The Congress

Street Address: 
Michigan Ave. and Congress St.
Chicago, IL

Culled from: Drury, John. Dining in Chicago, New York: The John Day Company, 1931, pp. 158-160.

Note: The Newberry Library holds the personal papers of author John Drury.

THE CONGRESS, Michigan Avenue, at Congress Street

First of the four dining rooms that branch off at intervals from Peacock Alley, the Congress Hotel's famed avenue of fashion and sophistication, is the Louis XVI Room, where dinner is served and where, during the social season, you will see plenty of opera wraps and silk top hats. The room is large and lavishly decorated in the French style and the foods are of the best quality — that noted French chef, Lucien Raymond, presiding over the Congress Hotel kitchens.

For luncheon, however, there are many guests of the hotel, as well as Michigan Avenue strollers, who prefer the smaller Pine Room, which occupies quarters between Peacock Alley and the Avenue. The walls are paneled in unfinished pine, and at the north wall there is a log cabin where a colored Mammy turns out those great American dishes. Aunt Jemima waffles with maple syrup and Aunt Jemima pancakes. The table d'hote luncheon is $1.00 and the table d'hote dinner is $1.50. The small dining room on the floor above the Pine Room is a popular afternoon tea rendezvous. Sandwiches, salads, pastries, ice cream, and fruits and preserves, are featured here.

Further down Peacock Alley, on the opposite side, is the PompeLian Grill Room, most famous of Congress Hotel dining rooms, and its equally famous chef, Alfred Fries. Chef Fries has presided over this room for twenty years, and his typical American dishes have been the delight of hundreds of celebrities from all over the world who have eaten here. He is now an authority on our native edibles, his "The Blue Book of American Dishes" being the most comprehensive cook book on the subject so far written.

The Pompeiian Room, as its name might imply, is very luxurious and elegant and Roman. It is said that Burne-Jones declared it to be the most beautiful room in America. The squat green fountain in the center of the room, made of fevrile glass and tinkling with the sound of water, was exhibited in the World's Columbian Exhibition in 1893. Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, Caruso, and Al Smith have dined here in the past — to name only a few of an endless number of renowned people who have patronized the Pompeiian Grill. And celebrities of this sort still come here.

The menu of the Pompeiian Room is a la carte and there is a dance orchestra, but for night club atmosphere, you must seek the Balloon Room, at the end of Peacock Alley. This unique after-theatre dine-and-dance place was designed by H. L. Kaufman, for twenty years president of the hotel and an artist. It is done in orange and black; lights from a slowly revolving chandelier of mirrors continually circle about the room like a swirling snowstorm; and the dance floor is fringed with colored glass under which electric lights shine. D. W. Griffith is reported to have used the design of the Balloon Room, with its novel lighting effects, in one of his pictures. You may dance here from 10 P.M. to 2 A.M. The service is a la carte and no cover charge. Art Kahn and his orchestra provide the music.

What used to be the Congress Bar, on the Congress Street side of the hotel, is now a coffee shop. The foods served here are of the same high quality as those served in the other eating parlors of the Congress. The coffee shop is mostly patronized by men.

Maitre d'hotel: Ray R. Barrete




1931 - 1931


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