Ask Geoffrey: What Happened To ‘Chicago’s Most Famous Restaurant’?

What became of the Loop restaurant where Mayor Richard J. Daley experienced his power breakfasts? Geoffrey Baer gets the details on that story, and revisits an explosive chapter in a North Side manufacturer’s history. Are you experiencing any more information, collection of stories, photographs of, the Henrici’s Restaurant (near O’Hare) from the 1940s and beyond?

Henrici’s was indisputably a Chicago institution that billed itself as “Chicago’s Most Famous Restaurant” and for a time, it may well have been. It had been started as a little coffee and pastry shop in 1868 near Madison and Wells by Austrian immigrant Philip Henrici who came from a noted Vienna category of restaurateurs. That shop burned in the Great Fireplace down, but he rebuilt in a few different places before settling in the center of Chicago’s theater area on Randolph Street between Dearborn and Clark streets.

The restaurant became a favorite of touring performers like Al Jolson, Henny Youngman and Danny Thomas, and local politicians, including Mayor Richard J. Daley, who had power breakfasts there nearly every morning. It had been torn to develop the Civic Center later called for Daley down. Henrici’s was a white-tablecloth establishment serving mid-priced American fare like prime rib and lobster and freshly baked pastries for dessert, like the coffee cake in the recipe below.

One of their signatures was espresso offered with a pitcher of whipped cream on the side. In addition they promoted Henrici’s as having “no orchestral din,” meaning no live music. Henrici’s extended to 20 locations in the Midwest eventually. The location near O’Hare Airport was at the O’Hare Inn motel at Mannheim and Higgins and known as Henrici’s Golden Barrel. It opened the same season the Kennedy Expressway was extended to O’Hare.

Unlike Henrici’s on Randolph using its “no orchestral din,” the Golden Barrel featured dancing young ladies and live bands. After Henrici’s on Randolph was torn in 1962 down, some original relics from Vienna were shifted to the O’Hare location like espresso urns, chandeliers and a grandfather time clock. The Pillsbury Corporation obtained the seven remaining Henrici’s locations in 1979. The Henrici’s at the O’Hare Inn, which by then was a Ramada Inn, closed in the mid-1980s.

Cream butter and glucose. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after every addition. Add lemon rind and juice and defeat well. Add sifted dry ingredients with dairy alternately. Grease and flour a tube pan. Sprinkle bottom level of pan with cut walnuts. Bake at 315 degrees for 55-65 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 25 minutes on wire rack, then invert onto dish and sprinkle with powdered glucose. In the past due ‘50s or early ‘60s was an explosion at Bally Production near California and Melrose there.

Do you have more details? There was in reality a mysterious explosion at the Bally Manufacturing stock in the Avondale neighborhood in 1969. The Chicago Tribune reported that individuals within a 2-mile radius of the place heard and sensed the blast quickly at 12:48 a.m. No-one was harm, but significant damage was done to the manufacturing plant, which made pinball machines famously. The police discovered that a dynamite caused the explosion bomb arranged just outside the manufacturing plant. Neither a motive nor culprit was ever reported in the papers, but it’s worth noting that organized crime has a history with pinball and also slot machines which Bally also made.

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Bally was one among a number of companies in Chicago that made pinball machines including Gottlieb and Williams Electronics, which later merged with Bally but still has offices in the neighborhood. Bally originated as the Lion Manufacturing Corp in Chicago in 1931. Lion created a popular pinball machine called “Ballyhoo,” as well as slots, sewing machines and ballpoint pens.

During World War II, it aided the war work by causing detonator fuses and weapon sights. After the pugilative war, Lion expanded its gaming business, making pool tables, amusement park rides, and other activities like espresso and television sets dispensers. In 1968, Lion changed its name to the Bally Manufacturing Corporation-a mention of that first pinball machine. The stock was located across the river from Riverview Park, and Bally named some of its games after park destinations like Aladdin’s Castle.