Posted By Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
4/6/2013 11:57:00 AM
Molecular cuisine, it's not. Chicago does offer three Michelin stars at Grant Achatz's cutting edge Alinea, but does Alinea offer a slinger in a re-purposed trolley car? No, for that you'll have to travel ten minutes north, to the neighborhood of Lakeview, and the notorious Diner Grill.
For ages the apocryphal legend of the diner/trolley/railroad dining car connection has been making the rounds. Truth is, while many roadside diners have a sleek, aerodynamic profile, very few can call a former mass transit vehicle their home. Diner Grill is one that can, having led a previous life as a pair of Evanston trolley cars. Today it's an unregenerate example of a classic, 24/7 old-fashioned diner, with a dozen stools along the counter, true short-order cooks behind that counter, and nothing fancy on the menu.
The thing to eat is a slinger, a dish more commonly associated with St. Louis, 300 miles to the south. A slinger is one of those eat-it-all-on-a-dare dishes, like Rochester's infamous garbage plates. This one starts with a pallet of hash browns, upon which is laid a pair of thin diner burgers, a flood of beany chili, fried onions, and a couple of fried eggs, with a side of toast and butter. We like to add a few generous shakes of hot sauce. And, again like the garbage plate, no individual element is memorable in its own right, but together, well, it's still not great food, but it's fun and it's filling.
A slinger at noon is OK, one at 6 p.m. is not bad at all, at 10 p.m. it's darn good, and at 2 a.m. it's the best food on earth. Finish one and, if they have any on hand (they often don't), you'll get a certificate to commemorate your gluttony. Try to get one of those at Alinea!