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The Ur-Document of My Chicago Food Obsession

The Ur-Document of My Chicago Food Obsession
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  • The Ur-Document of My Chicago Food Obsession

    Post #1 - September 15th, 2007, 10:46 pm
    Post #1 - September 15th, 2007, 10:46 pm Post #1 - September 15th, 2007, 10:46 pm
    "I'm going to save it. I have a hunch it could be pretty valuable someday, like the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution, or my first report card in school." --Joseph Cotten, Citizen Kane

    I was looking for something that had nothing to do with LTHForum, and opened an old book. And inside it I found a piece of paper in a hand that looked vaguely familiar, listing a number of familiar restaurants-- Al's, Mario's, etc.

    Flipping it over I knew instantly what it was, and how unlikely it was that it had survived all these years. In 1985, at my first job in Wichita, I took my first vacation (aka, scout out where I wanted to move for my next job) to Chicago. My boss in Wichita had worked for Sears' catalog division in the mid-70s-- there's a story involving mannequins, rubber cement and pencil shavings that I'll save for another time-- and so I'd asked him for his suggestions of where to eat in Chicago:

    Image

    Interesting that they all still exist, except for some Greektown place called Diana's. (Looks like I scribbled another suggestion, "Lou Malnotti's" [sic], in the upper left corner.) Anyway, there it is, 19 years before LTHForum, my first LTH-like request for where to eat in Chicago. (Okay, it's really more Chowhound-like. At least I didn't ask where to get New York pizza.)

    Now if only my sister-in-law could find my first food post-- the dish-by-dish description we sent her on a postcard from our meal at L'Esperance in Vezelay, France in 1998....
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  • Post #2 - September 16th, 2007, 12:20 am
    Post #2 - September 16th, 2007, 12:20 am Post #2 - September 16th, 2007, 12:20 am
    From theslackdaily.com:

    When I was in high school, my dad would occasionally take us to Greektown for dinner on Sunday nights, to place called Diana's Opaa. Diana's was owned by a guy named Petros, who until about thirty seconds ago, I didn't realize actually had a last name. The line on Sunday nights would be down the block, but SlackDad would walk up to the front and Petros would wave him in. Petros was part Ricardo Montalban and part Willy Wonka; his hair was slightly too long and his skin looked like it had spent slightly too much time under the sunlamp. He wore a bushy fur coat that could have been made out of Falkor, and part of it would end up in your mouth as he grabbed you in a big bear hug and kissed you on both cheeks. We'd be whisked off to a table and a bottle of Roditys would be waiting. One outing we were lucky enough to spot younger slackbrother j.'s principal at the back of the line. j. was having some problems in junior high, but the minute my father plucked that guy out of line was the minute that junior high got a whole lot easier.


    Greektown, Ricardo, and Falkor in the same paragraph. Gotta love it. I remember the kisses of Petros. They've been gone a while - it was at 212 S. Halsted, which, last time I checked, housed Athena, with similarly forgettable food but interesting servers.

    Speaking of which, you HAVE to click on this link and navigate to "Photo Gallery" so you can be seated by one of the 'beutiful' [sic] hostesses.

    http://www.athenarestaurant.com/
  • Post #3 - September 16th, 2007, 4:35 am
    Post #3 - September 16th, 2007, 4:35 am Post #3 - September 16th, 2007, 4:35 am
    Santander wrote:Athena, with similarly forgettable food


    In all fairness, I've got to point out the Athena has the best avgolemeno soup in Greektown.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #4 - September 16th, 2007, 5:28 pm
    Post #4 - September 16th, 2007, 5:28 pm Post #4 - September 16th, 2007, 5:28 pm
    My favorite avgolemono is currently at the Lombard Greek Islands. Somehow the Greektown location isn't cutting it, and since Salonica in Hyde Park changed hands, I have no delicious silky egg-lemon broth to help speed along my colds. Papaspiros's version (Oak Park) was fine when we first moved there, but has been way too greasy and floury the last few times, and I'm now disenchanted with everything there except the loukaniko. I will have to give Athena's another try.
  • Post #5 - September 17th, 2007, 7:42 am
    Post #5 - September 17th, 2007, 7:42 am Post #5 - September 17th, 2007, 7:42 am
    Ah, Diana's. I recall lining up there, too (among the memorabilia from Spiro Agnew's last visit) with the very friendly, politically uncorrect Petros liberally dispensing ouzo to keep the latecomers content.

    I believe, too, that The Parthenon was an outgrowth of Diana, started perhaps by members of the staff or a relative (or, quite likely, both).

    Anyway, your colleague gave you some good choices. Probably a good person to know when you're in Wichita.
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #6 - September 17th, 2007, 9:08 pm
    Post #6 - September 17th, 2007, 9:08 pm Post #6 - September 17th, 2007, 9:08 pm
    Diana's was in what is now the grocery store next to Costa's. Chris Liakouras the owner of the Parthenon and his brother used to be waiters at Diana, before they left and opened Parthenon in 1968 (which makes it the oldest continuously operating of the big restaurants on the strip). There's a good essay on Diana's in the book Chi Town by Norbert Blei if you want to know more about it. One thing is certain, flaming Saganaki, that staple of Greek restaurants everywhere was invented on Halsted St...though it's unclear whether the provenance is either Parthenon or Diana's...back in the day there was a pitched battle over this, but since Parthenon has been the longtime survivor, they've kind of won the battle.
    MJN "AKA" Michael Nagrant
    http://www.michaelnagrant.com
  • Post #7 - September 18th, 2007, 11:01 am
    Post #7 - September 18th, 2007, 11:01 am Post #7 - September 18th, 2007, 11:01 am
    I am having a similar, but different experience, with some of my favorite dining spots from the 80's now showing up as GNR nominations. I have no idea what it means, but it feels like parts of my life have been put into a blender and combined together with no respect for chronology or personal logic.

    There was already the weird coincidence that this forum is named for my favorite Chinatown dive from the 80's (over my objections of course), but now La Pasadita and Healthy Foods have emerged from Rip Van Winkle's nap, too. What's next?

    Sadly, Mike, I think I may have already recycled your Beefathon score sheets so you cannot add those to the Mike G Museum of Food Anthropology(?). Hopefully your love for the written word has created a good cache of other valuable documents.

    Opaa.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy

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