Klas, Cicero, Illinois

In the Chicago suburb of Cicero, which lies between Oak Park (of Frank Lloyd Wright fame) and Midway airport, is the oldest operating Czechoslovakian restaurant in the U. S. The town became a Czech neighborhood in the 1920s as many Czechs took jobs in the Western Electric plant, but after the plant closed in the 1980s many Czech families moved away and the city is mostly Hispanic now.

 

photo by The Jab, 2010

photo by The Jab, 2010

 

Klas was opened in 1922 by Adolph Klas, from Pilsen in Bohemia, on what is now Cermak Rd. (named after Anton Cermak, Chicago’s first Czech mayor). The street was once called the Bohemian Wall Street because of all the Czech business along the thoroughfare.

 

early postcard - photo by Robert Powers on Flickr

early postcard – image by Robert Powers on Flickr

 

In the early days the restaurant was much smaller (as seen in above postcard). The wonderful rustic bar on the right, apparently an original 14th century tap room, which was reconstructed at Klas, is filled with carved wood monks, painted murals, and taxidermy. It is miraculously unchanged since it opened.

 

old bar postcard - image by John Chuckman

old bar postcard – image by John Chuckman

 

bar photo by The Jab, 2010

bar photo by The Jab, 2010

 

The other remaining part of the original restaurant is the room to the left of the bar, which served as the main dining room in the early days, which I believe is now the lobby (but I can’t recall exactly).

 

original dining room postcard

original dining room postcard – image by Robert Powers on Flickr

 

The restaurant expanded into its current configuration of the bar, main dining room, garden area, and banquet rooms, as seen in this linen postcard, most likely from the late 1930s or 1940s,…

 

postcard image by Mark Susina on Flickr

postcard image by Mark Susina on Flickr

 

…and this postcard, from the 1950s, which shows how it looked on the outside. It hasn’t changed very much since then.

 

1950s postcard - image by Robert Powers on Flickr

1950s postcard – image by Robert Powers on Flickr

 

The buildings, inside and out, have loads of fascinating detail so make sure you allow plenty of time to linger before and after your meal. Notice the Statue of Liberty replica on the building’s façade in this photo (curiously the date on the building is 1923, while the restaurant claims to have opened in 1922).

 

photo by The Jab, 2010

photo by The Jab, 2010

 

In 1962 Adolph Klas passed away. The restaurant was owned by various people until Frank Saballus, a former construction worker, bought it with his sister in 2003 to preserve this last bit of Czech-American culture in Cicero. Le Continental heartily thanks him for preserving such a wonderful restaurant!

 

photo by The Jab, 2010

Good advice before you enter the restaurant! – photo by The Jab, 2010

 

On my visit in 2010 I dined in the main dining room, which is a huge, bright (in the daytime) room with lovely arched windows with bold striped canopies (Le Continental approves of stripes) overlooking the garden, and with framed art and taxidermy (also Le Continental approved) on the walls.

 

photo by The Jab, 2010

photo by The Jab, 2010

 

Klas’ menu is Bohemian. I did not know what that was when I went so I ordered a breaded pork tenderloin (schnitzel) dinner, which came with soup or salad, two “compliments” (I chose bread dumplings and sauerkraut), dessert, and coffee. As you can probably tell in the photo below (before I dumped gravy on everything) the food is homemade, including the bread. Other specialties include wiener schnitzel a la Holstein (topped with two fried eggs, anchovies, and capers), svichkova (pickled beef in sour cream gravy), koprova (boiled beef in dill gravy), roast duck, and smoked sausage. Dessert specialties include kolacky, fruit dumplings, and apple strudel. They offer some Czech beer including Pilsner Urquell, Radegast and Staropramen.

 

photo by The Jab, 2010

photo by The Jab, 2010

 

Make sure you tour the restaurant and ask to see the banquet rooms upstairs!

