Forgotten malls: Evergreen Plaza

From the southeast side of Chicago, my best friend and I were allowed to ride the bus at the age of 12 in 1967 down 95th street west, passing Beverly, crossing Western into Evergreen Park where we exited at the CTA bus stop right in front of the Evergreen Plaza Shopping Mall  which is still there.  I can remember visiting Chandlers Shoes, Lyttons, one of my Mom’s favorite stores as well as Chas A Stevens. Before Montgomery Ward on the North end and, it was The Fair. Of course, Carson Pirie Scott which was located on the far south end from 95th street. My aunt worked there in jewelry for awhile. If we had money, we headed to Walgreens for candy after our lunch. There was a Wimpy’s where we had lunch.

The Evergreen Plaza operated from 1952 to 2013 and the first regional mall in the nation; the second indoor mall. It was originally designed as an open-air shopping center developed by Arthur Rubloff, one of, if not, the first of its magnitude in all of Chicago land. Actually the mall was enclosed in 1966. The center also contained a Jewel supermarket, which featured a conveyor belt that carried groceries from the store to a parking lot kiosk.The mall’s Walgreens was the second self-service Walgreen pharmacy in the chain; it was also the chain’s first location in a shopping center.

Two theaters were added in 1964; fairly new for us growing up, located on the south end by Carson’s and they were huge. I saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid at one of them but those were closed in 1999.

Today, Evergreen Market Place is a contemporary outdoor mall replacing the former Evergreen Plaza anchoring the corner 95th Street and Western Avenue in Evergreen Park. It offers approximately 22 stores such as Planet Fitness, TJ Max, Whole Foods Starbucks and Petco.

African American cuisine, Chicago soul food suggestions

By Caryl Clem

Winter weather lingers during February while we look for ways to find comfort waiting for spring. I dig out the recipe books to look up  favorites. When it’s cold outside, I crave eating made from scratch macaroni and cheese bubbling under the bread crumb crust. If you think about Sunday dinner meatloaf or finger licking crusty fried chicken, warm cornbread smothered in butter followed by a tasty cobbler for dessert, all these originated from African American culinary ingenuity. Kentucky Fried Chicken won success with soul food staples as well as several other fast food chicken rivals. Getting the most for your money and taste buds has earned “soul food’ a place on our plates and in our hearts.

Several of our founding fathers all had Black African American chefs that were educated in Europe. In France, Parmesan cheese, butter and pasta was the new rage during the 1800’s. Thomas Jefferson sent his chef to France to learn how to prepare French delicacies. By February in 1862, Thomas Jefferson was hosting parties featuring this macaroni pie specialty. President, George Washington had a famous Black African American Chef Hercules whose clothing can be seen in an museum exhibit in Washington D.C. African Americans as chefs showcasing American food has been established for centuries. These chefs have shaped America’s palate:

Chef Hercules was an African American slave owned by the Washington family, serving as the family’s head chef for many years.

Chef Edna Lewis was a renowned African-American chef, teacher, and author of several cookbooks who helped refine the American view of Southern cooking.

Chef Joe Randall was a good friend of the late Edna Lewis, has been a veteran award-winning chef for over 50+ years.

Chef Leah Chase was an American chef based in New Orleans, Louisiana. An author and television personality, she was known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine. She passed away at 96 in 2019.

Chef Patrick Clark was an American chef. He won the 1994 James Beard Foundation award for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic Region” during his tenure at the Hay-Adams Hotel, Washington, D.C. and also competed.

The reputation of Southern wealthy families depended on offering superior feasts. The culinary feats were achieved by slave chefs from a variety of African regions. New to colonists dinner ‘s influenced by West Africa offered tomatoes, lima beans, onions, and chili peppers with peanuts, ginger and lemon grass. Natural sugar from dates, coconuts, sorghum and sweet potato lessen the need for granulated sugar. Garlic, cumin, and chili peppers for meat followed by allspice, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Chili made with cinnamon was probably the result of African spice blends.  Africa has five regions that use the same spices and seasoning blends. Across America distinct African American influence is broken down into these categories: “Northern States, “ Agricultural South”, “ Creole Coast”, lastly, “ Western Range”.  Trivia fact, over 1/3 of cowboys in the west after the civil war were African Americans. Spices and flavors from a distant continent won new fans and changed the rather bland  fare forever.

