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(Written December 4, 2004)

Hi,

A direct result of the Streets and San Man influence, in September ReneG, Erik M, BobS and I went to Club 81, Too on the southeast side of Chicago in the vicinity of the old Wisconsin Steel Mills.

Erik M got the ball rolling with this excited e-mail to ReneG and I:
OK, this place was featured, briefly, in a news segment, last night, on WTTW. It was a Streets and San Man bit on outdoor dining in Chicago. They talked about this place for a minute. By the looks of it, I am already in love. It is in Hegewisch. It is a tiny stand-alone tavern surrounded on two sides by a virtual park. There is also a lake. They are known for a roast beef sandwich that is served on rye, and the fried fish. In the warmer months, folks sit outside and eat at a picnic table.

It is like the love child of a Wisconsin lakeside tavern and a Calumet City steel mill-workers bar.

Do you know this place?!! [Really a question to our intrepid ReneG]

I really want to go 1) while its nice out, and 2) preferably during the daylight hours, like, say, for lunch.


Initially, it was suggested to go on a Saturday, I countered with a Sunday visit. Erik sensed they many not serve on Sunday. Hmmmm. Based on that comment I phoned because the distance was enough I didn't want to be disappointed.

“What time is the restaurant serving on Sunday.”

“The restaurant is closed [ah ha Erik is right!], but the bar is open.”

“Ok, what are the hours on Saturday?”

“The restaurant is open only Wednesday and Friday. [huh?] On Wednesday, our hours are 11-2, then 4-8. On Friday, our hours are 11-2 and 3-8:30. If you are in the door at 8:30 you are still served. The bar is open every day.”

Very eccentric schedule.

Just to add more meat to this trip, we also were in contact with the Fireman who very briefly posted in February-March last year who we suspected knew Club 81, Too, "Be sure to try the Horseradish sauce with the roast beef. It is homemade and wonderful! Try the HOT if you are feeling frisky!" Unfortunately we did not meet him yet again as he was at a baseball game.

On Friday evening traffic, it took me two hours to reach Club 81, Too arriving at the same time as Erik who collected BobS and ReneG. We came early enough to check out the park with horseshoe game and a Bocce Ball court needing some maintenance. We commented Club 81, Too location in the middle of a residential neighborhood, you had to know this place existed because you would never casually bump into it.

We walked into the bar with the Friday night crowd relaxing and enjoying themselves. To the right was the dining room, which had a small town Foreign Legion hall feel to it, which was not appealing to some of us. The meet-and-greet family member co-owner immediately identified we were new to the place. He told us about his brother the Chef, his other brother who works here who sustained injuries in Vietnam, the sister who was on vacation and (maybe) another sister who works back of the house. We told him the Streets and San Guy caused our visit, he said we were not alone. He explained the menu with fried chicken specific to Wednesday though fish is the Friday specialty.

When we didn’t order the recommended shrimp, he brought out complimentary samples for our future consideration. He came by with some good-natured jokes, which we reasoned all the regulars have heard a few times over. He also explained the eccentric hours: when the restaurant was open daily or opened twice a week, they served roughly the same volume of people. So why not put your energies into two very concentrated days instead of a weaker daily traffic. Interesting concept, which works very well for them since they were crowded.

We learned the Chef brother occasionally revs up the smoker. He also makes several hundred pounds of Polish sausage during the holidays, which people place orders in advance after Thanksgiving. [Shortly after I wrote this, I collected Erik M’s and Rene G’s order information and place our order. We collected it together hoping to enjoy another dinner. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed for a private party. Instead, we went to John’s for pizza. The Polish sausage is very coarsely ground and teaming with garlic. I served these sausages with German red cabbage and parsley boiled potatoes, which my family enjoyed. I smoked the remainder on the 4th of July, which was also well received.]

We had to pinch ourselves to remind us we were still in Chicago, not Wisconsin.

According to ReneG, "There are a couple other places in the vicinity: Riverside Marina, 13601 S Calhoun (S&S Man recs grilled ham and cheese) and M&M Windjammer, 13701 S Hoxie (JSM on Chowhound rec'd burgers and cod on Fri)."

Fast forward to September 5th, 2005:

Earlier this summer, it was decided the merry group would return to sample the menu yet again and take some pictures. Easier said than done, last week after another effort to coordinate Rene G and I decided to return on our own for the Friday fish fry. Upon seating, we were given a bowl of pickled beets to snack on while reading the menu.

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We ordered crab cakes as an appetizer to share:

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Rene G selected the Lake Perch, which appeared to be the genuine article. No tartar or cocktail sauce is offered, however the coleslaw makes a great accompaniment with extra portions available for the asking.

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I ordered a walleye fillet, which filled my plate. In both cases, the fish were skillfully fried to cooked rather than overcooked. The additions on our plates of green onions, radishes and cottage cheese reminded me of relish plates my Grandmother would serve as well as the rye bread with butter.

