Memory Lane – The Flame, Countryside, Illinois

This blog is primarily intended to celebrate classic and historic restaurants that still exist, but occasionally I will be posting about a restaurant that is gone or recently closed.

 

The Flame logo

photo from The Flame facebook page

photo from The Flame facebook page

 

The Flame was opened in the suburbs outside of Chicago in 1958 by Peter Makris.

 

early postcard from The Flame facebook page

early postcard from The Flame facebook page

 

It was remodeled sometime after the postcard photos above and below were taken.

 

postcard from The Flame facebook page

postcard from The Flame facebook page

 

sign in 1970s - photo by The Flame facebook group

sign in 1970s – photo by The Flame facebook group

sign in 1970s - photo by The Flame facebook group

sign in 1970s – photo by The Flame facebook group

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

postcard from The Flame facebook page

postcard from The Flame facebook page

 

In its heyday The Flame restaurant expanded to locations in Chicago (The Flame East in Lincoln Park Tower, which was reportedly frequented by employees of the Playboy Club) and Florida (in Palm Beach, North Palm Beach, and Stuart). The chain also opened several locations of Lord Chumley’s Pub in Florida and one in St. Charles, Illinois (still there, but remodeled).

 

postcard from The Flame facebook page

postcard from The Flame facebook page

 

Many celebrities and sports figures were regulars at The Flame, including Evel Knievel and Jack Costanzo, the famous drummer who performed there every Saturday night in the mid-1990s.

 

tree lounge in the 1970s, - photo from The Flame facebook page

tree lounge in the 1970s, – photo from The Flame facebook page

 

Inside the bar was a large tree covered with flowers and colored lights, and Christmas ornaments in season. I’m not sure when this feature was added as it doesn’t show in early postcards, but it was known as the Tree Lounge eventually.

 

photo from The Flame facebook page

recent photo from The Flame facebook page

 

In 2003 I dined there and it looked like it does in the more recent photos above and below.

 

recent photo from The Flame facebook page

recent photo from The Flame facebook page

I don’t recall much except we ordered steaks. I always wanted to return but never made it out there on subsequent visits to Chicago in 2005, 2007, and 2010.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2003

photo by Dean Curtis, 2003

 

Sadly, in 2012 the owner, Peter Makris’ daughter Nanci Makris, passed away. Her family decided to close the restaurant at the end of the year.

 

photo from The Flame facebook page

photo from The Flame facebook page

 

The Flame had a final blowout on New Years Eve, 2012. Local photographer Jeffrey C. Johnson created a book with photo memories of the closing night at The Flame. Also check his Flickr for some great photos of The Flame.

The building has been stripped and remodeled for a new restaurant called Outriggers Flame. A few of the elements of the original decor are still there, such as rock walls and wood paneling (strangely, not an outrigger is to be found), but the tree lounge, booths, stained glass, and lamps are gone.

 

Gene & Georgetti, Chicago, Illinois

My favorite steakhouse in a city known for its steakhouses is Gene & Georgetti. It’s a winning combination of history, classic, never-remodeled decor, old-fashioned service, and prime, dry-aged beef. There may be better steaks in town (I don’t know), but I prefer eating a great steak in a classic steakhouse.

 

G&G1 G&G2

 

 

 

 

 

Gene & Georgetti was opened in 1941 by Gene Michelotti and Alfredo Federighi (aka ‘Georgetti’), taking over an Italian restaurant called Vic’s when the owner retired. In the beginning Alfredo was the chef and Gene the bartender. Gene’s welcoming personality led to it becoming a popular steakhouse with local movers-and-shakers, politicians, and celebrities such as Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra. When Alfred passed in 1969, Gene became sole owner. That same year Gene’s daughter Marion married Tony Durpetti. When Gene died in 1989 Marion and Tony purchased the restaurant from Gene’s wife Ida, and they still own the restaurant today. Gene and Georgetti has been in the same family for 73 years.