Chicago offers several “soul food” restaurants, a phrase that started in the 1960’s and was common place by the 1970’s. Foursquare provides some great comments and pictures about several. Here are just a few with pictures above that describe their menus:

  1. Luella’s Southern Kitchen
  2. Wishbone Restaurant
  3. Big Jones
  4. Virtue
  5. Feed

My favorite fast food hamburgers

Since childhood, it was always a hamburger and chocolate shake that was my faovrite lunch away from home. It began with Henrys.  In 1956, Henry’s, or as some old timers called it, “O’Henry’s” was running 35 locations in and around the city and suburbs. By the ’60s, Henry’s expanded to over 200 restaurants nationwide,  surpassing McDonald’s, White Castle, Jack In the Box, and Wag ‘s. Occasionally, I would have a white castle hamburger at a birthday party. The first White castle opened at 79th and Essex in 1929…my old neighborhood and the oldest hamburger chain.

My next favorite was Wimpy Grills always a place to eat when we took the Illinois Central downtown in my pre-teens and went shopping with friends at Carson’s or Marshall Fields. Though I did love the olive burger at the Narcissus room at Fields. The Wimpy brand was established in 1934 by Edward Gold, when he opened his first location in Bloomington, Indiana under the name Wimpy Grills.The name was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar. Gold did not open his first Chicago area location until two years later in 1936, after opening units in five other Midwestern cities. The one I remember the most was located on the northeast corner of Randolph Street and Wabash Avenue which originally opened in 1940 and is no longer there. By 2011, Famous Brands had 509 Wimpy restaurants in South Africa no longer apart of the US.

But in 1973, my still favorite fast food cheese burger was established and will still eat it today when I am looking for something close to home, fast and affordable. Though I do love their chocolate shakes too. The quarter pounder with cheese, just had one yesterday, of course a McDonald favorite. In 1979, the Happy Meal for children was created followed by Chicken McNuggets in 1983; the latter still a favorite of my 30+ children

The first McDonald’s restaurant was started in 1948 by brothers Maurice (“Mac”) and Richard McDonald in San Bernardino, California. They bought appliances for their small hamburger restaurant from salesman Ray Kroc,who was intrigued by their need for eight malt and shake mixers.Seeing great promise in their restaurant concept, Kroc offered to begin a franchise program for the McDonald brothers.

On April 15, 1955, he opened the first McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, and in the same year launched the McDonald’s Corporation, eventually buying out the McDonald brothers in 1961. The clown,Ronald McDonald, was created in 1963.  The corporation is still located in Oakbrook and today McDonalds is considered the largest restaurant chain.

 

 

Popcorn gains from Chicago Connections

By Caryl Clem:

Popcorn’s early history dates back to worshiping the Maize with popcorn adorned headdresses and rain gods.  Today’s mass consumption of this snack is a combination of ingenuity, determination and old fashioned hustling.  January 19th is National Popcorn day.

Early popping corn was risky, often greasy, or partially burned and inedible until Charles Cretors invented a steam popcorn machine wagon. He moved his family to Chicago in 1885 to expand his business.  During the Columbia World Exposition in 1893, fresh popcorn vendor wagons were introduced. C Cretors and Company of Chicago featured popcorn flavors that won instant approval. Charles previously sold peanuts before the popcorn venture, his recipe combined molasses, peanuts and popcorn. The cheery red wagon that popped fresh popcorn could be pulled by a boy or pony was open for business anywhere a crowd gathered.

Two German immigrant brothers were determined to obtain financial success in Chicago. After their first business burned to the ground that was located South Clinton Street in 1885, they rebuilt and expanded their business using wagon vendors.  Again the combination of popcorn, peanuts and molasses from a recipe they construed in 1871 became a staple of their success.  A box decorated by a patriotic sailor with a slang term meaning the best, “Cracker Jack” originated their popcorn snack.  The Chicago Tribune on March 8, 1896 featured an article proclaiming that to taste the Rueckheim Brothers popcorn would lead to an obsession, “Do Not Taste It,” read the ridiculous headline. “If you do, you will part with your money easy.”   Expanding the popularity of the product, jobbers went to grocers, drug stores and retail merchants to obtain orders.  By 1908 a song embracing the joy of baseball, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” quoted, “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack” cemented the bond between games and snacking.

