In 2009, at a used bookstore in Countryside, Ill., I found a battered old hardback with a name I could barely make out: Dining in Chicago: An Intimate Guide. It was a 1931 restaurant guide by a former Chicago Daily News reporter named John Drury.

It was a book of old restaurant reviews, but more than that, it was a book. No goofy graphics of stars or crossed forks. No anonymous Yelp-style griping. It was a book of reviews that read like a novel, with sentences as mouth-watering as the food described.

Listen to a historical perspective on Drury’s life and works.

The Restaurant Project is my search for the weird and amazing restaurants of 1930s Chicago.

The blog section will highlight individual restaurants as I add them. The topic pages will, as restaurants are added, re-print entire chapters I found interesting. Some sections of the book—including a Prohibition-era cocktail guide and the foreword by Carl Sandburg—I’m keeping as my own personal pleasures.

Chicago food historian Peter Engler made the entire book available for download if you want to check out those treats.

Download the book.

All grammar, punctuation, etc., in the descriptions were Drury’s own, including mistakes and inconsistencies. Locations are best guesses based on the current street numbering system. Corrections are always welcome. Photos in the embedded Google Maps are from Google. Unless otherwise noted, all photos in the blog posts are by me.

Some of Drury’s descriptions (“a colored Mammy,” “an educated Arab,” “as Chinese as your laundry slip”) might seem a bit racist in the 21st century. Keep in mind that he was encouraging his predominantly white audience to socialize with people of other ethnicities and races and spend money in their establishments, no mean feat in the early 1930s.

When judging the man, keep in mind his loving admonition for whites visiting black-owned South Side restaurants, “there are ladies and gentlemen among the Negroes as there are among the whites.  Therefore, the Golden Rule applies here as it does anywhere else.”

Blame the time.

Speaking of the time, there’s a lot in the book about booze for a book published during Prohibition. There’s a whole chapter of cocktail recipes and a separate one on wine pairings. Drury swore all the restaurants in the book complied with Prohibition but teased, “Of course, we’re not denying that wine and other alcoholic goods are to be found in Chicago. Good heavens, no! What do you suppose we’ve had all the shootin’ fer?”

So, welcome. Share your own pictures and stories about either the old residents or new occupants.

Read my other blog tracking the path of a early 20th-century Daily News reporter.

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One Response to “About”
  1. David Forgue says:

    Hey, cool project. I really like the “what’s there now feature.” There’s a comment on the Virginia that made me curious about it. There’s a book here that might add some context. By the way, the archive also has the Drury book.


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