Chicago's first food trend: oysters

Chicago's first food trend: oysters

Chicago is a foodie town. Not only do we have a robust restaurant scene and an array of reputable chefs, but we have entire multi-day celebrations dedicated to eating. I've done a few features on the history of specific foods - still slathering the ketchup onto my hot dogs - but I never looked in to when the Windy City really became the foodie destination it is. This week's 'Did You Know, Chicago?' is about the city's first restaurant, the Lake House Hotel.

The Lake House Hotel opened on Kinzie in 1835, across from Fort Dearborn and near where the Wrigley Building stands.  The building was three stories high and made of brick, not a common thing pre-Chicago Fire.

The restaurant set the pattern for sit-down dining in the city and was the first to use white tablecloths, menu cards, napkins and toothpicks. The restaurant hosted regular dinner parties, sending around four-horse sleighs to collect beautiful ladies to attend.

Oysters was the first food trend in the Chicago food history, and the dish made its debut at the Lake House Hotel. They were brought in by boat from the East Coast and became a staple in restaurants and upper-class home cooking.

In 1850 the Lake House became Illinois General Hospital of the Lakes, incorporated by Rush physicians. Unfortunately, the physicians couldn't find permanent funding so they transferred control to the Sisters of Mercy. It became the city's first hospital and the foundation for the famous Mercy Hospital.

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  • I loved your post and wrote a verse about it, "Oysters in the Past and Present: a View".

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