The Stevens (restaurant)
Submitted by liz on Wed, 2014-11-12 11:42
Note: The Newberry Library holds the personal papers of author John Drury.
THE STEVENS, Michigan Avenue, between 7th and 8th Streets
James W. Stevens and his son, Ernest J. (present head of the Stevens Hotel), introduced a quaint and unique culinary custom into Chicago life when, a few years back, they celebrated in their hotel the first Colchester Oyster Feast to be held in America. It occurred on Hallowe'en, and the Colchester Grill of the Stevens that evening was crowded with the beauty and brilliance of the Windy City. Since then, the feast has been held annually in the Colchester Grill and it is always eagerly looked forward to by many of the town's gourmets, fashionables, and antiquarians.
In building what even a New Yorker will agree is the world's largest hotel, the Stevenses made provisions for honoring the birthplace of their ancestors, Colchester, England, by conferring the name Colchester Grill on one of their dining rooms. Colchester is a town situated on the Colne River and is famous for its oyster beds. History records that the Oyster Feast was first celebrated in 1086, in early Norman days. Each year the date for the feast is set by the Lord Mayor of Colchester. This usually occurs in the latter part of October, but at the Stevens it is definitely celebrated on Hallowe'en. Specifically, the feast marks the official opening of the oyster eating season and is an occasion for much feasting and music and dancing.
On this night, the Colchester Grill menu ($2.50 per person) is replete with old-fashioned English dishes, beginning with giant Colchester native oysters on the half shell, working through such substantial entrees as York ham steak, grilled, with champagne sauce and English chutney, or English roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, and winding up with English plum pudding with brandy sauce. After the meal, the Colchester Oyster Show, consisting of vaudeville acts and other forms of entertainment, begins in the Grand Ball Room of the hotel. Afterwards, you may dance to your heart's content.
The Colchester Grill, a beautifully decorated and furnished room, is located on the first floor at the north end of the hotel and its walls are painted with mural scenes depicting the art and customs of Colchester. At the entrance to the room you will see the portrait bust of Mr. Justice Lent John Watts, mayor of Colchester, England, in 1890, the work of H. Charles Grimwood, noted English sculptor. There is a table d'hote luncheon for 85 cents and you can buy a similar dinner for $1.50. An orchestra furnishes music.
Largest of the dining rooms at the Stevens is the main dining room, overlooking Michigan Avenue and the Lake Front. It is a large, magnificent room, done in the Louis XVI style, and adorned with elaborate murals by Norman Tolson. An interesting item on the dinner menu is the English Compartment Plate Combination for $1.25. There is also a $2.00 table d'hote dinner. On the luncheon menu, the Plate Combination is 75 cents and the table d'hote $1.25. Music is furnished by the Stevens orchestra.
At the south end of the hotel, just off Colchester Lane, is located the Oak Room, panelled in sandblasted oak and furnished with the most comfortable of chairs. It is a smaller eating place and ideal for conversationally inclined lunchers or diners. A 60 cent breakfast, a 75 cent luncheon and a $1.50 dinner are served here. There is music during dinner.
Something of a novelty is found in the Japanese Lunch Room, a counter eating place located in the basement and popular at noon among South Michigan Avenue office workers. The walls are decorated with scenic murals of Japan, and look for all the world like greatly enlarged Japanese prints. It is open from 6:30 A.M. to 2:00 P.M.
Maitre d'hotel: John Thoss