Sky Full of Bacon

The Vessel With The Pestle Is In The Chalice From The Palace

PRE-POST NOTE 1. Bonus points for id’ing that movie reference.

PRE-POST NOTE 2. This is a restaurant review, though it may not look like it for a while.

PRE-POST NOTE 3. I’ve been contemplating a post on the weirdness of life in the personal media age, so add this to the list: you have a conversation with someone at lunch, then you think, I should post what we were talking about on my blog. Where… the person you had lunch with will be one of the three people who reads it. Despite the self-evident futility of doing so, here goes:

So one of the reasons I’ve been urging the LTHForum Great Neighborhood Restaurants awards to be more serious about weeding out places that don’t inspire the posting rapture they once did, is because otherwise, the list will harden into orthodoxy. When LTHForum came along, one of the things we set out to attack was the standard list of Chicago’s best, as encapsulated in every guidebook which said that the places you had to eat at while in Chicago were the likes of The Berghoff, Pizzeria Uno or Gino’s, Lou Mitchell’s, Al’s Italian Beef, Billy Goat, Gene & Georgetti, Carson’s Ribs, Ann Sather’s and so on.  Over time, LTHForum has gone a long ways toward popularizing an alternate view in which the must-eat places are things like Spoon Thai, Burt’s Pizza, Honey 1 Bar-B-Q, Cemitas Puebla… and Al’s Italian Beef.  Okay, that knowledge may not have trickled all the way down to tourists, but at least it’s pretty well disseminated in the foodie/food media world.

The problem is, today’s revolution is tomorrow’s new orthodoxy.  If LTHForum doesn’t keep that list fresh and lively, someone else will have to overthrow it.  And while some places on the list may be remarkable and sui generis, others are just there because they appealed to somebody at the right moment, and other places just as good happen to not get the LTH love through no particular fault, because they just didn’t happen to get the little push that snowballed into them becoming an LTH favorite.  And so the spirit of discovery that found the first place… becomes the spirit of conventional wisdom that prevents people from finding the second.

Take, for example, Palace Grill.  No, not White Palace Grill, the one place to fall off the LTHForum list in this recent renewal season.  White Palace Grill is a standard issue Greek diner just south of the Loop, overlooking where Maxwell Street moved to until it moved again recently, that’s been around forever and usually has a lively scene of the animated owner and staff joking around with cops and other regulars.  Palace Grill is completely different; it’s a standard issue Greek diner just west of the Loop, overlooking the restaurant supply places on Madison, that’s been around forever and usually has a lively scene of the animated owner and staff joking around with cops and other regulars.

So what’s the difference?  Why did one get the LTH love and the other didn’t?  It’s not food quality—in fact, the GNR debate over White Palace Grill was whether its atmospheric qualities trumped its decidedly standard-issue food.  Just the luck of which one somebody posted about and which somebody didn’t at the critical time. Both are pretty ordinary at lunch, so far as I can see— Greek diner hamburgers, that sort of thing, frozen patties and fries, serviceable but nothing to get excited about.  (I got further unexcited about Greek diner burgers here.)

But it’s a different story at breakfast— and this is where Palace Grill, the one on Madison not the one near Maxwell, rises above the pack of Hollywood Grill or Melrose Diner or a zillion other places.  For my Denver omelet, the ingredients were first slapped on the grill, and given several minutes of grilling in the juices of all the accumulated flavors of the grill.  Only once the onions and green peppers had softened, the ham had browned, etc. were they wrapped in the scrambled egg exterior.

Okay, that may sound like a small thing, but it’s all about the small things, isn’t it?  Where omelet ingredients are often smothered by a bland blanket of egg, these were sharpened up by the grill.  Likewise the hash browns had a bit of onion in them, so they weren’t the pure starch of typical Greek diner hash browns but had a little onion sharpness.  The service, for an adult and three kids sitting at the counter, was friendly and welcoming as could be.  For $5.95, that’s how the distinction gets drawn between not bad and pretty damn good.  So check out Palace Grill, not White Palace Grill, Palace Grill.  It’s a great neighborhood… joint.

Palace Grill
1408 W. Madison
(312) 226-9529

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