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While we had heard the menu emphasis on Wednesday was different, we returned the following Wednesday to learn it was nearly the same menu with less fish dishes offered. To get a read on the BBQ offered, we shared a plate of rib tips. This was not smoked BBQ, which they offer on occasion. This was perhaps boiled, sauced and baked BBQ with the meat Jello qualities often criticized here. While Rene G ate the crust of his, he was quite surprised I ate my portion all the while complaining it wasn’t very good. As I have noted before, I have a capacity to eat food I don’t especially like.

For my main course, I ordered their fried chicken and Rene G ordered Walleye. My fried chicken was ever so lightly dusted with seasoned flour and fried. They have a good skill with frying because my wing, leg, thigh and breast were each cooked correctly. Not one piece was under or over cooked, which is a balancing act when everything arrives warm to the table.

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Rene G’s Walleye were several filets rather than the grandiose one I had been served the Friday before. Despite an afternoon of eating and meandering with Gary and friends, I noticed he ate all his fish.

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Club 81, Too is certainly a neighborhood institution and home of the perpetual party where everyone knows your name, though equally welcoming to strangers. It is also family oriented with kids present every time we have visited. It’s very likely the place the regulars must visit first whenever they have been out of town for an extended period.

Club 81, Too is yet another data point there is a lot we need to learn of the south side.

Club 81 Too
13157 S Avenue M (written as stated on the signs)
Chicago
773-646-4292
The restaurant is ONLY open Wednesday and Friday!
Wednesday: 11-2, 4-8
Friday: 11-2, 3-8:30
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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I’m so glad Cathy posted on Club 81 Too. I’ll add a few random comments and pictures.

First, a slight digression. Cathy mentioned a progressive East Side dinner; here’s a suggested do-it-yourself itinerary. Next Friday, why not start at Tacos del Pacifico (open to 7) for a tostada de ceviche (Fri & Sat only) and tacos of your choice. Then across the street to Pupuseria El Salvador for pupusas and whatever else strikes your fancy. Be sure to drive by St Simeon Miroticivi Serbian Orthodox Church on your way south (but remember, you need to be at Club 81 Too before 8:30 to be served, 8:00 on Wed). For dessert, continue south to Cunis Candies for a peach sundae. A couple Fridays ago, peach was still in season and they were open until 10. Things change, call first!

St Simeon Miroticivi Serbian Orthodox Church
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This replica of a Serbian Orthodox monastery, completed in the late 1960s, is one of the most striking churches in Chicago. It’s at 3737 E 114th St. I haven’t yet seen the interior yet but I bet it’s spectacular.

Club 81 Too used to be at 81st & Exchange but moved to its present location in ‘81, thus the name. It’s in the middle of a residential neighborhood and can be a bit tricky to find. Turn off Avenue O (a major thoroughfare) at 131st or 133rd, go east 2 blocks, and you’re almost there.

Club 81 Too, from Avenue M
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From the outside it looks like hundreds of other Chicago taverns.

Behind Club 81 Too
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The back yard is very pleasant with picnic tables, bocce courts, horseshoe pits, and an arm of Wolf Lake off in the distance. It really doesn’t feel like you’re in Chicago any more.

The front bar room is classic Chicago tavern but with a friendliness not always found at such places. As a first-time visitor I felt truly welcome.

Club 81 Too’s Dining Room
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The back dining room transports you Wisconsin, with plenty of beer signs and dead animals hanging on the walls. It’s usually pretty crowded but it’s very comfortable.

Amuse Gueule
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While perusing the menu, you’re presented with a bowl of pickled beets. You might expect cottage cheese and maybe a radish and green onion, but those come later.

The Friday Menu
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As Cathy mentioned the Wednesday and Friday menus are fairly similar. Prices are extremely low given the quality and quantity. The back of the menu lists suggestions “for hungrier appetites.”

Cathy has described the food well but the beef sandwich deserves a few more words. Mainly a lunch item, it consists of (fairly well done) thinly sliced roast beef with grilled onions on rye bread. Horseradish is the perfect condiment. A nice little sandwich ($2.50, I think).

I love Club 81 Too for many reasons. There are so few Friday fish fries in Chicago and this is the real thing. Just don’t order those rib tips . . .
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Hi,

For the holidays, Club 81, Too makes garlicky Polish sausage, which you must order in advance.

Rene G, Erik M and I purchased it last year and garlic seeped out of our pores for days. They definitely don't go light on the garlic. I bought several pounds which I served with boiled potatoes and German pickled red cabbage. I save a bit more which I smoked for th 4th of July. My family loved it.

