restaurant & Tavern - Printer's Row
- No, Blackie's Restaurant & Tavern at 755 South Clark Street has absolutely no relation to, or affiliation with, the bankrupt "Boston Blackie's," a burger joint of far more recent vintage whose owner was apprehended while fleeing the country in the wake of a two million dollar check-kiting scheme. This particular Blackie's has been around since 1939 and has no apparent history of dust-ups with the law. As the story goes, Alex Dimilio opened the restaurant and asked his friend, bandleader Jimmy Dorsey, to help him make it a destination for Hollywood stars arriving at Dearborn Station across the street. Dorsey agreed on the condition that Dimilio would hire a kid whose nickname was "Blackie" (because the irises of his eyes were pitch black). Dimilio obliged, even naming the restaurant after the guy and making him the maitre d'. Over the course of the ensuing decades, Blackie's served meals to luminaries such as Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Betty Gable, the Marx Brothers, and the Three Stooges. During a whistle-stop on his 1948 presidential campaign, Harry S. Truman reportedly stopped by and sang "The Missouri Waltz." Even after Dearborn Station closed, St. Peter's Church was demolished, and many of the nearby printing companies fled the neighborhood, the restaurant forged on, seemingly nonplussed. Sometime in the 1970s, Dimilio's grandson, Jeffrey Thomas, acquired and rehabbed the place, and, today, in a revitalized Printer's Row, it is still going strong.
25 1939 White Palace Grill - South Loop
- Since 1939, the White Palace Grill at 1159 South Canal Street in Chicago's South Loop neighborhood has been dishing out down-home, diner-style food 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. When the restaurant was featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives," owner George Liakopolous told Guy Fieri that the front doors have locks only because city code requires it. He never obtained a key when he purchased the diner several years earlier. The menu remains the same throughout the day, which means eggs for dinner and short ribs for breakfast (if that's what tickles your fancy). The patrons represent every conceivable demographic, and the food (including the sauces) is prepared by hand at the restaurant.
26 1939 Jim's Original - University Village
- From 1939 to 2001, Jim's Original was a mainstay at the once-bustling corner of Maxwell and Halsted Streets. Still, the expansion of the University of Illinois-Chicago ultimately pushed it out of the rapidly-changing neighborhood. A purveyor of juicy and delicious Polish sausage sandwiches (served by default with grilled onions and mustard only), it was opened by the eponymous "Jimmy," who originally acquired the location from his aunt. The business flourished even after the Maxwell Street neighborhood descended into a patch of urban blight. Jimmy, who apparently escaped both the Bolshevik Revolution and the rise of Nazism, died in 1976 but passed the business off to Gus Christopoulos, who passed it down to his son, conveniently named Jim. Although Jim's Original can now be found along the west side of the Dan Ryan Expressway at 1250 South Union Avenue, the original can still be nostalgically admired in the background of the "Blues Brothers" movie. (And, no, Jim's Original is unrelated to Jimmy's Red Hots. That's why Jim likes to remind everyone that he's "Jim's Original.") Customers are known for being "regulars," including Ernie Banks and Lovie Smith.
27 1939 Hackney's - Glenview
28 1940 Marie's Pizza & Liquors - Mayfair
- Marie's Pizza & Liquors at 4127 West Lawrence Avenue has been serving it up at this same Mayfair street corner since 1940. In its third generation of ownership, this "old school" Chicago institution has more than a fair share of groupies who claim this is the best destination for thin crust pizza in the entire city. The decor hasn't changed (ever), the waitstaff has been fixtures for decades, and live music can still be heard several days a week. Marie's becomes more famous for its decorations than its food during Christmas. The lights, the elves, the train tracks, and the festivity all create a magical atmosphere. Oddly enough, the restaurant is joined at the hip by a liquor store selling thousands of bottles of wine, among other spirits.
29 1941 Gene & Georgetti - River North
- Gene & Georgetti, Chicago's oldest steakhouse, has been serving prime cuts from the same historic location since 1941 at 500 North Franklin in River North. Gene Michelotti, an Italian emigre and avuncular host, and his chef friend, Alfredo Federighi (nicknamed "Georgetti" after a famed Italian cyclist), breathed life into their American dream in this wooden building, erected in 1872 shortly after the Great Fire. Today, this Chicago institution, a longtime haven for celebrity diners, is operated by Tony Durpetti, who grew up a few doors down from the restaurant and married Gene's daughter, Marion. The chef, the bartender, and many of the waitstaff have been the restaurant's mainstays, many having worked there for several decades.