As America fought two wars, sugar shortages narrowed the choices for snack treats. The Great Depression brought poverty to the majority. A bag of popcorn was between 5 and 10 cents, a luxury most could afford.  Farmers and vendors were able to make a meager living off popcorn.  Cracker Jack started offering prizes inside their boxes to corner the market.

Movie theaters were against serving food to prevent littering the atmosphere of richness and prosperity that dominated the early movie houses.  After the Great Depression, movie theaters struggled to survive.  In the 1930’s from Glen Dickson  manager of a theater in the Midwest area, Julia Braden in Kansas City, Mo.,  and R. J. McKenna in the west: all  saved their businesses by selling popcorn inside the theater to increase profit margins.  Now a movie is associated with the smell of buttery popcorn. Children’s movies and suspense dramas sold the most popcorn.

Since the microwave introduced popcorn in 1981, popcorn starts to dominate the fix at home snack market. Orville Redenbacher in 1965 is selling his popcorn out of his car as he travels to supermarkets across the Midwest.  Family cooks can make snack foods . Options to make your own popping corn are at your fingertips. Range or stove Popcorn is easy to make and offers many flavorful seasonings.

If you want to buy, the top selling brand today is Chicago’s own Garrett Popcorn ShopsChicago, ILThe Cretors family has modernized its market to open Cornfields, Inc.  a healthy snack manufacturer and producer of the G.H. Cretors and Hi I’m Skinny brands.

No matter what your choice, Chicago offers the best popcorn!

Fannie May celebrates National Chocolate Day

In some form, I do eat chocolate everyday; truly my own passion that I will not give up. On October 28th, National Chocolate Day celebrates anything chocolate; which has been now recognized as one of Americans favorite flavors. Actually, the taste of chocolate has become a world favorite; the reason for a national holiday.  A wonderful treat; only a few days before Halloween!

And chocolate is good for your health since research has found that it may decrease blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and prevent memory decline. Chocolate is believed to contain high levels of antioxidants. Therefore, the best way to celebrate National Chocolate Day is to purchase a premier box of fine chocolates made by Fannie May! Almost 100 years old, Fannie May continues to be known as the finest in gourmet chocolate as well as a Chicago icon.

Their first retail store opened in 1920 on LaSalle street in Chicago. In fact, for decades, Fannie May has always been a Chicago favorite to celebrate any holiday. Now, some of their best sellers will be coming soon on Amazon but still available in retail stores along with other customer favorites.

To celebrate this most delicious holiday next week, Fannie May will be holding an event featuring a variety of discounts and sampling for all to enjoy. Discounts include:·

40% off 1 lb of Colonial Assortments (A collection of Fannie May favorites including fresh nut clusters, crunchy toffee, luscious butter creams, Pixies, Trinidads, & more…)

  • 15% off Entire Purchase
  • BOGO– Hot Chocolate
  • MORE….

Fanny May is truly a premium chocolate expert, crafting superb chocolates with love and the very best ingredients. They make over 100 different confections and continue to develop delectable flavors for customers.

Ten of the most haunted Chicago/ Illinois bars

Excalibur /Chicago Castle,the nightclub dates back to the late 1800s and was the original location of the Chicago History Museum. With its three levels and 60,000 square feet of adult entertainment, it is a Gothic graystone located at the corner of Dearborn and Ontario. It is a designated landmark building and used to be the Chicago Historical Society. It closed as the Excalibur in 2012. Most recently the Tao Group opened its signature Hybrid Asian Cuisine/ Nightclub in the location in September of 2018.Tao operates on the 2nd floor. Many employees felt the place was haunted and it has been filmed on a variety of paranormal shows.

Websters Wine Bar located at a 2601 North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago is said to be haunted by a lumberjack from the early 1900’s and has been seen in the party room on the second floor. Websters has a comprehensive global wine list and a great menu of small dishes, salads and cheeses.

