New College Restaurant
Submitted by liz on Wed, 2014-11-12 11:41
Culled from: Drury, John. Dining in Chicago, New York: The John Day Company, 1931, pp. 48-52.
Note: The Newberry Library holds the personal papers of author John Drury.
NEW COLLEGE INN
Food and Entertainment a la Byfield
Bouillabaisse a la Marseillaise! If you have ever tasted this famed Mediterranean fish stew, brought to perfection by the chefs of Prunier's in Paris, you have come the nearest to eating the sort of food our dear departed presumably eat in heaven. It is the rarest of sea food delicacies and its memory remains on your palate for days. But you don't have to go to Paris to get it — thanks to the Byfield brothers, proprietors of the Hotel Sherman, and known from Broadway to the Loop as the most genial and enterprising of hosts.
For in their New College Inn, in the basement of the Hotel Sherman, they have installed M. Jean Gazabat as head chef — M. Jean himself, formerly of Maison Prunier's and the Cafe de Paris, two of the leading dining places in Gay Paree. Monsieur Jean's genius in the preparation of seafoods, learned in the kitchens of Prunier's, has already put the College Inn high up in the list of Chicago seafood restaurants favored by discriminating epicures. And one of his outstanding specialties is Bouillabaisse a la Marseillaise.
All of which culinary data is offered as proof of the fact that the College Inn is as much a dining place as a place of dancing and entertainment. It is the oldest dine-and-dance restaurant on the Randolph Street Rialto; for thirty years it has been a gathering place for theatrical stars and just ordinary people "out for a night." In the years immediately before and after the war, Isham Jones and his dance orchestra made the College Inn a Mecca for Loop pleasure-seekers.
Then, in recent years, when times changed and the modernist note came to the fore in the arts of decoration, the Byfield brothers, ever progressive and "aware," redecorated the old College Inn, installed new features, inaugurated a delightful floor show, improved the cuisine and — most important of all improvements — brought in Ben Bernie as master of ceremonies. The "Old Maestro," as Bernie is known to his friends, has practically made the
New College Inn what it is today, providing the most attractive after-the-theatre entertainment in Chicago.
But the food has not been sacrificed on the altar of jazz. The a la carte menu handed to you by the ever-polite Braun (popularly known as "Brown") , the maitre d'hotel, would delight the eye of the most cosmopolitan of diners-out. Choice dishes from the gay capitals of Europe tempt your palate. Here, for example, are those delicious items prepared by Louis Vatel, an expert chef in the preparation of Italian and other Continental viands. Here, also, are the chafing dish specialties offered by Joe Colton, known to many as "Finnan Haddie Joe." Trained in the kitchens of the original Rector's in Chicago, and later with the same restaurant in New York, Joe is the cook responsible for such popular items as College Inn chicken a la king, chicken shortcake, lobster Newburg, and the appetizing Creamed Finnan Haddie a la College Inn.
We advise you not to miss Joe's finnan haddie, served with an admirable cream sauce infused with the most luscious of small red shrimps. It is a rare gastronomic pleasure. As for his lobster Newburg, sufficient comment is made on it when we say that those two epicures of Chicago, Amy Leslie, dean of dramatic critics, and Louis Swift, the packer, come to the College Inn almost weekly to partake of it. On the other hand, the late Raymond Hitchcock preferred Joe's chicken shortcake to any of his other specialties. There are others among famous people who come for the wide variety of oysters, served at the new Oyster Bar.
What with its main dancing and dining room, its adjoining hors d'oeuvres bar and oyster bar, and Ben Bernie, the College Inn is probably the most interesting and unique restaurant in Chicago. Ashton Stevens, an habitue of the College Inn, even goes further and says that it is the most successful night club in America. Around the walls is a modernist design of a tropical aquarium, done by the painter, John Norton; and when the lights are turned low for dancing, strange and exotic fish appear in a glow of phosphorescent pastel colors — an effect obtained by the use of radium paint. The firm headed by Ralph A. Bond, the prominent clubman and backgammon expert, laid the dance floor which, it is said, resembles a backgammon board.
A word about the famous "Theatrical Nights" on Thursday nights in the College Inn. Don't miss attending at least one. Stevens says they have "actually become a scandal all over the United States." Actors and actresses, famous and not so famous, come here after the theatre on these nights and put on an impromptu performance that you will never forget. And they come because they like Ben Bernie, Ernest Byfield, Dr. Albert Byfield, and Frank W. Bering, manager of the hotel and noted polo player.
One local drama critic made the remark that on the evening he attended Theatrical Night "there must have been at least $70,000 worth of theatrical talent among the diners." We are inclined to believe him when we recall the names of some of the stars who have been present in the past — Irene Bordoni, Ethel Barrymore, Frank Morgan, the Four Marx brothers. Rod LaRocque, Vilma Banky, Dorothy and Paula Stone, Clark and McCullough, Rudy Vallee, De Wolf Hopper, William Hodge, Helen Morgan, and a host of others.
The drama critics come too — Gail Borden, of the Times; Charles Collins, of the Tribune; Mrs. Margaret Mann Crolius, of the News. A host of well-known and popular Rialto characters are always present, such as U. J. ("Sport") Hermann, the theatre manager; Sergeants William Drury and John Howe, of the Detective Bureau; and Richard ("Rich") Jacobson, editor of the political newspaper, Standard Opinion.
So, if you are looking for a unique thrill to tell the folks about when you get back home, we suggest the New College Inn.
New College Inn American
Randolph and Clark Streets
Open for luncheon, the dansant, dinner, after-the-theatre supper, and until the milkman comes
Cover charge after 9:30 P. M., $1.00. Saturday nights,
$1.50. On Theatrical Nights, $2.00
Maitre d'hotel: J. Braun
1931 - 1931