30 1942 Manny's - South Loop
- Before the Second World War, brothers Jack and Charlie Raskin opened a cafeteria and served ethnic Jewish food using recipes they learned during their childhood days in Russia. After a short time, Jack opened his restaurant in the vicinity of Maxwell Street in Chicago and named it "Manny's" after his son, Manuel. Legend has it that the existing restaurant was called "Sunny's," so naming it Manny's merely necessitated paying for two new letters rather than an entirely new sign. The restaurant moved a few times before landing in its present location in 1964 at 1141 South Jefferson Street in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago. It continues to serve Jewish food cafeteria-style and is now operated by sons and daughters in the fourth generation of the family.
31 1943 Pizzeria Uno - River North
32 1945 Ann Sather's - Lakeview
- In 1945, Ann Sather purchased a small Swedish diner at 929 West Belmont Avenue. The restaurant had already been open for 22 years, but she soon put her name on the front door and began styling the inexpensive, home-style fare in her fashion. She continued to operate the restaurant and bakery until 1981, when she sold the business to Tom Tunney, a savvy 26-year-old who quickly learned the ropes under her tutelage. Before long, Tunney moved the restaurant to this location, where he could accommodate four times as many people. In 1987, Tunney opened a second location in Andersonville, and two other Ann Sather Cafes followed. Today, Tom Tunney is a renowned and respected Chicago alderman serving the same Lakeview neighborhood.
33 1946 Coletti's - Jefferson Park
- Formerly known as "El Centro," Coletti's has been dishing out Italian favorites since 1946. The menu is extensive, but the restaurant is perhaps best known for its barbeque ribs and thin crust pizza. Coletti's has grown to include a catering operation in its fourth generation of family ownership and specializes in banquets serving 25 to 100 people at 5707 North Central Avenue.
34 1947 Marcello's (Father & Son) - Logan Square
35 1947 Home Run Inn - Little Village
- Vincent and Mary Grittani opened a tavern here in 1923 and named it the "Home Run Inn" because baseballs had a way of flying out of the park across the street and shattering their front window at 4254 West 31st Street in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. Vincent and Mary had a daughter, Loretta, who married an Italian immigrant named Nick Perrino. Nick had moved to the United States at the age of 17 and served in the armed forces during the Second World War. After hostilities, he returned home looking for a job. Meanwhile, his father-in-law Vincent had passed away in 1943, and Mary needed help running the business. Nick, a former mess sergeant, went to work at the Home Run Inn and began baking breadsticks for the bar patrons. The breadsticks were a big hit, so Nick and Mary experimented with pizza. After settling on a recipe, they began cutting up square slices of hot pizza and giving them away to the customers. The pizza, which debuted in 1947, was an instant sensation, and before long, the Home Run Inn became a pizza parlor. Over the ensuing six decades, and primarily under the stewardship of Nick's son Joe, the Home Run Inn began selling frozen pizzas to local grocers, expanding to new retail locations, and increasing the size of its original location (it now accommodates 600 people), and creating new facilities to manage the frozen pizza distribution demand. Today, consumers in 20 states enjoy Home Run Inn's famous thin-crust pizza. Incidentally, Mary Grittani passed away in 1970, and Nick Perrino passed away in 1990. The business remains in the family today.
36 1947 Italian Fiesta Pizzeria - Hyde Park
37 1948 The Woodlawn Tap (Jimmy's) - Hyde Park
- It's marginally a restaurant, but it's been around so long and enjoyed so much notoriety that it simply can't be ignored. At 1172 East 55th Street, the Woodlawn Tap was one of many bars and taverns along a lively strip of 55th Street in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago when Jimmy Wilson, a famous local bartender, acquired the business in 1948 and made it his own. For the ensuing 51 years, he poured drinks and served cheap bar food to citizens from all stations in life, from the blue-collar crowd to Nobel laureates and other professors at the nearby University of Chicago. Patrons have reportedly included Saul Bellow, Margaret Mead, and Dylan Thomas. The Woodlawn Tap became so closely associated with Jimmy Wilson that it became known as "Jimmy's," although "Jimmy's" was never part of its actual name. In 1982, on Jimmy's 70th birthday, the President of the University of Chicago recognized his contribution to the neighborhood, its students, and its faculty with a proclamation declaring him an honorary post-doctoral alumnus. In 1999, after Jimmy Wilson passed away, the Woodlawn Tap was purchased by bar manager Bill Callahan, who was forced to fight tooth-and-nail to retain the liquor license, denied initially because the bar was allegedly within 100 feet of a church (89 to be exact). A petition bearing thousands of signatures was soon presented to Richard M. Daley. The denial was reversed on appeal, and Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap, now renovated but closely resembling the original, remains open today, serving drinks and cheeseburgers, hot dogs, Italian beef, Polish sausage, roast beef, and other finger food favorites.