 

the Dr. Zhivago Room - photo by The Jab, 2010

the Dr. Zhivago Room – photo by The Jab, 2010

 

mural in the Dr. Zhivago Room - photo by The Jab, 2010

mural in the Dr. Zhivago Room – photo by The Jab, 2010

 

banquet room - photo by The Jab, 2010

banquet room with original furniture! – photo by The Jab, 2010

 

amazing chandelier! - photo by The Jab, 2010

amazing chandelier! – photo by The Jab, 2010

 

Klas is indeed the House of Happiness! Their motto (over the door) is “Eat, Drink, and Be Happy”!

WARNING: the areas surrounding Cicero may be somewhat sketchy so it is best to call and ask before venturing out for the best route to take.

 

photo by The Jab, 2010

photo by The Jab, 2010

 

Klas Restaurant
5734 W Cermak Rd, Cicero, IL 60804
708-652-0795
Dining room open Fri-Sun 11:30am-9:00pm, bar hours Wed 6:00pm-midnight, Fri-Sat 11:30am-midnight or later, Sun 11:30am-10:00pm, closed Mon, Tue, Thu

 

Drive-Ins of Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Apparently today is National Root Beer Float Day. It seems there is an official day for every food these days. I’m fine with that! So it seems fitting to post about a town with great root beer and ice cream (or frozen custard).

In 2002, 2005, and 2007 the amazing Rockin’ 50s Fest took place in Green Bay, Wisconsin; seven days of some of the best rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll, and country acts from the 1950s to the 21st century. Some of the artists that performed included Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Link Wray, the Collins Kids, Hank Thompson, Ike Turner, The Crickets, and many, many more. I attended two of the festivals, flying into Chicago and enjoying road trips to Milwaukee and eastern Wisconsin to Green Bay. Previously I posted about George’s Steak House in Appleton. Today we’ll be visiting a small town with not just one, but two original mid-century drive-ins – Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

 

photo by The Jab, 2007

photo by The Jab, 2007

 

Ardy & Ed’s Drive-In is perhaps the only original mid-century drive-in left that still has car hops on roller skates (actually, in the 1950s the car hops here didn’t wear roller skates, as you can barely make out in this photo).

 

Southside A&W, 1958 - photo by Ardy & Ed's Drive-In

Southside A&W, Oshkosh, 1958 – photo by Ardy & Ed’s Drive-In

 

It opened in 1948 as the Southside A&W Drive-In, one of a chain of A&W Root Beer drive-ins around the country. A few functioning A&W drive-ins still exist, mostly in Wisconsin and Michigan.

 

A&W car hop, 1964 - photo by vintagegal on Tumblr

A&W car hop, 1964 – photo by vintagegal on Tumblr

 

In 1960 Ardythe and Edward Timm bought the restaurant. In 1972 they went independent, renaming it Ardy & Ed’s, and they continued to make the draft root beer in-house. Today Ardy and her husband Steve own the restaurant, still making fresh root beer each day.

 

Ardy & Ed Timm - photo by Ardy & Ed's Drive-In

Ardy & Ed Timm – photo by Ardy & Ed’s Drive-In

 

Ardy and Ed’s menu is long, filled with burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and combo baskets. Their burgers are great and their root beer is outstanding. And of course they have root beer floats (voted best root beer float in Oshkosh), orange floats, and “cows” (root beer or orange soda whipped with ice cream). The ice cream for their floats comes from Cedar Crest, a quality Wisconsin ice cream manufacturer.

 

photo by The Jab, 2007

photo by The Jab, 2007

 

Friendly car hops on roller skates take your order and bring your food to your car (from the spring through fall).

 

photo by Steve on Urbanspoon.com

photo by Steve on Urbanspoon.com

 

After your meal at Ardy & Ed’s, why not have some frozen custard for dessert? In California we have soft serve ice cream but it is nothing like frozen custard (soft ice cream made with eggs) that you have to go to the midwest, preferably Milwaukee, to really experience (as well as such treats as brats, butter burgers, and lake perch fish fry). In Oshkosh, Leon’s Drive-In (not affiliated with the famous – and fabulous – Leon’s frozen custard in Milwaukee) has made frozen custard fresh every day since 1947.

