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The Magic Pan returns (a shell of its' former self)

The Magic Pan returns (a shell of its' former self)
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  • The Magic Pan returns (a shell of its' former self)

    Post #1 - September 10th, 2005, 11:34 pm
    Post #1 - September 10th, 2005, 11:34 pm Post #1 - September 10th, 2005, 11:34 pm
    Just the name Magic Pan sends me drifting back thirty years ago to my junior high school French class. Our teacher Mrs. Muchman arranged a field trip to the Magic Pan at Old Orchard for a French meal. This was a big deal from selecting our meals in advance to practicing our French to converse over lunch.

    Once my friends and I learned to drive, Magic Pan at Old Orchard was one of our first destinations for unescorted dining. My best friend Cathy, you wonder why I am 2?, always had the spinach crepes. I favored a creamed seafood crepe laced with sherry. We always had dessert of Crepe Suzette or something with carmelized apples, though my memory stretches here to remember.

    Mrs. Muchman was really quite a wonderful teacher who thought out of the box long before it was used to bolster creativity. She arranged for us to go to a French cooking school in Glenview lorded over by Chef Snowden to learn how to make Crepe Suzette. Chef Snowden was a humorless curmudgeon who missed a few fingers though his ability to cook was sharp. There are many alumni of his four semester series who are influential in Chicago today. Yet for one afternoon, the man who scared his adult students, ruled over 12 and 13 year olds who barely boiled water to make crepes suzette. For weeks thereafter, I was in the kitchen making Crepe Suzette largely because I could. I especially liked flaming them!

    Earlier this year when someone observed Northbrook Court had plans to open a Magic Pan, I hoped it could be true however remote that may be. Earlier this week, I visited Northbrook Court for lunch and immediately sought out the Magic Pan location, which I learned opened the week before.

    Magic Pan 2005 is no longer a sit down restaurant, it is a fast food crepe stall. There is no large ring of gas with upside down smooth bottom frying pans with dipped crepe batter cooking as it rotates over the circuit. Instead there are three large flat iron plates to cook the crepe batter. The cook selects from buckwheat, cornmeal or wheat flour crepe batter and pours a measured quantity on the pan. Using a t-stick paddle he smoothes and spreads the batter to the outer edges. Once cooked, the crepe is filled and presented to the customer.

    I talked to the manager who advised they had the original chef-trainer from the old Magic Pan fly in from San Franciso to reproduce and train their people for several original Magic Pan dishes: Original Spinach Souffle Crepe; Original Chicken Divan Crepe; Original Crepe Suzette; Original Strawberries and Sour Cream Crepe; Original Chantilly Crepe and Original Cherry Royale Crepe. I remember vaguely the old Magic Pan closed abruptly I believe due to bankruptcy. The manager didn't remember the circumstances, though he knew all 240+ Magic Pan restaurants closed in one day across the country.

    Magic Pan 2005 had menu items which were simply unknown when the original was alive and kicking. Thai chicken crepes? Crepe Quesadilla? Pizza Crepe? BBQ Chicken Crepe? Nobody in 1972 would have ever consider those Crepe fillings. As a nod to new trends from the other side of the pond, they also include Parisian Street Crepes. "Simply your topping (Nutella, Chocolate or Caramel) served in our signature walk-around cone."

    In homage to my youthful best friend Cathy, I had the Spinach Souffle Crepe, which was filled with a bright green spinach filling with a cheddar cheese sauce poured over the filled crepe. Since I never had a Spinach Souffle Crepe when the old Magic Pan was alive, I cannot compare it to the original. I have to admit the Magic Pan 2005 Spinach Souffle Crepe filling reminded me immediately of Stouffer's Spinach Souffle in looks and taste. Since I now love creamed spinach in all forms, this was just another way of presentation, which I just might borrow. I would certainly consider ordering this again.

    For an extra $1.25, you may order a side chopped salad to accompany your crepe. This chopped salad consisted of lettuce, tomato, raisins, blue cheese, bacon, scallions with a mustard vinaigrette. This was a super value as well as great tasting and rounded off your meal.

    I remembered from the earlier post Magic Pan 2005 was a Lettuce Entertain You venture. When I inquired with the manager, he replied, "Yes it is and I am proud of it!"

    Magic Pan 2005 isn't my old beloved Magic Pan, though I really did appreciate the effort to resurrect a few classics from that era. While you can never go home again, I enjoyed remembering what was.

