The Lincoln Restaurant is closed

The Lincoln Restaurant is closed

The iconic Lincoln Restaurant in North Center is closing its doors for good today. The diner was a throwback to a different era and I will miss seeing the giant Abe Lincoln head sign as I pass by on north Lincoln Avenue, you know, if someone eventually gets around to taking it down. I first heard about its closing in yesterday’s Trib and it came as quite a shock. I mean, in Chicago, if you can’t count on taxes, potholes and the Lincoln Restaurant always being there, then what can you count on?

We’ve lived in and around this neighborhood for over twenty years. We’ve eaten there many times. It’s our favorite go-to breakfast place. Eating at the Lincoln was like stepping back in time. Vinyl booths. Kitchy Abe Lincoln décor. “Mature” waitresses that called you Honey. What’s not to love?

The Lincoln has even inspired comedy. And not just from the lottery tickets I sometimes bought there. (When you work for an airline, Lotto is part of the retirement plan.) When my sons were babies, maybe three months old, they needed a medical procedure that required sedation. (Everything went fine, btw.) Afterward, with two soundly sleeping children, we decided to have our first breakfast out with them. We went to the Lincoln. The husband had his favorite skillet, either the Merrimac or the Monitor. I probably had the spinach and feta cheese omelet. The boys had Zzzzzz. At the end of our brunch, the waitress commented on how well-behaved our babies were.

“They’re heavily sedated,” I replied. And we all laughed, because damn, that’s funny if I say so myself.

As they’ve grown older, we’ve brought the kids there many times, the kind of place where no one cries or gives you stink eye over a glass of spilled milk. I remember once, after Wiggleworms at Old Town, we went with another mom and her brood. Unclear on the concept of the Lincoln Restaurant, she sent her milkshake back three times, because it “wasn’t chocolaty” enough. I wish I were kidding. Three times! The poor waitress. I wanted to yell at that other mom, “It’s the Lincoln not Zephyr’s,” but I think that would have been lost on her, too.

At a neighborhood Holiday party last night, I asked my friend and neighbor, we’ll call her “Lori,” Did you hear the Lincoln is closing? A real-estate agent, I’m used to Lori being the one to give me the news. She was as surprised as I’d been.

“It’s sad, isn’t it?” I said.

Lori paused, ever so briefly, then said, “Not really.”

I had to laugh. In a way, she’s right. While I believe it is sad that a family-owned restaurant that’s been in the neighborhood for forty years is closing, I know life will go on, just like it did when Zephyr's closed and when Al’s Barbershop did. I get so sentimental when neighborhoods change. But life does go on, does it not? And maybe, just maybe, something besides a Dollar Store will go in the space.

Today is its last day. We were going to go yesterday, but life got in the way. I’d like to try to get up there for brunch or lunch.

“Hey kids, you wanna go to the Lincoln for breakfast? One last time?”

“Not really.”

We'll figure out a way to make them go anyway. I just hope no one asks us if they're heavily sedated.

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