 

photo by The Jab, 2005

photo by The Jab, 2005

 

Leon’s also has car hops! Except in the winter (see last photo below).

 

photo by The Jab, 2007

photo by The Jab, 2007

 

Leon’s menu includes sandwiches, such as their famous sloppy-Joe style Joos burger, and custard treats like cones, cups, and sundaes. They have a root beer float made with homemade root beer and frozen custard, and their version of a cow, called a whip. A specialty is their turtle sundae, frozen custard topped with hot fudge, caramel, and pecans.

 

photo by The Jab, 2007

photo by The Jab, 2007

 

 

Turtle Sundaes, image by The Jab, 2007

Turtle Sundaes, photo by The Jab, 2007

 

If you are ever in eastern Wisconsin, you should stop in Oshkosh for probably the best time travel drive-in experience in the U.S.! The town has a lot of history, so it’s well worth a bit of exploring. The famous Oshkosh B’Gosh overalls are no longer made in Oshkosh, but the company still has its headquarters there.

 

photo by John Gremmer on Flickr

photo by John Gremmer on Flickr

 

 

Ardy & Ed’s Drive-In
2413 S Main St, Oshkosh, WI 54902
(920) 231-5455
Open daily 10:30am-10:00pm (summer); 10:30am-8:00pm (spring & fall); closed in winter (call first)

 

Leon’s Frozen Custard
121 W Murdock Ave, Oshkosh, WI 54901920-231-7755
Open Sun-Thu 11:00am-11:00pm, Fri-Sat 11:00am-12:00am (summer, call ahead at other times of year)

Happy National Hot Dog Day!

Since it’s National Hot Dog Day I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite hot doggeries around the country. One of my favorite historic hot dog restaurants, and tops in the country for original vintage decor, George’s Coney Island in Worcester, Mass, was one of my first blog posts a few years back.

 

George's sign

 

The hot dog was brought over to the U.S. from European immigrants, but its European origins are disputed. Sausage dates back to the 9th century BC (mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey), while the type of sausage used for hot dogs is similar to Weinerwurst or Vienna Sausage, which originated in Austria. However, the city of Frankfurt, Germany, claims it invented the frankfurter or “dachsund sausage” in 1497. Yet another claim is that a butcher in Coburg, Germany, invented the hot dog sausage in the 1600s and brought it to Frankfurt.

 

hot-dogs-hats

 

In any case the American hot dog on a roll is what we are concerned with here, which was reportedly already a German custom to eat sausage on a roll. It is a fact that hot dogs were first sold in New York City, either by a German immigrant from a cart in the Bowery in the 1860s or by Charles Feltman, a German butcher who opened the first Coney Island hot dog stand in 1871 (his employee, Nathan Handwerker, started Nathan’s in 1916). In 1893 hot dogs became popular at baseball parks and sold like hot cakes (or rather like hot dogs) at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago (sold by a pair of Jewish immigrants from Vienna who later founded Vienna Beef, Chicago’s most popular hot dog manufacturer). Also in 1893 the oldest mention of the term “hot dog” on record occurred in a Knoxville newspaper. (For more hot dog history visit the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council’s web site, where I sourced this info).

 

photo by The Jab, 2003

Superdawg, Chicago – photo by The Jab, 2003

 

Which city has the best hot dogs: New York or Chicago? People will argue this forever, but based on my experience Chicago wins hands down for best hot dogs in the country. Then there are the arguments within Chicago about who has the best hot dogs. We won’t go there because there are so many different types of hot dogs in Chicago (likewise, for pizza). There’s the classic Chicago dog “dragged through the garden” that is a steamed all-beef frankfurter on a poppy-seed roll with sliced tomato, raw chopped white onions, yellow mustard, bright green sweet relish, pickled sport peppers, celery salt, and a pickle spear (but never ketchup), reportedly invented at Fluky’s in 1929 (sadly, the only Fluky’s left is at a Wal-Mart in Niles, IL). Then there’s the char-grilled “char-dog”, which is terrific at Weiner’s Circle, where they only serve hot dogs cooked that way. And until it closes this October, the always busy Hot Doug’s serves dozens of hot dog specialties.

