Oak Park Restaurants during the Great Depression

Windsor Tea Room, Chanticleer Dining room, Three Sisters Tea Room

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By David Hammond

 In John Drury’s classic Dining in Chicago, published in 1931, this early food journalist records his impressions of many old Chicago area restaurants (remember Red Star? Ireland’s Oyster House?) that have now mostly closed or crumbled into history.

Drury also mentions three Oak Park dining establishments that seemed to be doing well in the Thirties despite the Great Depression. Perhaps, given the emphasis upon tea, Prohibition may actually have been good for these three village businesses:

WINDSOR TEA ROOM (717 South Boulevard, Oak Park, Ill.) Swinging around to Oak Park, that swanky suburb directly west of Chicago, we come to the Windsor, which has a good sized clientele among the diners-out of the village, said to be the largest village in the world. This place is open for luncheon, afternoon tea, and dinner, and the standard American dishes are found on the menu.

 THE CHANTICLEER DINING ROOM (138 South Oak Park Ave, Oak Park, Ill.) Another smart eating establishment of the village, and well patronized, too. The pastries are notable, the waitresses alert, and the prices reasonable. There is another Chanticleer at 124 Wisconsin Avenue.

 THE THREE SISTERS TEA ROOM (180 North Marion Avenue, Oak Park, Ill.) Over thirty years ago three sisters started a small eating establishment at Madison Street and Crawford Avenue, on the far west side of Chicago. Today, they still operate it and its fame is based solely on the excellent quality of the foods served. Now they have opened this tea room in Oak Park and are meeting with as much success as in the Chicago place. It is in an old residence and the scheme of decoration is early American. Chicken, roasts, and sea foods are the popular items on the menu. Sunday dinner is served from 12 noon to 4 P.M. Prices standard.

If you’re interested in downloading or reading Dining in Chicago for free online, you can access the whole book here (I’d recommend PDF format; that way, you can see the original pages, illustrations, etc.).

 Do you remember any old Oak Park restaurants that you liked but are no longer in business?

Reader Comments

3 Comments - Add Your Comment

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David Hammond from Oakpark.com/Dining/Blogs  

Posted: May 5th, 2011 8:26 PM

The "brothel" at Klas is always fun to show out-of-towners. The owners usually have bands practicing in that room now, but you can see by the way the room is laid out (narrow banquet hall with half-a-dozen small rooms off it) that it once served many purposes aside from eating good Czech chow. One year, we had an Xmas party for 80 in the Zhivago Room, lined with hand painted murals from Russian history. Klas: we will not see its like again.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: May 5th, 2011 8:18 PM

An old world place that still exists that everyone should check out is Klas Restaurant in Cicero on Cermak. You can feel the Chicago history there. Ask if you can get a tour of the upper floors--there are great murals and rooms where Al Capone and his gang hung out.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: May 5th, 2011 8:13 PM

This is a fun column, and fun to look back at the Depression-era restaurants of OP. I am not very old, but I remember Bishop's Chili in Forest Park. I think it was on Roosevelt Road. I ate there once before it closed, and it was like out of a movie set. Folks sat at a big counter and ordered hot bowls of chili.

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