38 1948 Superdawg - Norwood Park
- Superdawg at 6363 North Milwaukee Avenue is one of the few remaining drive-in restaurants in the country and the last one in Chicago. It was first opened in 1948 by Maurie and Flaurie Berman, and it remains a family business today. Maurie and Flaurie are depicted as hot dogs on the roof of the building, and, last we checked, both remain alive and well. Customers drive up and order through a metallic speaker box. Carhops deliver the food on a tray that attaches to the front window (although there's limited counter seating inside and a few patio tables outside). By the way, it's a "Superdawg," not a hot dog. It's bigger than most Chicago hot dogs and loaded with condiments, including mustard, relish, chopped onions, and a giant green pickle. All sandwiches are served with crinkle-cut french fries and green tomatoes in distinctive heat-preserving boxes. All sandwiches are served with crinkle-cut french fries and green tomatoes in distinctive heat-preserving boxes. Order a "hot dog," and you'll get an icy stare, as any loyal Superdawg customer can attest. Oh, and no ketchup. Do you want ketchup? Then put it on yourself.
39 1948 Calumet Fisheries - South Deering
Brothers-in-law Sid Kotlick and Len Toll purchased the Calumet Fisheries in 1948. They created a restaurant that soon became famous for its oak-smoked seafood (including salmon steaks, trout, chubs, and shrimp), which is cured in a tiny smokehouse outback. Calumet Fisheries is located at 3259 East 95th Street in the South Deering neighborhood of Chicago. It's strictly a carry-out operation, with the smoked shrimp and the smoked salmon being the biggest sellers. There's no seating, bathroom, or parking, and credit cards are not accepted. In 2010, Calumet Fisheries (still owned by the Kotlick and Toll families) was one of five restaurants honored by the James Beard Foundation as an American classic. To earn the award, the south side eatery demonstrated a timeless appeal and quality food reflecting the character of its community.
Incidentally, fans of the Blues Brothers may know that Jake and Elwood Blues, driving their second-hand police cruiser, pass directly in front of Calumet Fisheries as they accelerate and then hurdle the drawbridge over the Calumet River. At the same time, "She Caught The Katy" blares in the background. Photographs of the movie sequence are displayed inside the red-roofed shack and other memorabilia.
40 1949 Charcoal Oven - Skokie
41 1950 The Bagel - Lakeview
- In 1950 (or 5710 on the Hebrew calendar), two Holocaust survivors opened a 34-seat delicatessen at the corner of Lawrence and Kedzie Avenues in a space formerly known as "the Bagel Bakery." Too thinly capitalized to afford a new sign, they simply altered the existing one and named their new business "The Bagel Restaurant." They served "shtetl" food from the very inception, including kreplach, potato pancakes, beef brisket, and a highly popular matzo ball soup. The restaurant ultimately moved into bigger quarters on Devon Avenue and then, in 1992 (or 5772), to its present location at 3107 North Broadway. In 1987 (or 5767), a second location opened at Old Orchard Mall in Skokie. The Bagel is operated today by two original owners' descendants, Danny Wolf and his uncle Michael Golenzer. The Bagel resembles something you might find tucked into a sidestreet near Times Square in Manhattan and has served meals to many celebrities over the years, including former President Bill Clinton, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, and comedian Jackie Mason.
42 1950 Podhalanka Polska - Noble Square
- The nondescript, two-story brown brick house at the six-corner intersection of Division, Milwaukee, and Ashland (1549 West Division) is marked by a sign resembling a cheap do-it-yourself business card. The restaurant inside is so inconspicuous that you could walk by it every day for years and never notice it. Since sometime around 1950, it's been serving authentic Polish home-style cooking. Sit at the countertop or one of the tables and fill up on borscht, potato pancakes, blintzes, pierogi, sauerkraut, and other delicious ethnic specialties. There's absolutely no decor, but that's what makes it great. And the owners are known for being extremely hospitable to their guests.
