A mouthful of memories at eateries of days gone by

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John Stanger

Nostalgia Blogger

I mentioned a few restaurants in past articles, but these were the places I liked and frequented either with family members or friends:

My uncle Gene liked to eat at Peter Pan's on North and Harlem avenues (Elmwood Park), so whenever his daughter (my cousin Linda) came to visit my family, Gene would take Linda and me to lunch at this restaurant. Gene and I had an affinity for the greasy fries and cheeseburgers, and I'll always insist that Peter Pan's served the best when it came to fries and cheeseburgers.

Gossage Grill, on North Avenue west of Harlem in River Forest, was a favorite hangout for late-nighters because the place was open until the early hours of the morning. The food was OK, but there was always a chance a fight would occur among those who were not sober.

One night around 11, I was in the place with my friend Roger and an altercation took place between a guy named Walt and another guy named Bob. The latter was eating a sandwich and Walt was looking for trouble, as he did even when he was sober. He started to harass Bob, who told him to get lost. Walt grabbed Bob by the arm, and Bob pushed Walt out the door onto the sidewalk. Fortunately, Walt wasn't hurt when he fell, but he took off running because he thought Bob would continue the fight. Instead, he went back to is seat and continued eating.

Jim and Pete's (North and William avenues) was another place visited by my friends and me. The pizza was great, and 3.2 beer was available. Drinking that near-beer made us feel like real mature guys. In reality, I thought it tasted like soap suds.

Three of the places OPRF High School students met after school were Burt's at East Avenue and Lake Street, the Acadia at Oak Park Avenue and Lake, and the cafeteria on the second floor of Gilmore's Department Store (the building Magic Tree Bookstore and Winberie's are in). The high school had a rule that students couldn't smoke within three blocks of the school, so these restaurants — except for Burt's — were safe havens for smokers. My pal Joe liked to go to the Acadia and Gilmore's so he could indulge his habit, but all I got from going to these places was lungs full of second-hand smoke. That's why I rarely went into these places.

Two places where I would go with my family were the Bohemian Crown, just west of Harlem, for stew and dumplings and the Village Inn in the 100 block of North Oak Park Avenue (now Bramble) for Mandarin duck.

When my pals and I were in our late teens, the only place we would go after playing softball or bowling was Pat's Pizza on Madison Street, just east of Ridgeland (Pizza Palazzo for many years until it recently closed). There were usually eight of us, and we ordered three large cheese and sausage pizzas and eight Pepsis.

During the two years we went to Pat's, our favorite pastime was teasing the waitresses and telling Pat that we were short a few dollars on the bill. Pat and the servers were always good natured, though, and took the joshing in stride.

Of these restaurants, only Jim and Pete's, now in Elmwood Park, is still in operation. I miss these places because the thought of them brings back fond memories of the camaraderie of my youth.

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Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 15th, 2017 9:10 AM

@Jim: Thanks for that. It should be noted that the pizza place on the corner of Madison and Ridgeland seems to prosper after the Hut vacated the area. Wonder what the time frame was on that.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 14th, 2017 11:26 PM

Brian, 316 Madison opened as both a KFC and a Pizza Hut. The "Hut" lasted just long enough to negatively impact Pizza Palazzo. A goofy decision to provide financial support to a corporate enterprise that would be in direct competition with an excellent and locally owned business.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 14th, 2017 1:11 PM

@ KM and Jim: I tried to play this game at the North Avenue Business association meeting, What Was There Before That Was There. As I recall now, Cosmos, was at 1116 Madison Street, a clone of the old Als grill.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: July 14th, 2017 9:37 AM

and I think I recall a Pizza Hut on Roosevelt Rd (south side) somewhere near Harlem. It's a strip mall now. Perhaps someone with a better memory than mine can verify.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: July 14th, 2017 8:29 AM

Brian, Erie and Harlem in Oak Park had a Burger King on the south side and a KFC on the north side. Now on the south is Mickey's (having been wonderful Viet Namese restaurant briefly) and on the north there's now a bank. There was never a Pizza Hut there, though there might have been a small carry-out pizza place behind a hair salon - I think it was called "Back Door Pizza" (or maybe that was just a nickname)