 

bar and front dining area, photo by Zagat.com

bar and front dining room, photo by Zagat.com

 

I love the atmosphere at Gene & Georgetti: dark wood paneling, red and white linen tablecloths, chairs with brass-tacked upholstery, chandeliers, art and photos of celebrities on the walls, Sinatra or Dino playing softly through the PA, and white-jacketed, no-nonsense waiters.

 

mural of old Chicago in dining room - photo by chicagonow.com

mural of c. 1951 Chicago in 2nd floor dining room by owner Tony Durpetti  – photo by chicagonow.com

 

menu

menu

 

The menu (which is a vintage work of art) is classic Italian steakhouse, with a range of appetizers, pastas, steaks & chops, Italian specialties, and seafoood entrees. For an appetizer (or entree) I recommend shrimp DeJonghe, a Chicago specialty of garlicky breaded shrimp, which originated at DeJonghe’s Hotel & Restaurant around the turn of the century. The “Garbage Salad” is famous. It’s an antipasto style iceberg salad that is tossed with a house red wine vinaigrette with a large shrimp on top. As in many midwest eateries the dressing is liberally applied, so if you don’t like salads served that way you may want to order the dressing on the side. The photo below is of the iceberg house salad, not the garbage salad.

 

house salad - photo by Dean Curtis, 2007

house salad – photo by Dean Curtis, 2007

 

Broiled steaks come in four cuts: strip loin (New York), bone-in or boneless, T-bone, bone-in rib eye, and filet mignon, bone-in or boneless. The boneless strip loin and filet mignon come in two sizes. On previous visits I had a bone-in rib eye, which was very large, and excellent. On my visit in 2007 I had a bone-in strip loin. Steaks are priced typically for Chicago, but if you are on a budget they have many entrees under $30 and pastas under $20. They also offer lamb, pork, and veal chops. I love seeing Lyonnaise potatoes on the menu in the Midwest (and at a few West Coast restaurants). They are fried potato slices, like potato chips but thicker.

 

bone-in strip loin - photo by Dean Curtis, 2007

bone-in strip loin with creamed spinach and Lyonnaise potatoes – photo by Dean Curtis, 2007

 

There are many Italian-American dishes on the menu such as veal, chicken, and eggplant parmigiana, veal scalloppine, veal and chicken marsala, and filet Florentine. But I recommend another Chicago specialty, chicken (or veal) Vesuvio, roasted chicken with garlic, olive oil, white wine, parsley, and oregano, served with a generous pile of roasted potatoes. Delicious!

 

The next time you’re in America’s best metropolis (in my opinion), stop in at Chicago’s finest steakhouse, under the El at Franklin and Illinois. Valet parking is complimentary.

Gentlemen, be sure to heed the credo posted in a frame over the bar:

words to live by, framed and hanging over the bar at Gene & Georgetti

words to live by, framed and hanging over the bar at Gene & Georgetti

 

Gene & Georgetti
500 N Franklin St, Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 527-3718
Open Mon-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri & Sat 11am-12 midnight, Sun, opens at 5pm for major conventions.

 

Klas, Cicero, Illinois

In the Chicago suburb of Cicero, which lies between Oak Park (of Frank Lloyd Wright fame) and Midway airport, is the oldest operating Czechoslovakian restaurant in the U. S. The town became a Czech neighborhood in the 1920s as many Czechs took jobs in the Western Electric plant, but after the plant closed in the 1980s many Czech families moved away and the city is mostly Hispanic now.

 

photo by The Jab, 2010

photo by The Jab, 2010

 

Klas was opened in 1922 by Adolph Klas, from Pilsen in Bohemia, on what is now Cermak Rd. (named after Anton Cermak, Chicago’s first Czech mayor). The street was once called the Bohemian Wall Street because of all the Czech business along the thoroughfare.