    The Magic Pan Crepe Stand
    Northbrook Court
    1st level outside main movie box office
    847/498-9400
    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
  • Post #2 - September 11th, 2005, 7:14 am
    Post #2 - September 11th, 2005, 7:14 am Post #2 - September 11th, 2005, 7:14 am
    Magic Pan Redux sounds like it's worth a trip. The Magic Pan name invokes such nostalgia for me for as being so widely exotic back in the 70s. French Crepes? That's crazy! (At least to my 10-year-old mind.) They went into a decline in the 80s and I don't remember going there at all as a teen. Claim Co. was my place!
    "You should eat!"
  • Post #3 - September 11th, 2005, 7:44 am
    Post #3 - September 11th, 2005, 7:44 am Post #3 - September 11th, 2005, 7:44 am
    Franabanana wrote:Claim Co. was my place!


    Then have a look at what Cathy said.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #4 - September 11th, 2005, 10:33 am
    Post #4 - September 11th, 2005, 10:33 am Post #4 - September 11th, 2005, 10:33 am
    stevez, I did try that place on Cathy2's recommendation; I wouldn't go out of my way to try it again. OK, but not "The Claim" I remember. Guess you can't go home again.
    "You should eat!"
  • Post #5 - September 11th, 2005, 10:57 am
    Post #5 - September 11th, 2005, 10:57 am Post #5 - September 11th, 2005, 10:57 am
    Hi,

    Returning to favored foods which have been lost, then returned is really a tricky issue. You are no longer in that special time and place, plus your experiences have expanded since that time. Presented with an exact copy, you may not be satisfied because your expectations have changed. EatChicago has made several comments recently about places which seemed so great in his youth suffer today because of his increased level of experience and discernment.

    It is my understanding 41 North was/is run by people who were running the Claim Company at Northbrook Court. They made sure to have the popular hamburger on their menu. Is it precisely the same burger? I don't know though it is the closest I've had since that time. Of course, is it the burger or the lack of the salad bar? The Claim Company salad bar is part of the experience that without some would feel disappointment.

    When my Irish Grandfather was still alive, we had a devil of time producing a goose which tasted goosey enough to rival his youthful memories. A lot of money and time was spent on goose and it was never quite goosey enough. I finally gave up because there was no way I could ever satisfy him and maybe he was best left with his memories.

    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
  • Post #6 - September 11th, 2005, 11:07 am
    Post #6 - September 11th, 2005, 11:07 am Post #6 - September 11th, 2005, 11:07 am
    Cathy,
    Thanks for the memories. I have fond memories of Magic Pan and especially taking my daughter there who thought this was a very special meal. I haven't tried the new one yet, and yes memories do sometimes dim when tried 20 or so years later. I sometimes find that even when I cook things I haven't for years they just don't seem the same. Sometimes good but different, sometimes I wonder how I could have made and eaten it then.
    As an aside, Mrs. Muchum was a friend of ours. Her husband worked with my husband and we had many a business meal together. Do you know of her background growing up in Belgium during WWII. She was hidden in a convent in Belgium.
    Anyway thanks again for the memories both the restaurant and the woman.
    Paulette
  • Post #7 - September 11th, 2005, 11:39 am
    Post #7 - September 11th, 2005, 11:39 am Post #7 - September 11th, 2005, 11:39 am
    Hi,

    Mrs. Muchman was very open about her experience during the War. When she arrived to Belgium, she was so immersed to learn French she forgot her German. I remember a lot of what she said, which after finding her parents letters in her Aunt and Uncle's home in 1990 must have turned her world upside down. All this after loosing her son to a drunk driver.

    I went to school with both her children, Wendy and Rob. I used to go to her home to be tutored and met her husband, who died a few years ago.

    You know there are always a few teachers who make an impact, Mrs. Muchman was one of them.

    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
  • Post #8 - September 11th, 2005, 5:58 pm
    Post #8 - September 11th, 2005, 5:58 pm Post #8 - September 11th, 2005, 5:58 pm
    Wow! Magic Pan brings back a lot of memories for me too. I was pretty young when my mom and I went there religiously when we lived in the city. I think that one was on Rush St.?
    I tried the Magic Pan at the Mall of America last time I was there, and it was pretty decent, but I have rarely met a crepe I didn't like. I like to stick with the originals myself like the spinach crepe and ham and cheese.
  • Post #9 - September 11th, 2005, 6:19 pm
    Post #9 - September 11th, 2005, 6:19 pm Post #9 - September 11th, 2005, 6:19 pm
    I always loved the Magic Pan in Chicago, and when I moved to NYC, there was one on 57th Street that was a fave spot for lunch (chicken divan was my choice, and I loved the pea soup with sherry). I miss them, but the dessert crepes there never held a candle to the ones at La Creperie, about which I know some people have recently posted some negative comments. I haven't been for about a year, but I've always enjoyed the chicken with tons of mushroom crepes, and then the chocolate one for dessert at La Creperie.

