No matter where I’ve lived in the city, for almost 20 years my clean, well-lighted place—the place to which I can always return, to seek succor, feel human, see other people, and slurp savory, rejuvenating chicken soup—has been the A & T Grill in Rogers Park. What’s the appeal? The food—chicken Vesuvio and butt steak and other mainstays of the triptych Chicago diner menu—and the owners, and the waitresses, and the cops and families and loners, and the glassed-in corner view of buzzing Rogers Park life. But also the miraculous fact that I can keeping coming back to the A & T and find exactly what I need.
I’ve brought relatives and friends. I’ve met dates, successful and dismal. I’ve stared pointlessly out the window for hours, nursing a soda. I’ve dragged myself there hungover for the first late meal of the day; I’ve subsisted on BLTs and bowls of soup when $6 was a lot of money. I cried for hours in a booth when my cat died; I celebrated my first day of unemployment with chocolate chip pancakes and a friend at 2 in the afternoon. Where else would I go? None of this makes me a regular—the real regulars are those who eat there two, three times a day, and that they exist tells you something about the kind of place it is. In a city where neighborhood bars disappear and Macy’s takes over and diners keep dying, the A & T is sacred because it does not change. 7036 N. Clark, 773-274-0036. —Elizabeth M. Tamny
We also want to hear your stories about your favorite people, places, and things in the city--go here to share them with the rest of the class.