 

early postcard - photo by Robert Powers on Flickr

early postcard – image by Robert Powers on Flickr

 

In the early days the restaurant was much smaller (as seen in above postcard). The wonderful rustic bar on the right, apparently an original 14th century tap room, which was reconstructed at Klas, is filled with carved wood monks, painted murals, and taxidermy. It is miraculously unchanged since it opened.

 

old bar postcard - image by John Chuckman

old bar postcard – image by John Chuckman

 

bar photo by The Jab, 2010

bar photo by The Jab, 2010

 

The other remaining part of the original restaurant is the room to the left of the bar, which served as the main dining room in the early days, which I believe is now the lobby (but I can’t recall exactly).

 

original dining room postcard

original dining room postcard – image by Robert Powers on Flickr

 

The restaurant expanded into its current configuration of the bar, main dining room, garden area, and banquet rooms, as seen in this linen postcard, most likely from the late 1930s or 1940s,…

 

postcard image by Mark Susina on Flickr

postcard image by Mark Susina on Flickr

 

…and this postcard, from the 1950s, which shows how it looked on the outside. It hasn’t changed very much since then.

 

1950s postcard - image by Robert Powers on Flickr

1950s postcard – image by Robert Powers on Flickr

 

The buildings, inside and out, have loads of fascinating detail so make sure you allow plenty of time to linger before and after your meal. Notice the Statue of Liberty replica on the building’s façade in this photo (curiously the date on the building is 1923, while the restaurant claims to have opened in 1922).

 

photo by The Jab, 2010

photo by The Jab, 2010

 

In 1962 Adolph Klas passed away. The restaurant was owned by various people until Frank Saballus, a former construction worker, bought it with his sister in 2003 to preserve this last bit of Czech-American culture in Cicero. Le Continental heartily thanks him for preserving such a wonderful restaurant!

 

photo by The Jab, 2010

Good advice before you enter the restaurant! – photo by The Jab, 2010

 

On my visit in 2010 I dined in the main dining room, which is a huge, bright (in the daytime) room with lovely arched windows with bold striped canopies (Le Continental approves of stripes) overlooking the garden, and with framed art and taxidermy (also Le Continental approved) on the walls.

 

photo by The Jab, 2010

photo by The Jab, 2010

 

Klas’ menu is Bohemian. I did not know what that was when I went so I ordered a breaded pork tenderloin (schnitzel) dinner, which came with soup or salad, two “compliments” (I chose bread dumplings and sauerkraut), dessert, and coffee. As you can probably tell in the photo below (before I dumped gravy on everything) the food is homemade, including the bread. Other specialties include wiener schnitzel a la Holstein (topped with two fried eggs, anchovies, and capers), svichkova (pickled beef in sour cream gravy), koprova (boiled beef in dill gravy), roast duck, and smoked sausage. Dessert specialties include kolacky, fruit dumplings, and apple strudel. They offer some Czech beer including Pilsner Urquell, Radegast and Staropramen.

 

photo by The Jab, 2010

photo by The Jab, 2010

 

Make sure you tour the restaurant and ask to see the banquet rooms upstairs!

 

the Dr. Zhivago Room - photo by The Jab, 2010

the Dr. Zhivago Room – photo by The Jab, 2010

 

mural in the Dr. Zhivago Room - photo by The Jab, 2010

mural in the Dr. Zhivago Room – photo by The Jab, 2010

 

banquet room - photo by The Jab, 2010

banquet room with original furniture! – photo by The Jab, 2010

 

amazing chandelier! - photo by The Jab, 2010

amazing chandelier! – photo by The Jab, 2010

 

Klas is indeed the House of Happiness! Their motto (over the door) is “Eat, Drink, and Be Happy”!

WARNING: the areas surrounding Cicero may be somewhat sketchy so it is best to call and ask before venturing out for the best route to take.

