Late Sunday Afternoon Toodle

A Two Part Story

The day began with a threat of rain on and off for most of it. That sort of puts you in a quandry and unless you have a pressing need to get wet you stop and decided whether you want to visit a restaurant sans bikes or not. We chose the latter.

Let me say however at the outset that the Chicago Diner was quite impressive! I was more than a bit surprised at the quality of the Gyros sandwich I ordered. Connie had a big burger. Both were meatless but you really had to examine them closely to tell.

This is some of the better vegetarian/vegan fare I have had the delight to consume.

The Chicago Diner

The weather was kind of “iffy” today so we decided not to bother driving into the city to ride the Chicago Lakefront Trail on the off chance that it would be a lousy day weather-wise that close to Lake Michigan.
But there were still a couple of restaurants we wanted to try out so we dressed to ride and drove into the city without our bikes to get some carry out from the Chicago Diner.

Chicago Diner
was featured
in the April 2008 issue of Conscious Choice magazine, highlighting our 25th Anniversary celebration

When Hornick and his partner, “Chef Jo” Kaucher, opened the restaurant in 1983, critics, loan officers and family members alike scoffed at the idea, some vehemently. “It’s like we were going against apple pie and mom and the whole thing,” Hornick recalled. “Big shot advertising guys came in and said you’re pissing against the wind.”

Their answer was to create an atmosphere as American as mini malls, decorating the place with vintage ads and neon lights and serving up heaping helpings of comfort food, but without the meat. “Instead of burgers, we have veggie burgers,” explains Kauchner, who, together with a long line of collaborators in the kitchen, created the Diner’s menu and authored The Chicago Diner Cookbook. “Instead of french fries we serve home fries,” she adds. They also offer vegan milkshakes, a Philly Cheese “Steak,” with homemade seitan in place of beef, biscuits & vegetarian gravy and “not” dogs for the kids….

The restaurant fit’s the vegetarian mold about as little as it’s owners do. Hornick was lured into the vegetarian lifestyle — and into Kaucher’s life — while working at the Chicago Board of Options as a commodities trader. Although fairly successful, he says he felt unsatisfied. He began eating natural foods for health reasons, and soon became a regular at the Breadshop Kitchen, a local hippie haunt where Kaucher was slaving away baking bread.

“I just felt better eating there,” he explained. “I thought it was somewhat the wave of the future.”

One day he noticed a “dishwasher wanted” sign and was inspired. He quit his job at the Board and, despite warnings that the Breadshop could soon go under, he got to work.

“I came in as a dishwasher, and after two weeks I told the owner I thought I could save the place,” he said, adding that since his background was in finance, he saw it as a worthy challenge. And it worked, for a time. “When Mickey came in it was the first time the place made a profit,” Kaucher recalls, shaking her head, “and he didn’t even know what a cabbage was. I thought, ‘this guy is going to manage the restaurant?’”

Nevertheless, eventually Mickey left due to personality conflicts. The business went under shortly thereafter and Kaucher decided to leave Chicago for California. Although the two weren’t yet romantically involved, she says when she told him goodbye, he said, “Someday I’ll find you, wherever you are, and we’ll open a restaurant.”

A few years later she returned to Chicago, and he did…

Read the entire article

The Bike Ride

Back home having eaten and really enjoyed the fare from the diner we “saddled up” and went for a ride.

The route led us over to the College of DuPage campus in Glen Ellyn and then across Butterfield Road to browse the Halloween decorations in the subdivision just south of that roadway. From there we made our way back to Danada East Shopping Center riding past the Whole Foods and entering the Seven Gables Park just west of Naperville Road.

There had to have been a dozen soccer matches for boys and girls going on today. The folks who weren’t watching us as we passed were cheering on their respective offspring as they dashed up and down the field. Soccer play seems a heck of a lot more civilized than football.

Leaving the area we headed into the Farnham Subdivision and made our way through its rows of manicured lawns back across Naperville Road towards home. The fall colors are still fairly vibrant albeit past their prime.

Back home we packed up the bikes and headed inside to grab a shower.

Distance: 11.1 miles
Time: 1h 22m 52s