    Tonight I made crepes with black pepper in the batter, and filled them with herbed goat cheese and sliced tomatoes from the yard. They were a lovely summer dinner.

    For dessert -- chocolate crepes (sans pepper, although maybe...) with whipped cream and fresh raspberries from the Wheaton French market. Yummmmm.

    P.S. My crepe recipe is the one my older sister got from HER high school french teacher (and my spanish teacher), Mrs. Stone. I got a "guacamole" recipe that was about 1/2 avocado and 1/2 sour cream. It's too depressing to think about how many years ago that was!
  • Post #10 - September 11th, 2005, 6:35 pm
    Post #10 - September 11th, 2005, 6:35 pm Post #10 - September 11th, 2005, 6:35 pm
    Magic Pan nostalgia vs.23XXX:

    The restaurant was so enigmatic in the 80's in Houston in The Galleria. I "took" Liz there her middle school prom night[I was a (closted) high school freshman]. Much hilarity ensued over crepes suzette(assumedly, to the consternation of other patrons). Interesting that they're still clinging to life in, of course, the suburbs.
  • Post #11 - September 11th, 2005, 9:01 pm
    Post #11 - September 11th, 2005, 9:01 pm Post #11 - September 11th, 2005, 9:01 pm
    Christopher Gordon wrote:Interesting that they're still clinging to life in, of course, the suburbs.


    The Magic Pan you took your friend to is long gone.

    Lettuce Entertain You's Magic Pan is a whole new venture, which borrowed (or paid for) a name with considerable goodwill, added just enough of the old recipes to keep us hopeful and unexpected menu twists which will attract those who didn't know the old establishment.

    Oh, Lettuce Entertain You is headquartered in the city, Chicago, of course.

    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
  • Post #12 - September 11th, 2005, 9:27 pm
    Post #12 - September 11th, 2005, 9:27 pm Post #12 - September 11th, 2005, 9:27 pm
    I'm fairly sure that the Magic Pan in Chicago was on Oak St.

    Still miss it.
  • Post #13 - September 11th, 2005, 10:30 pm
    Post #13 - September 11th, 2005, 10:30 pm Post #13 - September 11th, 2005, 10:30 pm
    You're probably right about Oak St. I just remember always eating at Magic Pan, Oak Tree, and Sweet Water when I was a very young. Thanks for remembering.
  • Post #14 - September 12th, 2005, 12:50 am
    Post #14 - September 12th, 2005, 12:50 am Post #14 - September 12th, 2005, 12:50 am
    I'm fairly sure that the Magic Pan in Chicago was on Oak St.

    The Magic Pan was at 60 E Walton, a block south of Oak.
  • Post #15 - September 12th, 2005, 9:47 am
    Post #15 - September 12th, 2005, 9:47 am Post #15 - September 12th, 2005, 9:47 am
    Cathy, by "clinging to life," I meant the concept, not the business model. I didn't intend to imply the original is still kicking. Alas, the Galleria of the new millenium holds few of the surprises and eccentricities of it's 80's incarnation.
  • Post #16 - September 12th, 2005, 2:39 pm
    Post #16 - September 12th, 2005, 2:39 pm Post #16 - September 12th, 2005, 2:39 pm
    Returning to favored foods which have been lost, then returned is really a tricky issue. You are no longer in that special time and place, plus your experiences have expanded since that time. Presented with an exact copy, you may not be satisfied because your expectations have changed.

    Cathy2, you put your finger on it! It's not that 41 North was bad, but given my expectations for what a Claim Co-type place would have (salad bar, chips, and Claim sauce come to mind, but also the whole aesthetic was so different...), it just didn't measure up. Even if it had been the "real" Claim company as I recalled, who's to say it could measure up to the memory, which to me is so strongly tied to a fun family night (when I was the kid, not the Mom) as well as my favorite teen hang-out.

    Today, I'd happily chow down on a burger at Beinlich's which is reliably steady in an uncertain world.

    The crepe world is a little light in the North burbs, despite the presence of Vive La Crepe in Evanston, which has passable food but very strange service, in my experience.
    "You should eat!"
  • Post #17 - September 12th, 2005, 5:29 pm
    Post #17 - September 12th, 2005, 5:29 pm Post #17 - September 12th, 2005, 5:29 pm
    Like them or not, corporate chain restaurants permanently have changed our dining expectations. The Magic Pan was owned by the company that ran Henrici's Steak And Lobster. A hallmark of their operation was the standardization of everything about the restaurant, from the number of butter pats to the waitress' spiel to the diners. One benefit was a high level of service, revolutionary at the time, that we now take for granted.

