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Lawry's Lunch
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  • Lawry's Lunch

    Post #1 - December 3rd, 2004, 4:02 pm
    Post #1 - December 3rd, 2004, 4:02 pm Post #1 - December 3rd, 2004, 4:02 pm
    One of my favorite lunch destinations downtown when I feel like spending a bit more than usual is Lawry's. The name seems to turn some people off, but it's truly a Chicago tradition. A classic environment and perfect for a fine Friday like today.

    Obviously, they have outstanding Prime Rib Sandwiches that they expertly slice off the rib rack for you- your choice of "pinkness" and bread. The medium rare has got to be one of my favorite cuts of beef, bar none. A dollop of horseradish and this is a fine mid-day meal.

    Occasionally to mix it up, I'll get the pastrami, which is fresh and cooked in-house. Again, outstanding, maybe a bit more of a surprise, but this as good as pastrami gets in Chicago for my buck. Cut a bit thicker than say, Manny's, they have some decent rye to put it on and a few different mustards to choose from (and horseradish if you want to go down that road). Creamed Corn, Creamed Spinach and Mashed Potatoes are always available as sides.

    Lawry's
    100 East Ontario St
  • Post #2 - December 3rd, 2004, 4:41 pm
    Post #2 - December 3rd, 2004, 4:41 pm Post #2 - December 3rd, 2004, 4:41 pm
    Wasn't that place some sort of Scandanavian Puppet Theater before Lawry's went in there?
  • Post #3 - December 3rd, 2004, 4:56 pm
    Post #3 - December 3rd, 2004, 4:56 pm Post #3 - December 3rd, 2004, 4:56 pm
    nr706 wrote:Wasn't that place some sort of Scandanavian Puppet Theater before Lawry's went in there?


    It's definitely a mansion of some sort. They are having some Charles Dickens' readings (not sure exactly what that entails) and that seems to be a perfect fit for the feel of the place.
  • Post #4 - December 3rd, 2004, 5:47 pm
    Post #4 - December 3rd, 2004, 5:47 pm Post #4 - December 3rd, 2004, 5:47 pm
    Michael Stern of Roadfood.com fame, reviewed Lawery's a day or two ago and has a very tasty looking picture on the site.

    pd
    Unchain your lunch money!
  • Post #5 - December 3rd, 2004, 6:03 pm
    Post #5 - December 3rd, 2004, 6:03 pm Post #5 - December 3rd, 2004, 6:03 pm
    nr706 wrote:Wasn't that place some sort of Scandanavian Puppet Theater before Lawry's went in there?


    Yes. It was called Kung'sHome (or something similar to that), but we are talking sometime back in the 40's or early 50's. Lawry's has been there for quite some time, but you knew that.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #6 - December 3rd, 2004, 6:47 pm
    Post #6 - December 3rd, 2004, 6:47 pm Post #6 - December 3rd, 2004, 6:47 pm
    i was a youg cook at lawrys some 20 years ago, and the coolest thing about the place is that they have a hugh 2 story basement that has tunnels that used to connect to chez paul and a few other joints where they would deliver coal and even transport horses!!
  • Post #7 - December 3rd, 2004, 6:49 pm
    Post #7 - December 3rd, 2004, 6:49 pm Post #7 - December 3rd, 2004, 6:49 pm
    tonyd wrote:i was a youg cook at lawrys some 20 years ago, and the coolest thing about the place is that they have a hugh 2 story basement that has tunnels that used to connect to chez paul and a few other joints where they would deliver coal and even transport horses!!


    Aren't those the very tunnels that flooded under the Loop causing the Great Chicago Flood some years ago?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #8 - December 3rd, 2004, 6:56 pm
    Post #8 - December 3rd, 2004, 6:56 pm Post #8 - December 3rd, 2004, 6:56 pm
    It was called Kung'sHome (or something similar to that), but we are talking sometime back in the 40's or early 50's.

