Remembrance of Restaurants Past: Horwath's

Missing a mid-level supper club-type place with a colorful history.

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By David Hammond

During the late 90s, the only restaurant I really wanted to eat at was Horwath’s. Every Saturday night, that’s where I wanted to go, and we did so for month after month, until my wife said she couldn’t bear to go again.

I just loved the place.

The dark wood bar studded with golden bowls of spreadable cheddar, the elderly men and very pale women gingerly sucking Scotch and Newports, the old school vibe just knocked me out. No pretense, no fuss, just dining the way I imagined it must have been enjoyed during the Eisenhower Administration.

Horwath’s was a mid-level supper club-type place with a colorful history.  It opened as a speakeasy in the 1930’s, and as reported in the Wednesday  Journal,  it was a former hangout for Momo Giancana and other River Forest mafiosi.  In the 1980s, Outfit boss Chuckie English got whacked in the Horwath parking lot, and that crime remains unsolved.

My favorite waitress, Patty (big, gap-toothed, gregarious Wyf of Bath type) used to regale us with tales of a strong box being dynamited through the basement wall and out onto Harlem, as well as various nefarious après felony dinners that were enjoyed there.

Dinner at Horwath’s always started with a complementary relish tray, a beautiful thing: olives, celery, carrots cut with a serrated knife, radishes. I always followed these all-American crudités with an appetizer that was once probably common: Jell-O with Melba sauce, which was a light, creamy almost foamy topping that contrasted nicely with transparent food. 

 My favorite entrée was the Salisbury steak: roughly textured, mingled with scallions and a little garlic, slopping around in a glistening deep brown mushroom sauce. A mini Devil’s Tower of mashed potato soaked up stray rivulets of gooey gravy, and to the side, a cord of green beans, the ideal complement to Dr. Salisbury’s prescription for health.

Horwath’s is now gone. There’s an office supply store in its place. I still find myself longing for the comfort of this “roadhouse,” with its hint of danger amidst relaxed gentility, a dining room where you could still spot a leisure suit, where you could enjoy straightforward food, well prepared: the kind of restaurant that’s now a memory but not, by me at least, forgotten.

Do you have a favorite restaurant that’s long gone?  Kungsholm? Petticone’s? Vivaldi?

Reader Comments

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northwest suburb resident  

Posted: October 29th, 2011 5:43 PM

My parents used to go to Horwath's when I was a kid (I'm in my 50's now, and they've long since passed)for their big night out, which wasn't very often in the 60's. I then went there as an adult many years ago. Great memories; sorry to see they're gone, likewise with the Homestead. Too sad that everything that was good has been replaced by chain stores, housing developments, etc. True end of an era.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 4th, 2011 2:07 PM

Oak Park tea rooms from early 20th century are referenced in John Drury's book, the subject of a recent blog post: http://www.oakpark.com/Dining/Blogs/05-04-2011/Oak_Park_Restaurants_during_the_Great_Depression Do any of these sound like the one your grandmother's sisters opened?

Debra Fletcher from Elmhurst  

Posted: July 3rd, 2011 1:05 PM

I remember a restaurant called "otto's" in or near Oak Park. We liked it as children because having our own "room" made us feel special. (private dining areas. I would love to be able to find out about a tea house in Oak Park from the early 1900's. My grandmother's sisters opened it after the premature deaths of their parents. They were of Scottish descent and probably served shortbread and scones. I have no clue about the name, unfortunately. Any help appreciated

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: May 6th, 2011 11:46 AM

Thinking of unique places that are gone....Does anyone remember the gourmet Chinese restaurant that was in an industrial area, sort of in the Elmwood Park/Melrose Park area, that was run by a man and his wife? He used to have cooking classes and one of his specialties was a boneless chicken wing where he'd re-stuff the wing? I've never seen any place that had his unique menu. I think it closed after a truck ran into the restaurant.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: May 6th, 2011 11:42 AM

I miss the take-out from Lee Choi in Forest Park. They had a bar in the front with an occasional organist who would play songs like "The Baby Elephant Walk" and great Chinese food in the back. I guess O'Sullivan's is now in the spot--but it looks totally different now.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: May 6th, 2011 9:55 AM

Horwath's was one of those "moments in time" spots. You were traveling back into another era with both the comfort food and the setting -- except for the night the bathroom exploded (see shooting in parking lot). The Homestead (now condos) had it (along with Col. Ricketts the owner). Nielsen's (now Binny's) had a great 1960s modern vibe. Last place I can think of like that is Golden Steer in FP. Like a North Woods supper club.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: May 6th, 2011 9:35 AM

I never ate at Horwath's, but I sure remember that sign and its mystique. Nice description and history of the place. I remember eating at the Homestead on North Avenue, but I don't think its history went back as far. The martinis at the Homestead were big enough for a goldfish to live comfortably. Now there is housing for seniors there. I know many people lamented its demise. A senior said to me "now there is nowhere to go for a good meal."

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