    Anecdote: In 1976, my business partner took his mother, visiting from Dayton, to lunch at the Magic Pan on Walton. As they ate their crepes, the waitress stopped by the table to inquire whether everything was to their satisfaction. They nodded affirmatively and, as the young lady walked away, Mom exclaimed, "Oh, I see they know you here!"
  • Post #18 - September 12th, 2005, 11:10 pm
    Post #18 - September 12th, 2005, 11:10 pm Post #18 - September 12th, 2005, 11:10 pm
    HI,

    Henrici's had a location in Northbrook where I believe 41 North now resides. The street you turn into to access 41 North is called Henrici's.

    I was really a kid when Henrici's bit the dust. I always had the impression it was an old Chicago restaurant with deep roots in Chicago history, though I have no idea where that impression came from. It's interesting you advise the firm which owned Henrici's started Magic Pan, where Magic Pan lived on into the 1980's though Henrici's was gone by the mid to late 70's. From my discussion with the manager at Lettuce Entertain You, I have the impression Magic Pan was a company with origins in California.

    41 North or Forty One North
    445 Skokie Blvd.
    Northbrook
    847-753-9111 Ph
    847-753-9222 Fax
    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
  • Post #19 - September 12th, 2005, 11:51 pm
    Post #19 - September 12th, 2005, 11:51 pm Post #19 - September 12th, 2005, 11:51 pm
    Actually, I don't believe they started the Magic Pan, but acquired and ran the chain for some part of its existence. And I believe you're right, MP outlived the Henrici's restaurants by several years. I've been racking my brain trying to remember the parent outfit; the name John R. Thompson Company comes spinning out of the fog.
  • Post #20 - September 13th, 2005, 1:22 am
    Post #20 - September 13th, 2005, 1:22 am Post #20 - September 13th, 2005, 1:22 am
    The Magic Pan was one restaurant place that I never had the opportunity (or the money) to try. The only thing that I can add is that they were founded by Lazlo Fono and eventually sold to Quaker Oats in the early '80s dueing that period when many large food conglomerates were buying restaurant chains.

    There is a Yahoo! forum on the Magic Pan featuring a lot of former employees.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MagicPanProject/


    Hope that helps.
  • Post #21 - September 13th, 2005, 5:07 am
    Post #21 - September 13th, 2005, 5:07 am Post #21 - September 13th, 2005, 5:07 am
    Cathy2 wrote:HI,

    Henrici's had a location in Northbrook where I believe 41 North now resides. The street you turn into to access 41 North is called Henrici's.

    I was really a kid when Henrici's bit the dust. I always had the impression it was an old Chicago restaurant with deep roots in Chicago history, though I have no idea where that impression came from. It's interesting you advise the firm which owned Henrici's started Magic Pan, where Magic Pan lived on into the 1980's though Henrici's was gone by the mid to late 70's. From my discussion with the manager at Lettuce Entertain You, I have the impression Magic Pan was a company with origins in California.

    41 North or Forty One North
    445 Skokie Blvd.
    Northbrook
    847-753-9111 Ph
    847-753-9222 Fax


    Henrici's was a Burghoff-like restaurant at 67 W. Randolph that opened in 1868 and didn't close until sometime in the '60s. I'm pretty sure it was located on the now vacant Block 37. It was so much a part of Chicago's history that a replica of the restaurant (well, the storefront anyway) is featured in the Museum of Science and Industry's "Yesterday Street".

    Henrici's Postcard
    Image
    Last edited by stevez on September 13th, 2005, 8:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #22 - September 13th, 2005, 8:09 am
    Post #22 - September 13th, 2005, 8:09 am Post #22 - September 13th, 2005, 8:09 am
    Henrici's is indeed an old Chicago restaurant. The food as my father in-law used to say was wholesome, in other words plain and bland. If I remember correctly they served coffee with whipped cream.