 

photo by The Jab, 2003

photo by The Jab, 2003

My favorite hot dog stand in Chicago is Superdawg. My Chicago friends may not agree, and I admit the hot dogs at Weiner Circle and Gene and Jude’s are great also (Wolfy’s is another one that comes out on top in polls), but I love the all-original drive up with car hops that is SUPERDAWG! Opened in 1948 by Maurie and Flaurie Berman, who have been represented on the roof of the restaurant as caveman and girl “dogs” since the beginning, it hasn’t changed much and, amazingly, it is still owned by the Berman’s, who run it with their children. They still have the same ordering system as in 1948: you drive in to the parking lot, order from your car into a mic/speaker, and your meal is brought to you on a tray in a very cute vintage looking box, which you will want to take home as a souvenir (mine still sits in my kitchen). This is one of the last restaurants in America that still has car hop service.

 

Superdawg with fries - photo by The Jab, 2007

Superdawg with fries – photo by The Jab, 2007

 

In addition to the Superdawg™, which is a spicy dog that comes fully dressed and includes a pickled green tomato wedge, they also offer a Whoopskidawg®, which is a Polish-type sausage on a roll with special sauce, grilled onions, and pickle, and several other sandwiches. Their crinkle-cut super fries are excellent.

 

photo by The Jab, 2003

photo by The Jab, 2003

 

In New York City your best sources for hot dogs are the many hot dog carts around the city and the bargain Papaya-drink-and-two-hot-dogs stands which started in 1932 when Papaya King opened on the upper East Side of Manhattan (still on the same street corner of 86th St and 3rd Ave, and in several other locations in NYC). Although it originally only sold fruit drinks it started serving hot dogs because the neighborhood was predominantly German-American at the time. In the 1970s and 1980s Gray’s Papaya and Papaya Dog copied the concept, but Gray’s is down to only one location. Which is the best? I’ll let you be the judge as I’ve only been to the original Papaya King.

 

photo by The Jab, 2005

photo by The Jab, 2005

 

If you’re in Georgia, the town of Macon is worth a detour for Nu-Way Weiners, open since 1916 (their sign was misspelled in 1937 and they kept it that way to this day) and still in the same location (plus several other locations). Their specialty is chili dogs, which are made with their special homemade chili sauce (no beans, just the way I like a chili dog).

 

photo by Carrie Swing on Flickr

photo by Carrie Swing on Flickr

 

My favorite hot dog stand in greater Los Angeles closed and was demolished in 2011. Papoo’s Hot Dog Show (yes, it was more than just a stand, it was a SHOW!) opened in 1949 in Burbank, across the street from Bob’s Big Boy designed by Wayne McAllister in the Googie style in the same year (and still open).

 

3202967040_16cee546aa_z

photo by Terry Guy on Flickr

 

You can see Papoo’s in the original version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

 

InvasionBodySnatchers

 

Inside Papoo's - photo by Carrie Swing on Flickr

Inside Papoo’s – photo by Carrie Swing on Flickr

 

Lastly, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, I’ve been disappointed by most of the hot dogs I’ve had (they are usually lukewarm, not hot). My favorite was the old Kasper’s on Telegraph Ave at Shattuck Ave, which closed “for remodeling” way back in 2002 and never re-opened. Kasper’s was started by Kasper Koojoolian, from Armenia, in 1930 at the corner of Fruitvale Ave and MacArthur Blvd (old US 50). Partners invested and It expanded into other locations in the 1940s, but in 1955 Kasper’s brother Paul split off, continuing as Kasper’s, while the rest of the partners started a chain of hot dog restaurants called Casper’s. Today there is still a Kasper’s on MacArthur Blvd (not in the same location as the original), in addition to others in Castro Valley, Hayward, and Pleasanton.