Red Lion Pub is on the north side of Chicago at 2446 North Lincoln Avenue. Now a more upscale neighborhood, according to Haunted Houses people have died in the building including a woman who died from an epileptic seizure, a mentally challenged woman, a young cowboy, and another male entity according to ghost experts. These spirits walk the floors of the restaurant to name just a few.

Bucktown Pub was established in 1933 and a very typical, cozy tavern with creamy, draught beer. According to TrueIllinoisHaunts.com, the pub is believed to be haunted by the site’s former owner who committed suicide in 1986 and whose spirit apparently thinks he still runs the place. Napkins are re-arranged and sometimes the jukebox goes on and off.

Liars Club located at 1665 West Fullerton is supposedly haunted by a women who was killed by her husband. They lived in the apartment above the bar. One employee actually saw an illusion leaning against the bar and some have been tugged on their arm but no one is there. This unique club was formerly known as the River East. The club is located between Clybourn and the Metra tracks on Fullerton.

Country House in Clarendon Hills is a two story building erected in 1922 as a place for locals to congregate for drinks, food, and good conversation. In 1974 during a meeting with a contractor to renovate the restaurant the men were sitting in the bar and shutters on the windows opened without human contact displaying shafts of light. Other workers have seen dishes move and have heard moaning in the walls. Others have actually seen a woman who they call the lady in blue.

Chets Melody Lounge  The bar got its name from Chet Prusinski in 1963 and is located at 7400 Archer Avenue in Justice. Of course, it is the famous Resurrection Mary that many wait to show up at the bar since those that have seen the ghost in the past run for a drink at the bar, also across the street from Mary’s home, Resurrection Cemetery. The Ghost Research Society has investigated the bar last year.

Cigars and Stripes is a bar in Berwyn Illinois featuring some of the best barbeque and a cigar store. But paranormal experts say that something haunted is going on according to Legends of America. There are many accounts of glass falling off shelves and the phone receiver being picked up and put down. People are actually watching it happen and hearing things as well.

Irish Legend is located in Willow Springs on Archer and has an exceptional menu of Irish classics. According to Only in Your State, It was originally built in the 1920s as O’Henry’s Roadhouse which was a speakeasy with ties to vintage mobsters like Al Capone, who was known for having people killed and then hiding the bodies. According to employees and the owner, things get re-arranged at the pub and restaurant.

The Great Escape restaurant at 9540 Irving Park Road in Schiller Park began in 1889. The bar and banquet room are still part of the original structure and on the website, there is a whole section dedicated to the haunting s that have occurred. Old fashioned music is heard from the 1920’s, there are cold spots and sometimes you feel someone standing right next to you. The Chicago Paranormal Detectives was invited to have the full 10 person paranormal team come in and spend the night investigating. Visit to find out what they discovered.

National Pizza Day: May 17th

By Caryl Clem

An eating experience can be life changing; food delicious beyond description develops into a craving that will shape your future restaurant choices. My first time going to Pizzeria Uno on Wabash and Ohio streets convinced me that the very finest pizza in all of Chicago was served there. From the moment I entered the dining room, all my senses were on fire smelling, tasting, touching, swallowing, hearing fragments of chatter while observing the oozing cheese and array of toppings to devour. I broke every proper eating mannerism, eating with your fingers, taking as many servings as possible, practically gulping down every morsel.  Instantly, I became a deep dish pizza fan.

Discovering the inventions and trends that came from Chicago is an actual job. The city of Chicago’s cultural historian, Tim Samuelson, researched the origins of deep dish pizza. A transit from Texas University, former lineman Ike Sewell teamed with Italian-American Ric Riccardo, a food business operator working with Chef Adolpho Malnati Sr. to create a round dish pie pizza baked upside down in 1943. The popular new version of pizza led to a second location named Pizzeria Due opening in 1955.  Alice May Redmond and her sister Ruth Hadley were chefs in the early days. Chicago style deep dish pizza becomes loved from coast to coast. Today all the chefs families have opened their own versions of restaurants serving pizza.  Opening in 1966, another thick crust Chicago favorite formed by two brothers Rosario and Francesca Salerno opened their family business, Salerno’s on 16th Street.  Chicagoans have loyally supported them over fifty years enjoying a tantalizing array Italian food based on family recipes.