43 1950 Candlelite Chicago - Rogers Park
44 1950 Pat's Pizza - South Loop
45 1952 Club Lago - River North
- Gus and Ida Lazzerini opened this northern Italian restaurant in 1952 in a heavily industrial neighborhood rich with printing companies and paper salespeople at 331 West Superior in the River North neighborhood of Chicago. They passed control to their son-in-law Francesco Nardini in 1980 when the locals were primarily photographers and art dealers. The restaurant is now in its third generation. It is operated by Francesco's sons GianCarlo and Guido, who serve the same family-style Italian fare in a neighborhood flooded with condominiums and warehouse lofts. With its nautical-themed interior, the restaurant still looks much the same as it did in the 1950s, and its tin ceiling dates back to 1893.
46 1954 Jimmy's Red Hots - Humboldt Park
Jimmy's Red Hots has been at the corner of Grand and Pulaski Streets, 4000 West Grand Avenue, since 1954. The hot dogs are renowned. The decor is not. But we're not talking haute cuisine here, so the only thing that matters is a clean kitchen and a friendly staff. There's no seating -- just a narrow passage allowing a few customers to stand and gaze out the window while they eat. The menu can aptly be described as minimalist: A Polish sausage, a hot dog, a tamale, and twice-sizzled french fries. Unlike most Chicago-style rivals, Jimmy's red hots can actually be seen and tasted. They are not so overly smothered with toppings that you need to turn a bounty hunter loose to find the beef. But take note: Jimmy's does not tolerate ketchup. Not on the side, not in a bottle, not in a packet, not in a house, not with a mouse. Ketchup is sacrilege. As they say at Jimmy's Red Hots: Don't even think about it.
Frank Farrguia, the patriarch of this Chicago institution, says, "If you're not going to eat it yourself, then don't dare serve it." Frank is understandably proud of his red hots but prefers to boast of his obstetric accomplishments: He has twice delivered babies at the restaurant. On one occasion, the customers came and went by, stepping over a woman lying in the doorway, suffering through painful contractions.
47 1954 Mario's Italian Lemonade - University Village
- Mario's Italian Lemonade has been serving a unique form of drinkable Italian Ice from its Italian tricolor shack since 1954, when it was opened by Mario and Dorothy DiPaolo at 1068 West Taylor Street in the University Village neighborhood of Chicago. It lights up the entire street on warm summer nights and draws heavy crowds. It remains unchanged in the same location today, still owned by the DiPaolo family.
48 1955 Pizzeria Due - River North
- Ike Sewell and his business partner Richard Novaretti (better known as Ric Riccardo) opened a pizzeria at 29 East Ohio Street in 1943 and began serving the world's first deep-dish pizza. Their new twist on a millennium-old dish was such an immense hit that they could not accommodate the demand, so in 1955 they opened a second restaurant at 619 North Wabash Avenue in the River North neighborhood of Chicago, about a block away. They named the second restaurant "Pizzeria Due" and promptly changed the name of the first restaurant (then known as "Pizzeria Riccardo") to "Pizzeria Uno."
49 1955 Johnny's Wee Nee Wagon
- In the late 1980s, John Cappas was a local drug kingpin, dealing cocaine and living luxuriously off the profits of his ill-gotten gains. But the feds finally caught up with him, and he was sentenced to 45 years in prison. He began to turn his life around in prison and taught himself enough law to win a reduction in his sentence. He was ultimately released in 2004, after serving 15 years. He earned both a college degree and a culinary arts degree, became a motivational speaker, took a job for Gateway Chevrolet, saved up his money, and, in 2009, acquired Willie's Wee Nee Wagon in suburban Markham at 15743 Crawford Avenue, rechristening it "Johnny's Wee Nee Wagon." It's been in the same red and white shack since 1955, and John cuts the hamburgers (made from top-of-the-line Iowa beef) every morning before they get cooked on the same grill used in days past. Johnny's Wee Nee Wagon also serves 60 different soft-serve ice cream flavors.
50 1955 Pete's Pizza - Roscoe Village
51 1959 Moody's Pub - Edgewater
- Moody's Pub originally opened in Old Town in 1959 but moved to Larrabee Street when the rents started escalating. A fire destroyed its next incarnation, so in 1969 owner John Kahoun moved the operation to its current location in Edgewater at 5910 North Broadway. By all accounts, it has changed very little since it first opened. It's a bit dark and dank and looks like a dive bar, but the locals sure don't seem to mind. Food-wise, they flock for hamburgers, sloppy joes, french fries, and onion rings. And, of course, pitchers of beer and sangria are essential. (Common warning: Sodas are served in ten-ounce glasses stuffed with ice, and free refills are not offered.) in the winter, the scattered fireplaces keep the patrons nice and toasty. In the summer, the customers prefer to sit outside in the expansive beer garden, where speckles of afternoon sunlight pass through the tangled branches of the maple trees scattered about the patio.
52 1959 Mickey's Drive-In
In 1959, Mickey Sangiacomo was running a car lot called "Patriot Autos" when his close friend Jimmy Faruggia (owner of Jimmy's Red Hots) expressed an intention to open a new hot dog stand next door. Though Mickey suspected that Jimmy had lost his marbles, he soon found himself eyeing the shell of a defunct A&W restaurant sitting on a used car lot in Bellwood. Jimmy suggested he buy it and convert it into a hot dog stand, an idea that appealed strongly to Mickey's wife, Ann. Jimmy and Ann (who instantly become the moving force behind the concept) convinced Mickey to realize the vision. Ann named the joint "Mickey's Drive-In" and recruited her teenage kids to help run the show. Naturally, she benefited under the tutelage of Jimmy Faruggia, whose legendary red hots are still the talk of Humboldt Park.
In the beginning, a metal can served as the cash register, and a hot dog, fries, and drink would set you back just 37 cents. The Sangiacomo family still runs the business today at 635 Mannheim Road, and Mickey's Drive-In, like Jimmy's Red Hots, is one of just 22 restaurants inducted into the Vienna Beef hall-of-fame. Strangely, they've also had success as matchmakers: They know of 21 married couples who met at Mickey's Drive-In. On their 30th anniversary, they sold hot dogs at their original price and moved 14,000 franks in a single day, during which they had a line that stretched a block-and-a-half long for eleven straight hours.
Mickey and Ann's daughter, Annette, persuaded her husband to open a "Mickey's" in Villa Park in 1979, but they sold out to their longtime business manager, Dave Bruder, in 2011.
53 1959 Aurelio's Pizza Of Homewood
- In 1959, Joe Aurelio, Jr. opened his own pizza joint, a small, four-table restaurant on Ridge Road in Homewood at 18162 Harwood Avenue. His thin-crust, square-cut pizza was such a hit that he was continually forced to expand his storefront to keep pace with the demand. Ultimately he acquired a 12,000-square-foot warehouse, and in January 1977, he tripled the size of the restaurant, held his breath, and hoped for the best. The customers continued to flock to Aurelio's Pizza, and soon he began franchising. At last count, there were 43 Aurelio's Pizza locations in six states, but their matriarch remains on Harwood Avenue.
54 1960 Morry's Deli - Hyde Park
- In 1950, Morry Orman opened a delicatessen at the southwest corner of 55th Street and Cornell Avenue in the heart of Hyde Park. Chicagoans are still enjoying his legendary sandwiches at 5500 South Cornell Avenue today. The atmosphere is authentic, and the clientele is deeply devoted. After school, Morry's children all helped out at the restaurant, including his daughter Suzy, who became a nationally-renowned financial advisor, television host, and author.
55 1961 Palermo's - West Lawn
- Antonino and Carmela (Tirrito) Caldarone and their four children opened Palermo's at 63rd Street and Maplewood in 1961, shortly after emigrating from Italy. Using ancient recipes passed down within the Tirrito family, they served pizza and spaghetti, primarily in take-out form, until 1975, when they achieved such notoriety that they purchased a building about a mile-and-a-half west opened a full-scale restaurant with an extensive menu. They continue to dish out thin and thick crust pizza at 3751 West 63rd Street today, and they have an undeniably loyal base of fans all over the city.
56 1961 Susie's Drive-In - Mayfair
Jenny Craig has a warrant out for Susie's arrest. With roots dating back to 1961, Susie's Drive-In sells tasty concoctions of saturated fat, cholesterol, high fructose corn syrup, and other heart-unfriendly ingredients from a colorful shack on Montrose Avenue. The loyal following of diet-unconscious patrons come for foot-long gyros, Philly cheesesteaks, burgers, Polish sausages (served on a stick, battered and fried), chili cheese fries (served in an edible, taco-style tortilla bowl), and shakes of every conceivable flavor.
