Submitted by liz on Wed, 2014-11-12 11:42
Note: The Newberry Library holds the personal papers of author John Drury.
PETE'S STEAKS, 161 North Dearborn Street
There is nothing inviting about the exterior of this place. A blunt ordinary sign out front merely announces "Pete's Steaks." Glancing through the window, you see only an ordinary white-tiled counter lunch room. Nowhere is there any outward hint of the inward culinary delights of this small, unpretentious Dearborn Street restaurant, a few feet north of Randolph. But go inside, mount the steps at the rear to the gallery, and you will find yourself in a unique^ dining room — long, narrow, and looking much like a dining car. Dozens of framed photographs of noted actors and actresses, personally autographed to the proprietor and his wife, decorate the walls. And the tables are crowded with gay laughing theatrical people — vaudeville artists, chorus girls, song boosters, press agents, box office men and, almost nightly, a "big time" star or two.
What brings these show people and celebrities — as well as many other people — to this place are the steaks. And what steaks! Thick, juicy, tender, dripping with real butter, and smothered in a heaping mound of cottage fried potatoes, radishes, green onions, peas and sliced Bermuda onions, these steaks have made the proprietor, Bill Botham, known from Broadway to Hollywood. His place is to Chicago what Beefsteak Charlie's is to New York. And we feel that Bill is deserving of his fame, for to eat a Pete's Special here is to indulge in a gustatory adventure that is rare indeed. No truer catch phrase was ever adopted than the one Bill uses for his restaurant: "Where Steel Knives Are Unknown."
Whenever Paul Whiteman, Al Jolson, Rudy Vallee, the Great Nicola, Eddie Cantor, or the popular Chicago Jazz Idol, Paul Ash, become "steak conscious" while in town, they go to Pete's Steaks. So do many local celebrities outside the theatrical field, notably Dr. Herman N. Bundesen, city health commissioner and one-time mayoralty contender. And you may also see well-known local newspapermen here any evening — Jim Doherty, of the Tribune; Nate Gross, of the Times; Eddie Doherty, of Liberty magazine; and Orville ("Doc") Dwyer, Ted Tod, and Maurice Roddy, all of the Examiner. Pete's Steaks is also the hangout of that picturesque Rialto character, Grover ("Red") Gallagher, stage manager of the Harris Theatre.
We know of no other restaurant in the theatre sector where the "personal touch" is so much in evidence as in this place. Bill has even gone further and made it a sort of family restaurant, for his wife, Marie, assists him as does his brother, Eddie, and his sister, Ethel. They are all gracious hosts and hostesses and always solicitous of the welfare of their guests. Two can dine here easily for $4.00. Don't miss Pete's Steaks — which, by the by, derives its name from Pete Soteros, who formerly conducted a restaurant around the corner in Randolph Street and which Bill bought out many years ago.
Maitre d'hotel: Bill Botham