 

Kasper's, MacArthur Blvd., Oakland - photo by The Jab, 2013

Kasper’s, MacArthur Blvd., Oakland – photo by The Jab, 2013

 

Casper’s continues with 8 Bay Area locations, and most have the original 1960s modern look in bright oranges and browns. Since 1989 the company has made its own frankfurters under the Spar Sausage name. I like the hot dogs at both Kasper’s and Casper’s, but Casper’s has the edge for taste and for decor.

 

photo by The Jab

Casper’s, Telegraph Ave., Oakland – photo by The Jab, 2013

 

I leave you, dear readers, with this photo I took on the road in Georgia in 2005, and a video of an amazing neon sign at Taylor Brothers Hot Dogs in Visalia, CA (where I need to go!). Please check the linked web sites for location, addresses, and open hours of the above establishments.

 

photo by The Jab, 2005

photo by The Jab, 2005

 

 

 

San Francisco’s Historic Grills

Enough of the downer posts! We are primarily here to celebrate existing restaurants, not to mourn lost ones (or closing ones).

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post for my friends at Herb Lester and Associates, a small London company that makes wonderful, compact fold-out map guides of cities around the world. Every one is a work of art and the writing is superb. All of the maps are highly recommended, and they also sell some fine travel accessories. You can buy some of them locally (at Flight 001 stores) or them order direct (usually a less expensive option when buying multiple maps – they even sell bundled sets of maps on the web site). The post I wrote for them was about San Francisco’s three classic grills. What is a grill, anyway? I am pretty sure it is a restaurant where meat or fish is grilled over charcoal (sometimes also called char-broiling). But in this case, I picked these restaurants because they all are called grills, not necessarily because they all cook the food on a charcoal grill (many places, like all the Joe’s in the Bay Area, cook this way but are not called grills). Perhaps the grill became popular in San Francisco in the 1940s when the Lazzari Fuel Company of San Francisco started importing mesquite charcoal for cooking. Anyway, here’s the post (with some changes and more photos).

 

Tadich Grill

Tadich Grill promotes itself as San Francisco’s oldest continuously running restaurant, which is a stretch if you look at its convoluted history. Moving back in time, the present location dates back to 1967, when it relocated from 545 Clay Street because Wells Fargo Bank, owners of the building, decided to redevelop the site. John Tadich, an immigrant from Croatia, originally opened the Clay Street restaurant as Tadich Grill, the Original Cold Day Restaurant, in 1912. He sold it to the current owners, the Buich family, in 1929.

 

photo by The Jab, 2012

photo by The Jab, 2012

 

Before John Tadich (from Croatia) opened Tadich Grill (“the Original Cold Day Restaurant”) he owned a different restaurant that was named the Cold Day Restaurant, which he purchased in 1887. The previous owners of the Cold Day Restaurant Tadich bought (also from Croatia) opened a tent on a wharf in 1849 selling grilled fish, which they named Coffee Stand. The tent became a shack, moved to the New World produce market on Commercial and Leidesdorff Streets, was renamed New World Coffee Stand and later the New World Coffee Saloon, relocating twice, finally ending up at 221 Leidesdorff Street. In 1882 it was renamed Cold Day Restaurant, the one Tadich bought. It was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, after which he briefly re-opened the Cold Day Restaurant in another location, then moved it to yet another location before selling it and opening the Clay Street location in 1912 (the first restaurant named Tadich Grill).

 

photo by The Jab, 2012

photo by The Jab, 2012

 

So, if Tadich Grill is indeed the same restaurant from 1849 after 3 ownership changes, 8 locations, and several name changes, it seems like an exaggeration to me, especially compared to the oldest continuously operated restaurant in the U.S., Boston’s Union Oyster House, which opened in 1826 as the Atwood and Bacon Oyster House, and is still in the same location. Or the second oldest, Antoine’s in New Orleans, which opened in 1840, moved one block in 1868 to its present location, and has been run by the same family since the beginning! However, Tadich Grill definitely dates back to 1912, the first year it opened by its present name, which is some real longevity for a restaurant.