While exploring pizza information, I was surprised to discover thin crust has won the majority of business for decades, currently at 61 %.   There are over 8 crust thicknesses and varied name styles from California, St. Louis, New York City, Sicilian and Napoleon. You can become a pizza connoisseur traveling around Chicago by reading this article in TimeOut Chicago.

For the calorie counter pizza consumer, the same amount of flour goes into each crust; the leavening agent determines the thickness. The crust can be dominantly corn, gluten free, or grains. Leaving off the meat reduces artery plugging animal fats. Deep dish pizza has less meat fat per serving. Pizza cheese is low in fat compared to burger cheese flavors. Pizza is better for you than a Big Mac or bucket of crispy fried chicken.  Celebrate ending another week at work and go out for a pizza on National Pizza Party Day.

Savor the flavor of salad: Some Chicago suggestions

By Caryl Clem

May is National Salad Month.  Salad today is nothing like my past memories. Dining expectations of the 1950’s and 1960’s glorified home cooking producing mouthwatering spreads.  We read Woman’s Day and Family Circle to preview the featured recipes.  I can still picture the mounds of salad vegetables and fruit surrounded by various Jell-O combinations. Nothing like sugar encased salad ingredients for health and nutrition. Cookbook salad instruction included mayonnaise and cream based dressings.  In a rush to fix a filling lunch salad, just take anything out of the refrigerator such as eggs, potatoes or leftover chicken, add mayonnaise and a few extras such as mustard or pickle relish.  Salads slid down your throat.

By the 1970’s, Food and Nutrition experts are trying to warn Americans about the dangers of poor eating habits.  The wrong foods increase heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, arthritis, and obesity to name a few. Carbs that taste so good in French fries, garlic bread and pasta are to be avoided.  Sugar dulls mental activity. What is left to satisfy an appetite in the good food group? Meals with half a plate filled with most vegetables and fruits according to Harvard studies.

Chicago restaurant entrepreneurs, Rich Melman with his partner Jerry Orzoff, opened the first salad bar Lettuce Entertain You, at RJ Grunts, in 1971 in Lincoln Park. Forty years later, his successful company operates many restaurants.

Salads can be satisfying, healthy, and scrumptious. A great salad has various textures and colors. Dowse you salads oil and vinegar dressings that actually aid in releasing the nutrients. I love ranch dressing so I do a light version thinned with skim milk.  Ingredient choices to balance food groups is the key to success and flavor. Dump the myth a salad is 75% lettuce, endive, or kale.  Try different bases, string beans, or grate a carrot bed topped with healthy foods you enjoy.  Better Nutrition magazine was founded by Jack Schwartz educating readers about food choices. Several articles boost about salads as a premier experience. Spoon University offers suggestions concerning the restaurants in Chicago that offer the best salad.

Feel like biting into a meal that improves your lifestyle or maintains wellness; bring out the cutting board and salad bowl. In a study conducted in by 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, these benefits were documented:

  • Eating a salad a day is directly correlated with higher nutrient levels.
  • Adding salad dressing to a salad increases the absorption of certain nutrients being consumed.
  • The fat in salad dressing helps absorb key nutrients such as lycopene and alpha- and beta-carotene.
  • People who eat salads, salad dressing, and raw vegetables are more likely to meet recommended intakes for vitamins C, E and folic acid.
  • High fruit and vegetable consumption has also been associated with lower rates of pre-menopausal bone loss in women.
  • Consumption of as little as one serving of salad or raw vegetables per day is significantly associated with the likelihood of meeting the recommended nutrient intakes of each of vitamins A, E, B6, and folic acid.

Bon Appetite!!

Chicago beer consumption: Raise a glass toasting National Beer Day April 7th

By Caryl Clem:

Reflecting on American traditions, my mind travels back to stories of Johnny Appleseed and George Washington cutting down a cherry tree as told in the McGuffey Readers.  To my surprise, I just read that George Washington created his own beer recipe and owned the largest producing brewery. Since George was a military buff, he must have taken seriously Napoleon’s quote about beer, “On victory you deserve beer, and on defeat you need one.”Several founding fathers were beer fans, the beer industry outpaced whiskey consumption during colonial times.

