The city of Chicago…it’s the city that is equally parts new and old. With each tick of the clock, iconoclasm reins throughout the city. Recently we saw the doors shutter for some well-known and iconic restaurants, with the likes of Guthrie’s Tavern after becoming the cornerstone for the Wrigleyville area for nearly 34 years. Dinkel’s Bakery was another iconic Chicago eatery who was put on the chopping block, after having their doors open for more than 100 years. Chicago cannot fight the sands of time, but we mustn’t forget their lasting impact to the culture and identity to the Windy City. While the closing of some well-known eateries is a cause for sorrow, we must castoff those feelings and instead rejoice for the restaurants that are still kicking around, helping to carry the moniker of the city of broad shoulders.
In order of oldest established restaurants, here are some of the most well-known and iconic restaurants still going strong and showcasing what the city of Chicago has to offer, making Chicago the desire of all cities and what others should strive for.
Founded in 1898 by Herman Joseph Berghoff, who emigrated from Germany to America. The Berghoff is located near the Chicago Loop at 17 West Adams Street, has become a Chicago landmark. This family-owned restaurant opened in 1898 as a saloon, when beers were sold for a nickel and came with a free side sandwich. When the Prohibition era began, Herman saw an opportunity to expand his business and began brewing “near beer.” During the 14 years of the Prohibition era, The Berghoff Restaurant became widely known for its delicious German cuisine. While the restaurant did close its doors in 2006, it quickly reopened under Herman’s great-granddaughter Carlyn and still running strong.
The Green Door Tavern
Following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, James McCole built the two-story structure at 678 North Orleans Street in 1872. In 1921, Vito Giacomo opened the restaurant on the 1st floor. During the Prohibition era, the door of the restaurant was painted green, to help indicate the presence of a speakeasy inside the establishment. Overtime, the restaurant was sold and later adopted the name of the Green Door Tavern.
The drive-in hot dog stand with carhop service was opened in May 1948 by Maurie and Flaurie Berman, located in 6363 North Milwaukee Avenue in the Norwood Park neighborhood of Chicago. One of the few original drive-in restaurants remaining in the country. Superdawg is own and operated by the Berman family and still maintains its 1950s style of ordering food. Superdawg has also expanded to the Wheeling location. A wildly beloved eating establishment who has been featured on Food Network’s television programs such as Unwrapped and Emeril Live, and on PBS’s Check, Please!.
Las Carnitas Uruapan
One of Chicago’s finest taco makers has called the Pilsen neighborhood home, for nearly 48 years. Las Carnitas Uruapan founded by Inocencio “El Guero” Carbajal, he opened the restaurant in 1975, which is located in 1725 West 18th Street in Pilsen. Uruapan is a celebrated destination for authentic Carnitas from Micoacan, Mexico (Micoacan is also known as the avocado capital of the world). Inocencio has brought the Mexican flavors of his childhood home to Chicago, with hard work and passion, have made him a local celebrity in the area. Recently his son, Marcos Carbajal, has been leading the way with the family-owned restaurant. Las Carnitas Uruapan restaurant has been featured on The Food Network, PBS, and was recently featured on Netflix’s The Taco Chronicles.
This is only a fistful of iconic and renown restaurants in the Chicago area…but that’s the beauty of it, there are countless more restaurants that make up Chicago’s eating and dining scene. Meanwhile new restaurants pop-up here and there, and there are ones with potential staying power, but we must remember our humble beginnings and never forget what made the classics tremendously remarkable. A sense of belonging, a home to those who seek a better opportunity, and most importantly; place at the table for those who are simply hungry and willing. While we cherish the past with fondness, we trail the path for the future, so they can enjoy a little paradise in their little fingertips and hope they can continue Chicago’s tradition…a place anyone from all walks of life can come and call the city home.