 

photo by The Jab, 2010

photo by The Jab, 2010

 

Klas Restaurant
5734 W Cermak Rd, Cicero, IL 60804
708-652-0795
Dining room open Fri-Sun 11:30am-9:00pm, bar hours Wed 6:00pm-midnight, Fri-Sat 11:30am-midnight or later, Sun 11:30am-10:00pm, closed Mon, Tue, Thu

 

Happy National Hot Dog Day!

Since it’s National Hot Dog Day I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite hot doggeries around the country. One of my favorite historic hot dog restaurants, and tops in the country for original vintage decor, George’s Coney Island in Worcester, Mass, was one of my first blog posts a few years back.

 

George's sign

 

The hot dog was brought over to the U.S. from European immigrants, but its European origins are disputed. Sausage dates back to the 9th century BC (mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey), while the type of sausage used for hot dogs is similar to Weinerwurst or Vienna Sausage, which originated in Austria. However, the city of Frankfurt, Germany, claims it invented the frankfurter or “dachsund sausage” in 1497. Yet another claim is that a butcher in Coburg, Germany, invented the hot dog sausage in the 1600s and brought it to Frankfurt.

 

hot-dogs-hats

 

In any case the American hot dog on a roll is what we are concerned with here, which was reportedly already a German custom to eat sausage on a roll. It is a fact that hot dogs were first sold in New York City, either by a German immigrant from a cart in the Bowery in the 1860s or by Charles Feltman, a German butcher who opened the first Coney Island hot dog stand in 1871 (his employee, Nathan Handwerker, started Nathan’s in 1916). In 1893 hot dogs became popular at baseball parks and sold like hot cakes (or rather like hot dogs) at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago (sold by a pair of Jewish immigrants from Vienna who later founded Vienna Beef, Chicago’s most popular hot dog manufacturer). Also in 1893 the oldest mention of the term “hot dog” on record occurred in a Knoxville newspaper. (For more hot dog history visit the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council’s web site, where I sourced this info).

 

photo by The Jab, 2003

Superdawg, Chicago – photo by The Jab, 2003

 

Which city has the best hot dogs: New York or Chicago? People will argue this forever, but based on my experience Chicago wins hands down for best hot dogs in the country. Then there are the arguments within Chicago about who has the best hot dogs. We won’t go there because there are so many different types of hot dogs in Chicago (likewise, for pizza). There’s the classic Chicago dog “dragged through the garden” that is a steamed all-beef frankfurter on a poppy-seed roll with sliced tomato, raw chopped white onions, yellow mustard, bright green sweet relish, pickled sport peppers, celery salt, and a pickle spear (but never ketchup), reportedly invented at Fluky’s in 1929 (sadly, the only Fluky’s left is at a Wal-Mart in Niles, IL). Then there’s the char-grilled “char-dog”, which is terrific at Weiner’s Circle, where they only serve hot dogs cooked that way. And until it closes this October, the always busy Hot Doug’s serves dozens of hot dog specialties.

 

photo by The Jab, 2003

photo by The Jab, 2003

My favorite hot dog stand in Chicago is Superdawg. My Chicago friends may not agree, and I admit the hot dogs at Weiner Circle and Gene and Jude’s are great also (Wolfy’s is another one that comes out on top in polls), but I love the all-original drive up with car hops that is SUPERDAWG! Opened in 1948 by Maurie and Flaurie Berman, who have been represented on the roof of the restaurant as caveman and girl “dogs” since the beginning, it hasn’t changed much and, amazingly, it is still owned by the Berman’s, who run it with their children. They still have the same ordering system as in 1948: you drive in to the parking lot, order from your car into a mic/speaker, and your meal is brought to you on a tray in a very cute vintage looking box, which you will want to take home as a souvenir (mine still sits in my kitchen). This is one of the last restaurants in America that still has car hop service.