Regards,
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
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Rene G wrote: Be sure to drive by St Simeon Miroticivi Serbian Orthodox Church on your way south

St Simeon Miroticivi Serbian Orthodox Church
Image
This replica of a Serbian Orthodox monastery, completed in the late 1960s, is one of the most striking churches in Chicago. It’s at 3737 E 114th St. I haven’t yet seen the interior yet but I bet it’s spectacular.


There's some great historical information about this and other current and defunct Southeast Side churches here, noting that the skyline of the communities of South Chicago, South Deering, the East Side and Hegewisch was historically described as "Smokestacks and Steeples."

It also comments that there are no pews or seats inside the church, since the congregation stands throughout Serbian Orthodox services.
_______________________________________

LAZ
Please see this thread on LTHForum's new Terms of Service
for why my photos and other portions of my posts have been removed
Index to LTHForum Recipes, 2004-2008
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Hi Cathy,

We'd like to post a review on Club 81 Too on www.chibarproject.com - would it be ok to post a few of your photos to the review with a link to this site and/or your website? Please let us know and thanks.

Sean Parnell
parnellsf ( @ ) chibaproject dot com
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Hi,

You may use my pictures. I'd prefer a link back to the post here: viewtopic.php?p=43140#p43140 -- this link works but it is truncated. I suggest clicking on this link, then copy the precise addess off your navigation bar.

Let me know when it is up.

Regards,
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
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Kevin Pang gives some love to Club 81 Too in today's trib. It is a go on my Friday trips to Indiana

--> Link to story
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Sounds and looks like a good old place. Never been there yet but will have to check it out some Fry-day night. That Garlic Polish sasuage is sounding good to!
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Hi,

I suggest printing a map of the immediate neighborhood. I fully recall the first time Erik M went down there. I was at my computer guiding him street-by-street, because there a lot of railroad lines down there. It is too easy to go up a blind alley.

When we went back with Rene G, he suggested following the bus routes. This worked like a charm.

I should head there someday with the GPS lady to see where she brings me.

Regards,
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
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Cathy,

I grew up in Hegewisch and it's really quite simple.

Take 90/94 to 130th street east.
Take 130th east to Brainard Ave (Immediately after crossing the second set of street level track near Torrence Ave) and turn right (Southeast).
Take Brainard southeast to 133rd street.
Turn Left (East) onto 133rd
Take 133rd street east (Make sure to wave to my cousin at Lenart's Florists at 133rd and Houston!) to Avenue M.

Turn left (North) onto Avenue M. Go 2 blocks to 131st street.
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JLenart,

I will take your advice in the future. It's nice to have some clarity on how to travel there.

Regards,
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
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Hi,

It's been a very long time since I have visited Club 81, Too. When we were first acquainted with Club 81, Too, they had an eccentric schedule: Bar open seven days a week. If you wanted food, then you needed to follow their hours carefully:

Wednesday: 11-2, 4-8
Friday: 11-2, 3-8:30

Everything changes and Club 81, Too, finally changed their hours, too:

Monday-Friday Lunch: 11 -2
Wednesday: 4-8
Friday: 3-8

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Menu cover with new hours by cal222, on Flickr

While they served the beets on paper plates. Our main course came on plates, not paper plates:

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Fried chicken by cal222, on Flickr

This was by the book perfectly wonderful fried chicken, which would be a firm competitor in LaSalle County. I loved the mini-relish tray of coleslaw, radish on top of cottage cheese and a green onion. My friend originally didn't want her coleslaw, until she saw what they offered. She wisely rescinded her offer and waitress brought another to make up, that was really very sweet of her to do.

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Walleye by cal222, on Flickr

My friend had one Walleye filet with the second going home. She was very pleased with her choices.

I did obtain a copy of the lunch menu, which has a number of selections reasonably priced at $5.95:

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Lunch menu by cal222, on Flickr

The whitefish sandwich, handpacked hamburger and ham and cheese sandwich, "Pan fried like Mom used to make them" caught my attention.

A little more of the dinner menu:

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Interiior page 1 by cal222, on Flickr

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Interior page 2 by cal222, on Flickr

I hope this will remind people to visit this east side gem. It really is a suitable choice for Great Neighborhood Restaurant nomination.

Club 81, Too is in a residential neighborhood along Wolf Lake. It is also in a region riddled with railroad crossings and deadends due to embankments. Take a map or let your GPS guide you, because intuitive navigation may frustrate you greatly.

Whatever you do, make an effort to visit. I have never been there for their daily lunch, only dinner. All my experience is related to their dinner menu, though it has always been very favorable.

Regards,
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
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We had dinner at Club 81 Too Friday night after a wake on the SE Side. If it wasn't the best lake perch I've ever had, I don't know when I've had better. It was lightly battered and fried perfectly, not at all greasy. Typical workingman's bar, simple drinks and cold Old Style.
The Jim Shoe

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