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?

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...

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