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 14th, 2017 2:14 AM

So, that was Erie and Harlem?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 13th, 2017 9:49 PM

Brian, the property directly next door to Pizza Palazzo was developed to house both a KFC and a Pizza Hut. The "Hut" didn't make it long but the chicken stand is still operating. The issue of the Village providing financial incentives to a giant corporation and encourage it to compete with a locally owned and operated business is an example of how economic development policies can be so unfair.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 13th, 2017 6:40 PM

@ Jim Coughlin: Where was that? The only pizza Hut I remember was on North Ave. in Chicago>

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 13th, 2017 4:40 PM

Pizza Palazzo was sabotaged by the Village's decision to provide economic assistance and benefits to the corporation seeking to open a Pizza Hut directly next door. Both restaurants are no longer in business.

David Gullo  

Posted: July 11th, 2017 12:53 PM

Prior to Poor Phill's I think the only liquor and food serving establishment was the private Oak Park Club - now a condo residence at Ontario & Oak Park Ave. After Catholics were allowed as members (late 1960's?) the elegant dining room was a holiday standby. Watch out - the butter inside the Chicken Kiev could shoot across the table! Liquor license #2 or 3 was the old Twin Oaks Diner at Ridgeland & Lake. Ester & Astrid's Scandinavian specialties - white fish, cream sauce and for me a glass of milk. Very monochromatic cuisine! One of the kids on my block was a busboy there who would sneak a few Heinekens out the back door - truly deluxe at that time! OMG - Where would we be without Dennis & Bunny Murphy??

James Peters from Oak Park  

Posted: July 10th, 2017 3:19 PM

Capt. Bob's Neptune's Cove. Harrison and Ridgeland. I think the second restaurant in OP with a liquor license.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: July 10th, 2017 7:29 AM

how about the WEINKELLER on Roosevelt Rd in Berwyn - the original brew pub, back before brew pubs became trendy (before trendy even became part of our vocabulary!) And wasn't Peter Pan also the name of the diner at Harlem & Cermak (SE corner) with the wavy roof? It was torn down and replaced by a McDonald's I think.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 10th, 2017 1:10 AM

The original Als, Grill was on the south side of Madison Street at Wisconsin. There was another 24 hour shop 1116 Madison, but I cant recall the name. There was a small place on Harlem north of Chicago whose name I cant recall, an italian place.

Khandrola Dechen from OakPark  

Posted: July 9th, 2017 6:34 PM

Every Friday my Dad's pinochle group would order thin, cut into squares from Pat's Pizza on Madison in Oak Park near Ridgeland. Stopped in 8th grade because someone killed him - shotgunned in the parlor. It closed for long time. Interesting that it was reopened as another pizza place after that.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 12:53 PM

Haven't thought about most of these places for a good long time. Kings and Queens down on Roosevelt was happily open late (3 a.m.?) during the same years when I sometimes stayed up late. That place and my need for an Italian beef after midnight have now both passed.


Posted: April 4th, 2013 12:46 PM

John, to add to the list for late-night places, Kings and Queens fed many a night owl, as did the Villa, which was mainly a bar but served great pizza. Another place comes to mind: Neba on Madison (at Clearence) in Oak Park, which was replaced by Jimmy's, then Senor Taco, then Pizza Amore, and now is Popeye's Chicken.


Posted: April 3rd, 2013 1:07 PM

Great memories. Also, Bishop's Chili, Christina's Pizza, Cesar's Pizza, Pizza Amore, Senor Taco, Jamie's at Oak Park Ave and South, Salvadore's (Mexican), Set Back North, the beef shop next to Guitar Fun (for OPRF students)...

So many more great hangouts  

Posted: April 3rd, 2013 12:23 PM

The original Al's Grill, Argos (oak park & Madison), Parasol (harlem & madison), Wards or Woolworth cafeterias and The Beef to name just a few.

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