Palmer House

Street Address: 
State, Wabash, and Monroe Streets
Chicago, IL

Culled from: Drury, John. Dining in Chicago, New York: The John Day Company, 1931, pp. 152-154.

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

PALMER HOUSE, State, Wabash, and Monroe Streets

This famed Chicago hotel, although not on Michigan Avenue, is included in this chapter because it is but a block westward on Wabash Avenue and therefore easily identified with the gay life of the city's Lake Front boulevard. Founded in 1871 by Potter Palmer (known to posterity as "The Father of State Street" and the husband of the undisputed social queen of Chicago during the World's Fair of 1893), the Palmer House has always ben noted throughout the country for its unrivaled cuisine.

It was in the dining room of "the old Palmer House" that the most famous banquet ever held in the United States was staged — that accorded to General U. S. Grant in 1879 and at which Mark Twain and Colonel Robert T. Ingersoll, among dozens of other celebrities, were speakers. Never before was there such an array of game dishes as at this feast — saddles of venison, roast prairie chicken, buffalo steaks, breasts of wild duck, filets of wild turkey, and innumerable other edibles from the woods and prairies of the Middle West.

The culinary fame of the Palmer House, now in a magnificent new skyscraper building on the old site, continues to the present day, and has been considerably enhanced since the house acquired Monsieur Ernest E. Amiet, noted Swiss cook, as executive chef. Chef Amiet, former president of the Chefs de Cuisine Association of America, is one of the few chefs in this country to hold the diploma of the Societe des Cuisiners de Paris, which is the highest honor that can come to a chef.

With Chef Amiet to supervise their preparation, then, the Palmer House "Daily Specials" are epicurean delights of the highest order. The disjointed fried squab chicken Ol' Man River, served with corn fritter, glazed brown sugar, pan gravy with pimiento, and crisp salt pork, is a dish you'll never forget. Neither will your memory of the mutton chop Smithfield, with ham and mushrooms, grow dim. And you'll cherish your recollections of the potted brisket of beef Palmer Square, and that delicious dessert, Creole Juanita. Also, the Hungarian goulash with spatzles and the roast capon Dixie are of the first order.

Since its recent opening, the Fountain Room, just off the lobby, has become the most popular of the Palmer House luncheon places. It is decorated in hand-painted panels and features Chinese Chippendale furniture. The 85 cent table d'hote luncheon is unique here in that the polite colored waiters bring a silver tray bearing the three entrees, from which you may help yourself to your heart's content.

Grandest of the Palmer House dining rooms is the Empire Room, done in soft green in the style of the time of the first Napoleon. Luncheon is a la carte, but there is a $2.50 table d'hote dinner, and both for luncheon and dinner music is supplied by the Palmer House String Quartet. The next largest dining room is the Victorian Room, decorated in white and gold with draperies of crimson, and dominated at one end by a large oil painting of Queen Victoria. A $1.00 table d'hote luncheon is served here, also a la carte, and the table d'hote dinner is $2.00.

The Chicago Room, located in the basement, is one of the novelty restaurants of the city. All four walls are so painted that one seems to be viewing the skyline of downtown Chicago from the roof of the Palmer House — the steam-plumed roofs of skyscrapers are all about, white clouds float across a summer sky, and to the east lies the blue vastness of Lake Michigan. The Special Casserole "Top" Dinner, at $1.50, is a feature of this room, the dishes being served from a casserole table at one end of the room. The table d'hote luncheon is 85 cents. The basement of the Palmer House also contains a large counter lunch room, packed at noontime with Loop workers from surrounding office buildings.




1931 - 1931


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