Submitted by liz on Wed, 2014-11-12 11:41
Note: The Newberry Library holds the personal papers of author John Drury.
"No Orchestral Din"
Is there a Chicagoan living, no matter how old, who does not remember Henrici's windows, ever since his mother first took him downtown as a child — those big windows laden with tantalizing creations in birthday, wedding, and fruit cakes and, at Christmas time, those big English plum puddings? Here is the oldest restaurant in Chicago.
Situated in the gaudy center of the Randolph Street theatrical district, this grand old temple of the culinary art is known from coast to coast; its familiar advertising
phrase, "No Orchestral Din," has become a national slogan, as common as "Say It With Flowers" or "Janssen Wants To See You." And this phrase, "No Orchestral Din," is not an idle boast. Your true gourmet will quickly recognize the significance of it. Since Henrici's is an establishment devoted solely to the art of eating, as it was practiced in the good old days, everything has been ruled out that might be foreign to the quiet, dignified and restful atmosphere which a born gourmet seeks. No jazz orchestra, no clatter of silverware or dishes, nor the sound of waitresses moving about, disturbs the Henrici patron in the enjoyment of his food or in conversation with fellow diners.
We Sir are not engaging in a superlative (for which Chicagoans are notorious) when we say that Henrici's is the oldest restaurant in the city. Turn to any of the early city guide-books and you will find that it was founded in 1868 — three years after the close of the Civil War. And its atmosphere today is practically the same as it was in the days of hoop skirts and side-burns. It is like a bit of the Old World in the midst of modern American skyscrapers; a breath of Vienna, that brilliant capital of dining halls. And so it should be, for Phillip Henrici, its founder, was a member of an old Vienna family of noted restaurateurs. Coming to this country as a young man, he continued westward to Chicago and set up a small eating-place near Madison and Wells Streets, which was the "Newspaper Row" of that day. In the course of time the diners-out — newspapermen, sportsmen, and business men — beat a path to his door. His wonderful coffee and delicious pastries became the talk of the town.
In building the present restaurant, which was opened in the days of the World's Fair of 1893, Philip Henrici sought for that restful spaciousness and air of elegance
which were the hallmarks of the great dining places he knew back in gay Vienna. This atmosphere remains today, like that of a cool retreat in the midst of hot, feverish modernism. Remain, too, the excellent coffee and delectable pastries. And on the walls still hang the oil paintings that Henrici collected from European salons and studios during the course of the years and which now give the place a distinctive touch. And for a comprehensive American cuisine, with such added features as certain popular German, French, and Italian specialties, Henrici's is the equal of any in Chicago.
Small wonder, then, that with such coffee, pastries, and wholesome food, Henrici's should become the gathering place of local and national celebrities. To attempt to name them, considering the long history of this restaurant, would fill a volume. In the past, to mention only a few, came the late John P. Altgeld, greatest governor of Illinois; Theodore Drieser, who refers to Henrici's several times in his "American Tragedy;" Edward F. Dunne, former governor of Illinois, and Carter H. Harrison, former mayor of Chicago; Jim Jeffries, Jack Lait, Ring Lardner, George Ade, and a host of others. Practically all the famous actors and actresses of the past have eaten here at some time or other. At the present time, Edna Ferber always dines here when she is visiting her native Chicago and has described the restaurant in a number of her novels; such stars of the theatrical world as Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor, as well as opera singers and popular vaudevillians, are regular patrons when playing in Chicago. Henrici's has also become the last stopping place in a sort of gastronomical circuit being followed in recent years by Mayor Anton Cermak and other leaders of the local Democratic party. They lunch at the Celtic Grill in the Hotel Sherman; have dinner in the Pompeiian Room at the Congress and wind up at midnight in Henrici's. The older generation of theatrical stars, too, have established a midnight rendezvous here.
71 West Randolph Street
Open 7 A. M. to 1 A. M. Sundays, 8 A. M. to midnight
A la carte only — and reasonable