During the 1800’s beer production was in full swing, a beer culture was thriving. Harvard had its own brewery run by undergraduates.  In 1873, statistics prove the growth in beer production; over 4,000 breweries are in operation.  Beer giants, Anheuser Busch, Pabst Brewing Company and (Fred) Miller Brewing Company were the favorites. German flavored lagers outsold British recipe ales.

After the Chicago fire, Fred Miller sent 25 beer filled trains daily to quench Chicago beer drinkers thirst.  He opened a Chicago Branch Brewery in 1875 which sold more than his home base Milwaukee location.  By 2000, Anheuser-Busch and Miller’s with Colorado based Coors ranking third. Coors is the only major brewery to be family owned and controlled sticking to their recipe demanding Colorado spring water.  Until 1981, it was not legal to sell Coors past the Mississippi. In 2008, the second place and third place production breweries merge to reduce costs creating MillerCoors beers.

The Prohibition Days introduced near beer substitutes and underground moonshine bootlegging leaving beer drinkers wanting more flavor. In 1933, passes Cullen-Harrison Act on April 7 reestablishing the 3.2 % alcohol by weight limit as legal. Beer is served mostly on tap. By 1877, American breweries were employing the “steaming process” that allows beer in a bottle to retain clarity. Bottled beer was more expensive and considered a luxury. In 1935, American Can Company starts canning beer and by 1969 it is outselling bottled beer. In 1975, Jimmy Carter legalizes brewing beer at home inspiring DYI drinkers to create their own versions.

Beer consumption in Chicago is thriving. One. seven breweries per 100,000 people  are competing for your empty glass. Chicago has the largest variety of beer tasting possibilities than anywhere in the U.S. The Chicago Tribune supplies a link to discover all the available locations. Not only can a click reveal where to go in Chicago, there is a Chicago beer festival event calendar.

For all of you beer enthusiasts, Chicago is full of opportunities. As my favorite beer quote states, “A fine beer can be judged by a sip but it’s better to be thoroughly sure”, Czech proverb.

Chicago land Miller’s Pub and the Italian Village

My first time at Millers Pub on Wabash in Chicago was in the late 1970s and a group of us was having a night cap after a play. I think the play was Send in the Clowns. Though I wasn’t a beer drinker, other drinks just didn’t seem appropriate so I had a beer that tasted better than most. It was later that I had dinner before the theater as they actually promote. In 1950, three brothers of Greek descent, Pete, Nick and Jimmy Gallios, pooled all of their resources and purchased the flailing Miller’s Pub from the Miller brothers, who had established the bar in 1935. After the purchase, the Gallios brothers did not have the $500 it would have cost to change the sign on the pub, so the name Miller’s remained.

Many celebrities have frequented the pub and celebrity photos grace the walls along with authentic oil paints. The family still owns Millers and thousands continue to enjoy an exquisite beer collection as well as extensive menu. Jimmy Durante never came to town without stopping by for some figs & cream- he didn’t drink. Millers is open until 4am that is why it is a great stop after the shows for even coffee and dessert.

It was in the upstairs restaurant with the beautiful wall design and Italian lights that I first visited the Italian village, built in 1927, the oldest Chicago restaurant. It was a date in the 1970s, the perfect elegance for romance. I don’t remember what I ate but always favored the wine.

Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, Italian Village is home to three restaurants, each with its own chef, menu specialties and unique ambiance. Italian Village’s origins began on September 20, 1927, when Alfredo Capitanini opened the doors to what would soon become a Chicago landmark. Italian Village was kept in the Capitanini family, and in 1955, the second generation of Capitaninis opened the doors to their second restaurant, La Cantina, in the lower floor of the Italian Village building.  Mom liked that restaurant best and it was here that we shared special field trips. With business doing so well for the Capitanini family, they decided to open one more restaurant in their Italian Village building called The Florentine Room now called Vivere, focusing on true gourmet.

As we visited Miller’s pub after the show, the Italian Village offers a great before the theatre menu including lasagna, their house specialty and always my favorite.