Susie's traces its origins to a greasy spoon restaurant called "Western Burger," which (based on flimsy historical evidence) appears to have opened in 1961. Western Burger was a sit-down/take-out restaurant and offered no drive-thru option. A certain "Mr. Ninos" loyally worked in the kitchen and gradually learned the business in its heyday. After the original owner passed away in 1973, Mr. Ninos purchased the restaurant and the land from his widow. Mr. Ninos and his wife changed the name to "Susie's Drive-In," rehabbed, reconfigured, repainted the interior, and added the drive-thru option. Mr. Ninos has since passed away, but his wife and daughters continue to operate the restaurant today at 4126 West Montrose Avenue.
57 1961 Butch McGuire's - Gold Coast
- In 1961, Butch McGuire borrowed money from his mother, purchased an old strip club at 20 West Division Street in the Gold Coast, and transformed it into a classic Irish bar. With a little coaxing, he developed a thriving neighborhood singles' bar, and today Butch McGuire takes credit for more than 5,000 marriage vows. Butch (unofficially known as the "Mayor Of Division Street") is credited with creating the modern-day Rush Street booze corridor. He was also one of the first to admit women as patrons and hire them as bartenders. He steadfastly enforced a code of chivalry in which men were required to relinquish their barstools to women at the peril of being forcibly ejected. Butch also enjoys credit for inventing the "Harvey Wallbanger" and being the first to garnish a Bloody Mary with celery (claims that are perhaps impossible to verify). He lived more than ten years with a heart transplant before passing away in 2006 at 76. His son carries on the tradition today.
58 1962 Monastero's Ristorante - Peterson Park
- Joe and Salvy Monastero were born in Philadelphia but raised in Caccamo, Sicily. They ultimately returned to the United States, and in 1962 they opened Monastero's Ristorante with their sister, Gina. Since then, they have prided themselves on preparing "food with flavor," using family recipes from the old country. The dining room, a veritable shrine to Sicily, includes twelve richly painted shields depicting the province's rich history, along with busts and paintings celebrating its people and places. Monastero's celebrates the fall harvest every autumn with a wine-making festival where selected contestants compete in a grape-stomping competition. In addition, the Bel Canto Foundation, which holds an annual opera contest, grew out of an aria competition Monastero's hosted for Northwestern University students in 1974. Every winter, that competition begins anew at the 3935 West Devon Street restaurant, which is still owned and managed by the Monastero family. UPDATE: Monastero's has unfortunately permanently closed.
59 1962 Stella's Diner - Lakeview
- Greek immigrants Jimmy and Stella Mavraganes opened the Wheel-A-Round diner at 3042 North Broadway in Lakeview in 1962. Today, their Lakeview eatery, now known as Stella's Diner, is in the capable hands of their daughter Maria and their son Gus, although Gus's son is now closely involved in the operation. Now in its third generation, Stella's Diner remains a neighborhood institution, packed on weekends. Though it may be a diner in name and gestalt and undeniably known for its breakfast food, sandwiches, milkshakes, and hot fudge sundaes, the menu features several more upscale items—Stella's more of a modern restaurant than a greasy spoon.
60 1962 Medici 57 - Hyde Park
- "The Medici," then a coffee house and gallery, was purchased in 1962 by a recent University of Chicago business school graduate named Hans Morsbach for $1,700.00. Morsbach was born near Munich, Germany, in 1932 but emigrated to the United States with his family in 1951. Morsbach gradually transformed the coffee shop into a restaurant, serving an eclectic breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare, including cinnamon rolls, pastries, soups, sandwiches, salads, burgers, fries, pizza, and shakes. Over the ensuing decades, it became a local institution, highly popular with the students in the neighborhood and soon-to-be President Barack Obama. The many students who have dined there have left their mark on the tables (literally), covered in graffiti. The Medici moved to its current location in 1989 at 1327 East 57th Street, although the university reportedly fought hard to prevent it. Hans Morsbach passed away in 2011 at the age of 78.
61 1962 Connie's Pizza - South Loop
62 1963 Jeri’s Grill - Ravenswood
63 1965 Geja's Cafe - Old Town
64 1966 Gino's East - Streeterville
65 1967 Sabatino's - Old Irving Park
66 1967 JB Alberto’s Pizza - Rogers Park