Step inside the doorways of these charming Chicago restaurants, and you will be transported back in time. This was Chicago before north Michigan Avenue was magnificent and the John Hancock was dwarfed by other skyscrapers.
Many of Chicago’s original restaurants have disappeared, but a few remain operational. Walk by those chain venues that you can find in any city and visit one of our original Chicago icons.
The Italian Village has been in Chicago since 1927, and their website claims they are the oldest continual operating restaurant in the city. This place is pure charm – I have loved it since I was a little girl. When you enter, walk up the narrow steep staircase to the Village (one of the the buildings three restaurants). The Village – perched at the very top – is decorated to resemble a little outdoor Italian city with the fake facades of buildings and twinkling lights that are strung crisscrossed around the room. Old school male waiters might scold you if you don’t finish your enormous plate of pasta.
You don’t really go to the Italian Village for the food – yes, the pasta is good and pizza is not bad – but the atmosphere will delight you. My parents would go here to celebrate their anniversary after their marriage in 1962. It is a place where time has almost stood still. Romantic, cozy, and full of vintage charm.
Italian Village – 71 W. Monroe, Chicago, IL
La Creperie on north Clark Street is a Parisian style crepe restaurant. The restaurant, which has been in its same location since 1972, has a dark-wooded interior with uneven floors, wooden furniture and travel posters. In the far back, there is a tiny patio with vine-covered walls and a burbling fountain.
This place, in the words of one reviewer, makes you think you are in a 1960s French film. Quaint and simple. No avant-garde French fusion here. Order the chicken and mushroom crepe with a house salad. Save room for a chocolate and banana crepe for dessert and a coffee.
When a family member died, La Creperie shuttered its doors. But, the recent word in Chicago is that the place has been bought and will reopen in its original location and with nothing substantial changed. C'est magnifique!!!
La Creperie - 2845 N. Clark, Chicago, IL
Billy Goat Tavern is a Chicago journalism icon. Newspaper writers and editors from the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times would gather in the back room to argue, eat greasy hamburgers, and have a beer. To find Billy Goat, you have to climb the stairs below Michigan Ave. (just north of the river). In the dark underbelly of lower Michigan, the neon glow of the Billy Goat sign will greet you.
The hamburger joint was immortalized by John Belushi and Dan Akroyd on Saturday Night Live. You order at the counter, and the only real choice is a double cheeseburger and a coke. “No fries, chips.” The burgers are excellent with home-baked buns and thick-cut pickles, but it is the lingering scent of grease and the smoke-stained walls that make this a Chicago icon.
Recent news has suggested that the location is threatened to close due to renovation on Michigan Ave. I, for one, will be sad if this place ever shutters its doors. Chicago will not be the same!
Billy Goat Tavern, 430 N. Michigan Ave. (lower level), Chicago, IL