Rainbo Sea Food Grotto

Street Address: 
117 S. Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL

Culled from: Drury, John. Dining in Chicago, New York: The John Day Company, 1931, pp. 80-83.

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


Ship Ahoy!

Out of the crowds, automobiles, street-cars and shop windows of busy South Dearborn Street, you step into the cabin of the palatial yacht, S. S. "Rainbo," somewhere out, say, in mid-Atlantic. A handsome officer, gold braid and all, pilots you to a table on "The Deck," as the main dining room at the rear is called. Painted blue waves and cumuli clouds fill the north wall, beyond a real ship's rail; life preservers, bearing the name S. S. "Rainbo," are tied to the rail; a ship's clock, barometer and shiny ship's bell, as well as numerous portholes, adorn the east wall; doors are marked "Captain," "First Officer,"

"Chief Engineer," "Chief Steward," "Galley" and "Storeroom;" real ship's lamps hang from the striped marine awning overhead; and throughout the dining room there is the high treble sound of wind whistling through rigging. Everything is authentically nautical at the Rainbo Sea Food Grotto and all that's lacking is the rocking of the deck — for which thank the Lord and Gus Mann.

"Skipper" Gus Mann, who made a name for himself in the restaurant world as proprietor of the famous Cafe Zinkand in San Francisco in the days before the earthquake, has come into greater glory since opening up this picturesque sea food restaurant in Chicago's Loop. His S. S. "Rainbo" is now "safely anchored in the harbor of high public esteem," as Frances Warren Baker, a local magazine writer, put it.

Look over Gus Mann's varied and appetite-provoking menu. "If it swims we have it," is Gus's slogan. Imploring you to eat more fish, his menu notes:

"At 5 A. M. in waters blue —
The same day it is served to you."

Who wouldn't order Louisiana jumbo frogs after reading this: "Visiting New Orleans without ordering Frogs is like passing up beans in Boston. The delicacy of a quail, combined with the game flavor of a pheasant — that's what a Louisiana Frog tastes like as prepared here." Of the Coney Island clam chowder, the menu says: "No magnifying glass needed to find the clams." The oysters, Waldorf style, are prepared with "chili sauce, bread crumbs, creamery butter and baked in the shell on a bed of salt, retaining its ocean tang." The Mammy style corn pones were "Al Jolson's inspiration;" and as for the lemon pie: "We paid a young fortune for the recipe; please don't ask us to reveal it." The spaghetti Caruso is "a concoction that the famous artist loved to prepare himself. Imported spaghetti cooked to the proper tenderness in rich beef stock, chicken livers, mushrooms and genuine Parmesan cheese. Ah, what a flavor!"

Proof that Gus Mann is not exaggerating the quality of his cuisine may be found here any evening at the dinner hour — prominent politicians, theatrical stars, society fashionables and all other well-traveled people who ought to know good sea food when they taste it, are in abundance among the diners. Ashton Stevens, son of California, waxes laudatory over the California crabs served here, saying they "have thighs as thick and meaty as an old-fashioned ballet dancer's." Novelist Rupert Hughes, another Californian, drops in to see Gus Mann whenever he is in town. Paul Ash, the jazz king, who used to play the piano for Gus Mann in the old Cafe Zinkand days, is a frequent visitor. And there are scads of other notables.

Here, then, you may revel in oysters, deviled crabs, deep sea scallops, baby lobsters, planked Lake Superior whitefish, fried Virginia shrimps, Boston mackerel, broiled Delaware shad roe, as well as in the most savory of steaks and chops and German potato pancakes and, for breakfast, delicious sausages and wheat cakes. Everything is wholesome and satisfying — and why wouldn't it be, with Axel Kastrup, noted throughout Europe and the United States for his sea food dishes, presiding over the "galley"? We heartily recommend a meal aboard the S. S. "Rainbo" in South Dearborn Street.

Rainbo Sea Food Grotto American

117 South Dearborn Street

Open for breakfast, luncheon and dinner. Closed Sundays and holidays

Plate lunch, 50 cents. Table d'hote dinner, $1.50. Also a la carte

Maitre d'hotel: Gus Mann




1931 - 1931


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