Matchbooks Strike Memories of Shuttered Windy City Businesses

This article is dedicated to Linda W., a generous collector who donated her entire matchbook collection to me after reading my previous blog on this subject: Matchbooks Spark The Unearthing of Long Forgotten Histories. The matches in this blog were selected from her collection – some for their visual appeal and others for the sagas that accompany the now shuttered establishments.

I had no idea that Carson Pirie Scott had restaurants at O’Hare Airport until I looked at this matchbook. In fact, Carson Pirie Scott operated two restaurants at O’Hare Airport. They were both located in a building that connected Terminals 2 and 3. The formal restaurant, Seven Continents, was located on the building’s upper level and the casual cafeteria called the Tartan Tray was on the main level.

This awesome intact matchbook from Harry B. Kaad’s Bowling and Billiard Bar has matches with bowling pin graphics. The bowling alley was located at 2112 W. Lawrence Avenue in the Ravenswood/Lincoln Square area – at this site currently is the State of Illinois Department of Human Services. As the matchbook advertises, there were 12 alleys and league/club players were welcomed. I found nothing about the actual establishment, but did find a few entries on Harry B. Kaad. Harry, a Chicago bowling star and proprietor, was born in 1888 and died in 1967 according to Dr. Jake’s Bowling History blog.

HarryKaads1

Elliot’s Pine Log Restaurant and Lounge in Skokie was a familiar site since it was very close to where I grew up. What I remember most about this place was the cool log cabin architecture and fence and the fact that the place had special meaning for my mother. As a family, we actually never went there, but my mom remembers going there with her folks and on a date. Being from East Rogers Park – and I mean as east as you can go since she grew up right on Pratt Avenue Beach, going to Elliott’s in the late 1940s was literally like taking a drive in the country! The restaurant operated from 1939 to 1988 at the intersections of Lincoln Avenue, Howard Street, and Skokie Boulevard. Like father like son – in 2001, Alex Elliott opened Elliott’s Seafood Grille and Chop House in Edison Park and it is still going strong.

The Starlight Inn in Schiller Park is not a particularly interesting matchbook, but for some reason it intrigued me. My hunch proved to be quite interesting. This wedding and banquet hall opened in 1970 and was bought by John Wojciechowski in 1994. The establishment did not meet a starry end. The owner, O’Hare Aerospace Center Inc. evicted Starlight Inn and Wojciechowski in 2000 because he owed nearly $100,000 in back rent, not to mention that his liquor liability insurance had lapsed. Many soon to be married couples got shafted in the process according to this Chicago Tribune article. The building was renovated in 2008 and boasts an on-site health club with varied square footage office space for rent.

I don’t remember Vosnos, located on the Northwest corner of Dempster Street and Waukegan Road in Morton Grove, but it clearly holds a special place in the heart of Dr. W.P. Woodall, who wrote, “The spacious dining room had classic white linen table cloths and napkins. There was a bright airiness about the room, plush carpet, and soft music. There was a crystal ‘relish tray’ of carrot sticks, celery sticks, radishes, green onions and (non Kalamata) olives, brought to each table. Table crumbs would vanish by the waitress (not wait staff!) using a hand-held sweeping device.” For a long time, this corner was home to Produce World, until they moved to much bigger digs farther West on Dempster.

Henrici’s Steak & Lobster was a well-known restaurant that started in Chicago’s Loop on Randolph Street, right in the heart of the Theater district. I was not aware that in its heyday, there were locations in Northbrook, Arlington Heights, Park Forest, Niles, and Minneapolis. What I remember about Henrici’s is that my older sister went there on several dates with her handsome and rich high school boyfriend Jay – between 1970-1973. I thought they went to the Loop location, but there is conflicting information about when it closed; so it may have been the Niles or Northbrook location. Founded in 1898 by 23-year-old Phillip Henrici, a member of a noted family of nineteenth-century Viennese restaurateurs, Henrici’s was one of the oldest and finest restaurants in Chicago. The Arlington Heights location was on the site of the Guitar Center, on the southeast side of Arlington Heights and Algonquin Roads.

I clearly remember the Brassary on the lower level of 625 N. Michigan Avenue and I think we ate lunch there once. It was in close proximity to my dad’s office and we were frequently down there. The lower level of the 625 North Michigan building saw a succession of eateries, according to this Chicago Tribune article. First there was the 625, an eclectic dining room with dozens of clocks stopped at 6:25, followed by the Brassary, a popular bar and restaurant that teemed with summer crowds basking in al fresco breezes. By 1985, the Lower East Side occupied this space. There is no open lower level now and a Coach store occupies the approximate corner in which the restaurant resided.

Don Roth’s Blackhawk restaurant was a veritable institution in downtown Chicago. In 1920, Otto Roth opened the original Blackhawk at Wabash Avenue and Randolph Street, where people crowded in for fine food and big-band entertainment. I clearly remember eating at the Loop location, which closed in 1984, and driving by the Wheeling location countless times. I remember eating the famous spinning salad, which was first introduced in 1952 as a sort of tableside novelty. The Wheeling location closed its doors in 2009, effectively bringing the Don Roth legacy to an end, but leaving behind many memories, a Wikipedia entry, and a lot of matchbooks.

Deni Dimitreas ran a Deni’s Den, a restaurant and club at 2941 N. Clark in the heart of Boystown. While similar to a typical Greek Taverna, he not only offered ethnic food and drink, but music and song. Deni was an accomplished musician, singer, and a person with a deep and abiding love for Greek literature and poetry – all of which he freely shared with his guests. Inevitably word of mouth spread, and this unique place saw its share of celebrities including Anthony Quinn, Studs Terkel, Nana Mouskouri, Phil Donahue, and Oprah Winfrey. While Deni felt the need to return to his native Greece and close the Den, he wrote a book so that former patrons have more than a matchbook to remember it by. From the last Google picture taken in July 2011, it looks like the large building is vacant, but by now some other business has likely occupied the space.

Silver Frolics was a famous Chicago striptease show and cabaret located at 400 N. Wabash Avenue. It was one of several Chicago burlesque clubs that featured strippers, singers, and entertainers. The Silver Frolics was originally located on West Madison Street and Pulaski, but moved into the space at 400 N. Wabash vacated by the Rio Cabana, a flashy nightclub that featured big productions and large dance bands. It operated well into the 1950s until the building was torn down to build a multistory parking garage for employees and visitors of the Chicago Sun-Times.

2 Comments

Filed under Advertising, Art and Culture, Dining, Entertainment, Food

2 Responses to Matchbooks Strike Memories of Shuttered Windy City Businesses

  1. MJ Kedzior

    What a grand walk through these old great restaurants! Before we were married in 1973 my husband and I with our friends were frequent visitors to Henrici’s Steak and Lobster in Arlington Heights. Showers and weddings were held at the Starlight.

    I’ll have to look at our matchbooks. If they are interesting I’ll send them. Do you remember the classes by mail you could sign up for on the inside of the matchbooks? I often say I have a Matchbook Medical Degree!

    • Betsy

      Thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed this post. I do remember those advertisements inside the matchbooks. I also remember watching Let’s Make a Deal as a kid and Monty Hall offering audience members money for blank white matchbooks – not easy to find back then. Of course matchbooks of any kind are rarely given out by businesses these days.

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