 

Superdawg with fries - photo by The Jab, 2007

Superdawg with fries – photo by The Jab, 2007

 

In addition to the Superdawg™, which is a spicy dog that comes fully dressed and includes a pickled green tomato wedge, they also offer a Whoopskidawg®, which is a Polish-type sausage on a roll with special sauce, grilled onions, and pickle, and several other sandwiches. Their crinkle-cut super fries are excellent.

 

photo by The Jab, 2003

photo by The Jab, 2003

 

In New York City your best sources for hot dogs are the many hot dog carts around the city and the bargain Papaya-drink-and-two-hot-dogs stands which started in 1932 when Papaya King opened on the upper East Side of Manhattan (still on the same street corner of 86th St and 3rd Ave, and in several other locations in NYC). Although it originally only sold fruit drinks it started serving hot dogs because the neighborhood was predominantly German-American at the time. In the 1970s and 1980s Gray’s Papaya and Papaya Dog copied the concept, but Gray’s is down to only one location. Which is the best? I’ll let you be the judge as I’ve only been to the original Papaya King.

 

photo by The Jab, 2005

photo by The Jab, 2005

 

If you’re in Georgia, the town of Macon is worth a detour for Nu-Way Weiners, open since 1916 (their sign was misspelled in 1937 and they kept it that way to this day) and still in the same location (plus several other locations). Their specialty is chili dogs, which are made with their special homemade chili sauce (no beans, just the way I like a chili dog).

 

photo by Carrie Swing on Flickr

photo by Carrie Swing on Flickr

 

My favorite hot dog stand in greater Los Angeles closed and was demolished in 2011. Papoo’s Hot Dog Show (yes, it was more than just a stand, it was a SHOW!) opened in 1949 in Burbank, across the street from Bob’s Big Boy designed by Wayne McAllister in the Googie style in the same year (and still open).

 

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photo by Terry Guy on Flickr

 

You can see Papoo’s in the original version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

 

InvasionBodySnatchers

 

Inside Papoo's - photo by Carrie Swing on Flickr

Inside Papoo’s – photo by Carrie Swing on Flickr

 

Lastly, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, I’ve been disappointed by most of the hot dogs I’ve had (they are usually lukewarm, not hot). My favorite was the old Kasper’s on Telegraph Ave at Shattuck Ave, which closed “for remodeling” way back in 2002 and never re-opened. Kasper’s was started by Kasper Koojoolian, from Armenia, in 1930 at the corner of Fruitvale Ave and MacArthur Blvd (old US 50). Partners invested and It expanded into other locations in the 1940s, but in 1955 Kasper’s brother Paul split off, continuing as Kasper’s, while the rest of the partners started a chain of hot dog restaurants called Casper’s. Today there is still a Kasper’s on MacArthur Blvd (not in the same location as the original), in addition to others in Castro Valley, Hayward, and Pleasanton.

 

Kasper's, MacArthur Blvd., Oakland - photo by The Jab, 2013

Kasper’s, MacArthur Blvd., Oakland – photo by The Jab, 2013

 

Casper’s continues with 8 Bay Area locations, and most have the original 1960s modern look in bright oranges and browns. Since 1989 the company has made its own frankfurters under the Spar Sausage name. I like the hot dogs at both Kasper’s and Casper’s, but Casper’s has the edge for taste and for decor.

 

photo by The Jab

Casper’s, Telegraph Ave., Oakland – photo by The Jab, 2013

 

I leave you, dear readers, with this photo I took on the road in Georgia in 2005, and a video of an amazing neon sign at Taylor Brothers Hot Dogs in Visalia, CA (where I need to go!). Please check the linked web sites for location, addresses, and open hours of the above establishments.

 

photo by The Jab, 2005

photo by The Jab, 2005

 

 

 

Postcard Panorama – Johnny’s – Chicago, Illinois

Johnny's
Johnny’s – Chicago, Illinois, a photo by The Pie Shops Collection on Flickr.

Is that a place you wish still existed, or what? WOW!!!