 

Tadich Grill, 545 Clay St., 1957 - photo by San Francisco Public Library Historical Photograph Collection

Tadich Grill, 545 Clay St., 1957 – photo by San Francisco Public Library Historical Photograph Collection

 

For a restaurant built in the 1960s it looks much older. There is a long bar / counter at the front, classic 1920s style tile floors, tables with bent wood chairs in the middle and back of the restaurant, and semi-private wooden “compartments” (the best word to describe them) with tables along one side of the long space.

 

Tadich Grill interior - photo by sfcitizen.com

Tadich Grill interior – photo by sfcitizen.com

 

Tadich Grill’s specialty is fresh fish grilled over Mesquite charcoal, which the Buich family says was introduced at Tadich Grill in 1924. But they also serve excellent Louie salads, such as a Dungeness Crab Louie (when in season), a great seafood Cioppino (an Italian tomato-based seafood stew), a locally historic dish called Hangtown Fry (bacon and fried oyster frittata), Oysters Rockefeller, and many more specialties. The sourdough bread is always good, and the martinis and Manhattans are well made. They do not take reservations and it’s very popular so be prepared to wait if you arrive during lunch or dinner.

 

Tadich Grill
240 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 391-1849
Open Mon-Fri 11:00am-9:30pm, Sat 11:30am-9:30pm, closed Sunday

See inside Tadich Grill (pan and zoom like in Google Street View):


View Larger Map

 

Sam’s Grill

photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

 

Sam’s Grill opened in 1931 by Sam Zenovich (Zenovich also owned a successful oyster company, whose origins go back to 1867 under the previous owner) as Sam’s Seafood Grotto, on California Street. In 1936 Zenovich passed away and Frank Seput purchased the restaurant, renaming it Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant, which moved to its present location in 1946.

 

Photo by Douglas Zimmerman on Zagat.com

Photo by Douglas Zimmerman on Zagat.com

 

The restaurant is a great time-travel experience back to the 1940s, from the curtained private dining compartments with buzzers to call the white-jacketed waiters to the menu of many classic seafood and meat dishes. You will see dishes on the menu you rarely see anymore, such as Celery Victor, Crab Newburg, Stewed Tomatoes, Salisbury Steak, sweetbreads prepared three ways, and Long Branch potatoes. If you eat veal, I recommend the veal Porterhouse with bacon, perhaps with shoestring potatoes. If you feel like seafood the sand dabs and sole are good choices when in season (just ask the waiter which fish are fresh that day). The sourdough bread is justly famous here.

 

Sam’s Grill
374 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 421-0594
Open Monday-Friday only, 11:00am-9:00pm

See inside Sam’s Grill:


View Larger Map

 

John’s Grill

photo by army.arch on Flickr

photo by army.arch on Flickr

 

John’s Grill’s sign states that it opened in 1908, and a restaurant called John’s Grill was mentioned in Dashiell Hammett’s 1927 mystery novel The Maltese Falcon, set in San Francisco. But facts are hard to find (online anyway). The restaurant certainly looks old, though it has been remodeled more than Sam’s. In any case, it is a treat to visit, as it does have a lot of history, and it’s crammed with old photos and mementos, including a reproduction of the Maltese Falcon used in the film. The steaks are what to order here, which are aged Prime (USDA certification) or Black Angus (depending on the cut, I guess).

 

photo by John's Grill on Google.com

photo by John’s Grill on Google.com

 

John’s Grill
63 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 986-3274
Open Mon-Sat 11am-10pm, Sunday noon-10pm

 

The Sunset’s Villa Romana Closing After Almost 60 Years – The Shutter – Eater SF

Link

The Sunset’s Villa Romana Closing After Almost 60 Years – The Shutter – Eater SF.

Yet another local closure of a historic restaurant thanks to a booming local economy (there are lots of investors to buy restaurants and there are very few vacant spaces for new restaurants). Its last day open is this Sunday, July 20th.

Villa Romana