10 Throwback Restaurants You Have to Visit in Chicago

10 Throwback Restaurants You Have to Visit in Chicago

10 Throwback Restaurants You Have to Visit in Chicago

Sure, we'd love a Back to the Future–style DeLorean to travel back in time. But without that option, here are 10 old-school restaurants that — via well-preserved decor or history-inspired dishes — almost seem to transport diners and imbibers to the ages when TV dinners were cool, fondue was hip and all the cool cats sipped on Harvey Wallbangers. Check out these throwback joints for a taste of the past.

Cherry Circle Room

Throwback to: 1890s

Built in 1890, this historic building acted as a social club for Chicago’s upwardly mobile. This year, the once private and men’s only establishment was opened to the public for the first time as a hotel. One of its architectural highlights is the Cherry Circle Room, which preserves details from the original restaurant of the same name. Executive chef Peter Coenen referenced menus dating as far back as the 1890s to create dishes such as steamed Bouchot mussels and lacquered duck.

12 S. Michigan Ave.; 844-312-2221

The Glunz Tavern

Throwback to: 1900s

Established in 1988 and re-established in 2012, this historic tavern sat vacant for 90 years before it was restored to its original glory, complete with tin tiled ceiling and carved-wood bar. Here, truly throwback classics are upgraded with gourmet ingredients. Think Berkshire pork chop with potato pancakes and Parmesan-breaded veal schnitzel with spaetzle. The beer menu also has heavy European influences, with Stiegl Goldbrau on draft and its seasonal grapefruit radler by the can.

1202 N. Wells St.; 312-642-3000

Pump Room

Throwback to: 1930s

If you were someone or someone who knew someone in the heyday of Old Hollywood, chances are you were seated at Booth One in this iconic restaurant and lounge. Even though the original closed in 2010, it was remodeled a year later with the same sense of vintage glam, thanks to an ivory light fixture that fills the dining room with a Hollywood-appropriate glow. Guests can still ask to be seated at Booth One, the same seat that held the likes of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, David Bowie, Humphrey Bogart, Ronald Reagan, Clark Gable, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford, Audrey Hepburn, Liza Minnelli, Robert Redford, Mick Jagger and many others.

1301 N. State St.; 312-229-6740

Three Dots and a Dash

Throwback to: 1930s

The golden age of Hollywood also ushered in the golden age of tiki thanks to rum-runners such as “Don the Beachcomber,” who opened Polynesian-inspired escapes tailored toward soldiers returning from World War II. Exotic artifacts and Cantonese cuisine elicits a sense of wanderlust with the aid of boozy drinks such as the infamous Zombie punch and Painkiller. This River North bar has a whole section of the menu devoted to riffs on the latter, presented by flower-covered servers making the rounds at the thatched bar.

435 N. Clark St.; 312-610-4220

Miss Ricky’s

Throwback to: 1950s

White walls, tiled floors and cream-colored booths illuminated by chrome light fixtures set a clean stage for over-the-top cuisine. Executive chef Rick Gresh designed Miss Ricky’s menu around the idea of elevating diner staples with gourmet ingredients and masterful techniques — Sriracha fried chicken and waffles, corned beef hash Benedict and tres leches French toast. Much like its home inside the Virgin Hotel, the diner has a naughty side. The back room, dubbed the casting room, offers a sexy alternative to the clean-cut dining room, with curtain-covered walls, velvet lounges and vintage gold stage lights.

203 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-940-4777

Tortoise Club

Throwback to: 1960s

Enter the era of private clubs housing philandering businessmen for a three-martini lunch. Maybe Hugh Hefner is sitting in the corner sipping an old fashioned while listening to live jazz music on the 1918 Steinway piano. Old accents, from the 1950 ballot box to the original mahogany wood paneling from the Pump Room, play against contemporary touches, including a series of caricatures depicting Chicago’s most infamous scoundrels. Food too takes its cue from the bygone time, with shrimp cocktails and steak tartare.

350 N. State St.; 312-755-1700


The Drinkingbird

Throwback to: 1960s

This under-the-radar cocktail lounge is straight out of the swinging '60s, with its long bar lined with plush gold stairs, making it the perfect place to reconnect with the classic Moscow mule (Absolut Vodka, Plymouth Gin, ginger-spiced demerara, lime and ginger beer) or Pimms Cup (Pimms No. 1, fresh lemon, simple syrup, cucumber, ginger beer, mint and rosemary). Pair cocktails with a bubbling bowl of fondue, made with Brut Champagne, taleggio and fontina cheese and served with grapes, apples, sourdough and dark rye.

2201 N. Clybourn Ave.; 773-472-9920


The Brass Monkey

Throwback to: 1970s

The swank '70s make a comeback thanks to creator Marc Bushala, who hopes to revive the “Decade that Taste Forgot.” Bushala​ says he “wanted to create an experience like being at a dinner party on Warren Beatty’s yacht with Tom Jones entertaining and Julia Child cooking.” Confused? Allow us to explain. The food menu takes influence from Julia Child's iconic cooking, presenting pork chops and applesauce as well as crab fondue for two. Drinks follow the same vein with a Tang-colored concoction and a take on the much-maligned Harvey Wallbanger.

401 N. Morgan St.; 312-763-3316


The Duck Inn

Throwback to: 1970s

Chef and owner Kevin Hickey channels multiple eras in his Bridgeport restaurant and bar. The food takes cues from a neighborhood watering hole by the same name, opened by his great-grandmother in 1935 and serving dishes such as the hamburger sandwich. The bar, however, is straight out of the '70s with takes on Gin Fizzes (Plymouth Sloe Gin, Beefeater Gin, Small Hands almond orgeat, lemon juice, powdered sugar, egg white and soda) served in retro glassware. Stop by on a Sunday and BYO vinyl to play in the vintage record player.

2701 S. Eleanor St.; 312-724-8811


The Heavy Feather

Throwback to: 1970s

The latest concept from the Scofflaw Group channels the golden lamé era of cocktails, which housed more than a few fern bars. These laid-back lounges, often decorated with ferns or other greenery, were where the cool cats hung when they wanted to leave their own pad. A sunken bar adorned in wood, gold and fern-worthy foliage serves forgotten favorites such as the Grasshopper (ice cream, Hennessy VS Cognac, Creme De Menthe and Creme De Cacao) and the Amaretto Sour (Lazzaroni Amaretto, Old Gran-Dad 114 Bourbon, lemon, egg white and Angostura bitters).

2357 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-799-8504