Equal parts history, love letter, and coffee-table scrapbook, Chicago’s Classic Restaurants: Past, Present and Future, by Neal Samors and Eric Bronsky with Bob Dauber (Chicago’s Books Press), enthusiastically rewinds to an era when dining out was a larger-than-life event. The authors (with an assist from Chicago’s dining editor, Penny Pollack, who wrote the foreword) have amassed an irresistible document. Nostalgic photos and first-person accounts from restaurateurs and civilians alike flit from the surreal ice show in the Stevens Hotel’s Boulevard Room to a stretch of the Loop home to so many modest lunchrooms it was called Toothpick Row. The book unearths some choice details, like the tactful Depression-era note on J. H. Ireland’s Oyster House menu: “Please cooperate in using only one pat of butter.” The scattershot approach works better in some cases (allotting ten pages for Rich Melman’s clear-eyed memories) than others (one paragraph for Charlie Trotter’s). But if you’re fascinated by history as told through supper clubs and tiki lounges, this volume is right up your alley.
Photography: Anna Knott