Book Signings: Lost Restaurants of Chicago by Greg Borzo

For those of us who grew up in and around Chicago, there are names of long gone restaurants that still tug at our heart, evoking memories of foods no longer served, surroundings replaced and aromas we many never smell again.

Hoe Sai Gai

          For me, that’s the allure of Greg Borzo’s latest book, Lost Restaurants of Chicago with foreword by Dough Sohn, the owner of the now closed Hot Doug’s.

          Borzo, a Chicagoan historian who has written several books about the city’s bicycling, transportation and history including its fountains frequently gives tours and talks for organizations such as Forgotten Chicago, the Chicago History Museum and Chicago Cycling Club. The idea for his latest came about when he and his friends were chatting about the good times they’d had at restaurants over the years and how many were gone. His book goes further back though, starting over a century-and-a-half ago.

Jacques

          “My list of restaurants to research from at least a hundred people,” he says, noting that he still gets some complaints about places he left out but then with seven out of eight restaurants closing within a few years of opening, the number of those gone are overwhelming.

          I ask Borzo what some of his favorite are “lost” restaurants. Some he had dined at, like The Great Gritzbe’s Flying Food Show, a Richard Melman restaurant that opened in 1974.

Maxim’s

          “It had a dessert bar and you could get as many desserts as you wanted, like a salad bar,” he recalls about the restaurant that closed in 1883. “There’s also Trader Vic’s which was in the Palmer House. Its décor was completely over the top.”

          When Trader Vic’s, a Tiki bar extraordinaire first opened in 1957, bringing it up to its Polynesian zenith cost $500,000 which included a décor boasting huge Eastern Island carved wooden heads, totem poles, canoes and massive Maori beams. It was part of the Tiki rage that swept the U.S. and Trader Vic’s had its competitors include Don the Beachcomber which featured 85 types of run and 65 different cocktails.

          There are also places he wishes he ate at but didn’t such as Maxim’s de Paris, which was opened from 1963 to 1982.

          “It was a replica of the Maxim’s in Paris,” says Borzo. “I went to it when it later when the building was an event space.”

          Which is another phenomena of Chicago restaurants.

          “Many single locations have been many different restaurants,” says Borzo.

Indeed, Bistro 110 at 110 East Pearson used to be the Blackhawk, then became Bar Toma Restaurant which is now closed.

“This book is a history book too,” says Borzo. “It reflects the character of the city through the food and showing the different income levels. Some people were going to diners, others to the Pump Room.”

The girl on the trapeze at Flo’s Restaurant and Cocktail Parlous

Borzo and I both share a laugh about the now closed Flo’s Restaurant and Cocktail Parlor which was located at 17 West Randolph, near what is now Macy’s flagship store. I used to see it as a kid when my parents took me shopping in the Loop. It was notable because a woman in a form fitting Playboy-bunny like costume and spiked heels climbed out on a swing on the second floor balcony to advertise the place.         

Greg Borzo

          “I’ve eaten at a lot of the places I write about,” says Borzo. “And those that were already closed I tried to find people who had eaten there, researched old newspaper stories and searched through vintage photos.”

Ifyougo:

What: Greg Borzo talk and book signing

When, Where and Contact Information:

Thursday, January 24 at 5 p.m.  

Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State St., 6-7 p.m. A free raffle will give away more than $1,000 of gifts: trips, tours, food, books and more.

(312) 747-4300; slpl.bibliocommons.com/events

Saturday, February 9 at 5 p.m.

The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL

(773) 293-2665; bookcellarinc.com

Author: Jane Simon Ammeson

Jane Simon Ammeson is a freelance writer who specializes in travel, food and personalities. She writes frequently for The Times of Northwest Indiana, Kentucky Living magazine, Edible Michiana, Lakeland Boating, Experience Michigan magazine, Indiana Monthly, Cleveland Magazine, Long Weekends Magazine, Food, Wine, Travel magazine and the Herald Palladium where she has a weekly food column. Her TouchScreenTravels include Indiana's Best. She also writes a weekly book review column for The Times of Northwest Indiana as well as food and travel, has authored 16 books including Lincoln Road Trip: The Back-road Guide to America's Favorite President was the winner of the Lowell Thomas Journalism Award in Travel Books, Third Place and also a Finalist for the 2019 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards in the Travel category. Her latest books are America's Femme Fatale: The Story of Serial Killer Belle Gunness and Classic Restaurants of Northwest Indiana. Her other books include How to Murder Your Wealthy Lovers and Get Away with It, A Jazz Age Murder in Northwest Indiana and Murders That Made Headlines: Crimes of Indiana, all historic true crime as well Hauntings of the Underground Railroad: Ghosts of the Midwest, Brown County, Indiana and East Chicago. Jane’s base camp is Stevensville, Michigan on the shores of Lake Michigan. Follow Jane at facebook.com/janesimonammeson; twitter.com/hpammeson; https://twitter.com/janeammeson1; twitter.com/travelfoodin, instagram.com/janeammeson/ and on her travel and food blog janeammeson.com and book blog: shelflife.blog/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: