Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We don't want nobody nobody sent. But we do want onion rings on our salad


     What's more Chicago than a salad with onion rings?
     I know you're thinking, "Deep dish pizza. " Or "a hot dog with relish and onions and mustard and all that other stuff Chicago dogs are supposed to come with."
     But that's Cliche Chicago, the food stuffs that once represented the city and to some still do. Even an idol of granite is worn away by excessive worship. Every time I hear a radio commercial for a bank trying to pander to the locals by invoking either deep dish pizza or Chicago dogs, those icons seem a little more dubious, inauthentic, corrupted, like scrip issued by an occupying power.
     Maybe you had to be where I am when looking at my salad: The Palace Grill on Madison, opened in 1938, with its chrome and red vinyl, its black and white checkerboard floor, yet true to its name as the residence of royalty. At least a particular kind of Chicago royalty: hockey players and cops, due to the proximity to the United Center, for the former, and for the latter, across the street from the Office of Emergency Management, plus various cop credit unions and training facilities nearby.
     I'm the least coppish, most unhockeylike person imaginable. I've spent far more time eating at The Palace Grill than I have watching hockey games in my entire life. But even I take on a certain swagger ambling into The Palace. Of course, the welcoming presence of George helps a lot—George Lemperis, the owner, whose cousins bought what was then a 19-stool Skid Row diner in 1955.  It was open 24 hours a day, then they started closing at 3 p.m., more for safety than anything else. 
     George and his father Gus bought the place from his cousins in 1979; he marked his 40th year there, the 80th since The Palace opened in 1938. George makes intense, almost feverish eye contact — really, it's like he's about to punch you in the face — then offer a firm handshake as if we were sealing a real estate transaction.
     "I'm meeting so-and-so's guy," I drawl, naming a Chicago politician.

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  1. The picture of the salad: you have to look twice to spot the lettuce. Gotta be somewhat less healthy than your standard side salad.


  2. Neil, careful, pal! You're starting to get a bit 'Royconian'! Hanging at the 'Palace Grill'? Great piece on 'The Palace!' George is a real, Chicago-character, in a non-gentrfied kind of way? A survivor of Chicago's 'greasy-spoon', cafe hey-day with a great breakfast menu for cops, firemen, hockey-players, and MaGaffer's alike, even Chicago newspaper men! Try the bacon, (or ham) egg and 'cheeser' on french bread and hash browns!


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