    The Henrici's in Northbrook was there when we moved to Northbrook in 1974. I remember the naming of the "driveway" behind the recipe being named for Henrici's but don't really remember when it was done. I also don't remember when it closed. On incarnation of the building was Olive Garden. Today that building is some type of medical facility I can't remember what kind. Anyway a little Chicago and Northbrook history.
    Paulette
  • Post #23 - September 13th, 2005, 12:09 pm
    Post #23 - September 13th, 2005, 12:09 pm Post #23 - September 13th, 2005, 12:09 pm
    I certainly recall Henrici's on the south side of Randolph, west of State. When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes take me downtown for shopping (at Marshall Field's of course) and we'd usually have lunch at either Henrici's or a few doors west at a Chinese restaurant. I think it was Ho Sai Guy (spelling?). I don't recall much about the food except that we enjoyed it at both.

    Somehow we never made it to Toffenetti's which was, I think, on the other side of Randolph at Dearborn (or was it Clark?).

    What I really liked was the same block as Henriic's had a shop filled with magic tricks! It was paradise!
    Where there’s smoke, there may be salmon.
  • Post #24 - September 13th, 2005, 2:51 pm
    Post #24 - September 13th, 2005, 2:51 pm Post #24 - September 13th, 2005, 2:51 pm
    67 West Randolph falls between Dearborn and Clark. That block was cleared to build what was then called the Civic Center, now the Daley Center, which carries the year 1965.
  • Post #25 - September 13th, 2005, 6:06 pm
    Post #25 - September 13th, 2005, 6:06 pm Post #25 - September 13th, 2005, 6:06 pm
    George R wrote:What I really liked was the same block as Henriic's had a shop filled with magic tricks! It was paradise!


    The Treasure Chest. I spent many an hour there with my high school buddies.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #26 - September 13th, 2005, 6:54 pm
    Post #26 - September 13th, 2005, 6:54 pm Post #26 - September 13th, 2005, 6:54 pm
    stevez wrote:The Treasure Chest. I spent many an hour there with my high school buddies.


    Wow, talk about a great memory. For someone that seldom got downtown as a kid, I seem to have spent a lot of time there myself. But I could have never pulled out the name. But as soon as you mention the name it all comes back.
  • Post #27 - September 14th, 2005, 11:55 pm
    Post #27 - September 14th, 2005, 11:55 pm Post #27 - September 14th, 2005, 11:55 pm
    Yahoo! forum on the Magic Pan referenced by jlawrence above wrote:I decided to start this group so that there could be a single resource for the recipes, a gathering place to share experiences, test recipes, and perhaps re-connect with old co-workers.

    This is not just a recipe collection! We need you to get involved, ask questions, and share. We want to hear all about those memories about The Magic Pan (or Tragic Pan, as the case may be)! Also, some of the recipes of the Magic Pan changed over the years, so it’s possible there are variations out there. Yes, Stouffers was used, but original recipes existed from the early days. If you know any of this, please share!


    In my original post I likened the Spinach Souffle in my crepe to Stouffer's Spinach Souffle, it appears I unintentionally hit the nail on the head.
    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
  • Post #28 - September 15th, 2005, 1:36 am
    Post #28 - September 15th, 2005, 1:36 am Post #28 - September 15th, 2005, 1:36 am
    In the late 70's/early 80's there was a Henrici's in the McClurg Court Complex (300 E. Ohio), it was sandwiched between the Holiday Inn City Centre and the McClurg Court movie theaters. Not very memorable, more of a place to go for happy hour drinks...

    --
    GEM
  • Post #29 - September 15th, 2005, 4:29 am
    Post #29 - September 15th, 2005, 4:29 am Post #29 - September 15th, 2005, 4:29 am
    In the 60s and into, I think, the early 70s, there was a Henrici's in Oak Brook shopping center. Don't think I ever went in, though I remember red velvet walls and a kind of faux fanciness.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #30 - April 27th, 2006, 12:34 am
    Post #30 - April 27th, 2006, 12:34 am Post #30 - April 27th, 2006, 12:34 am
    We lunched today at the Magic Pan. I had the chicken divan crepe, which was much as my feeble memory recalls it of old, and the crepe suzette, which was very classic and very good. Himself opted for a ham & cheese version I thought boring, and a cherry dessert crepe that was packed with cherries but a bit too sweet for me.

    The crepes themselves were quite nice: thin, a little spongy, with crispy edges.

    I also tried the potage St. Germain, a deliciously thick and creamy pea soup.

    Nothing stellar, not worth going out of your way for, but a decent option if you happen to be near Northbrook Court anyway. I am glad to see crepes returning to culinary fashion. I had missed them.

    I did overhear two North Shore women complaining bitterly. Apparently they'd thought something called the "Magic Pan Crepe Stand" was an elegant sit-down establishment instead of a mall walk-up stall. (It shares seating with the Corner Bakery opposite, the two flanking the mall movie theater.)

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