    Kungsholm Restaurant and "Theater in Miniature" hung on, in the space that's now Lawry's, until 1971. It sounds like it had been in decline toward the end. Jory Graham noted in 1968, "the restaurant no longer hews to the once-magnificent standards set by the original owner." I think it was once THE place to go for smorgasbord, even when there were many choices in Chicago. The puppet opera still got good reviews though.
  • Post #9 - December 3rd, 2004, 9:47 pm
    Post #9 - December 3rd, 2004, 9:47 pm Post #9 - December 3rd, 2004, 9:47 pm
    It was a puppet theater up to the late 60's/early 70's because I remember going there with my mom when I was very young.
  • Post #10 - December 4th, 2004, 12:27 am
    Post #10 - December 4th, 2004, 12:27 am Post #10 - December 4th, 2004, 12:27 am
    Its funny you bring this topic up today, because Lawry's so happens to be where I had lunch today. My sandwich was great, although small. And their bar area is really quaint. My friend and I lounged on couches as we ate our sandwiches.
  • Post #11 - December 4th, 2004, 10:02 am
    Post #11 - December 4th, 2004, 10:02 am Post #11 - December 4th, 2004, 10:02 am
    ab wrote:It's definitely a mansion of some sort.


    It's the McCormick Mansion, built in the 1890s, I believe.
  • Post #12 - February 17th, 2005, 12:59 am
    Post #12 - February 17th, 2005, 12:59 am Post #12 - February 17th, 2005, 12:59 am
    I'll resurrect this topic to add that I just had lunch here for the first time and I really enjoyed it. My pastrami was delicious (yes sliced a bit thick, but very fresh) and I appreciated the choice of breads and mustards. The bar area is very relaxing and the service is fast and friendly.
  • Post #13 - February 17th, 2005, 3:23 am
    Post #13 - February 17th, 2005, 3:23 am Post #13 - February 17th, 2005, 3:23 am
    Thanks for resurrecting...just checked out that Roadfood.com site...turns out he just reviewed the Blue Ben Diner in Bennington, VT - my home town! Crazy. I give it a thumbs up, too :)
  • Post #14 - October 20th, 2008, 11:36 am
    Post #14 - October 20th, 2008, 11:36 am Post #14 - October 20th, 2008, 11:36 am
    As far as old-school Chicago meat eating institutions go, Lawry's has always been near the top of my list. I love the elegant, immaculate space, and have never had anything but the friendliest service. Huge slabs of perfectly cooked prime rib haven't hurt either. All that said, I've always thought of Lawry's as a special-occasion, pricey, take-certain-types-of-out-of-towners-there, kinda place. Lunch today changed my opinion.

    The "Ale & Sandwich" side of the restaurant is an elegant bar with seating for about 30, and a carving station. For $11, you can get a giant pile of house cooked meat on good bread, unlimited access to a nice condiment and side-salad bar, and crunchy homemade potato chips. I had the pastrami which, like the corned beef, turkey, and everything else - is made in-house daily, according to the person who carved it to order. It was an excellent pastrami sandwich - fatty enough to provide plenty of juiciness, but served nice and warm so that there was no real greasiness. Plenty of peppery spice too. I also very much liked the creamy potato salad with lots of chopped hard-boiled egg yolk.

    Quite a good lunch, and a pretty good deal too.

    Lawry's
    100 E Ontario St
    Chicago, IL 60611
    312-787-5000
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #15 - October 20th, 2008, 11:55 am
    Post #15 - October 20th, 2008, 11:55 am Post #15 - October 20th, 2008, 11:55 am
    That's good to know. I'll definitely hit it sometime for lunch in the coming weeks. I love those old school places. Hope it stays around a while longer.
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #16 - October 21st, 2008, 2:02 am
    Post #16 - October 21st, 2008, 2:02 am Post #16 - October 21st, 2008, 2:02 am
    To be honest I've never given that place a second thought with every other restaurant in town (and especially with the Primehouse within throwing distance). But I will make it a plan to get there for lunch...anyone like to join on a weekday? :lol:
    GOOD TIMES!
  • Post #17 - October 21st, 2008, 7:12 am
    Post #17 - October 21st, 2008, 7:12 am Post #17 - October 21st, 2008, 7:12 am
    It's been some years, but my recollection is that their handcarved roast beef was one of the better bargains in the area. A really excellent choice if you're desiring a bit of quiet elegance to accompany the relatively inexpensive sandwich.
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #18 - October 21st, 2008, 7:17 am
    Post #18 - October 21st, 2008, 7:17 am Post #18 - October 21st, 2008, 7:17 am
    Kennyz wrote:Quite a good lunch, and a pretty good deal too.

    Kenny,

    Thanks for the heads up, sounds delicious and a deal.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #19 - October 21st, 2008, 7:32 am
    Post #19 - October 21st, 2008, 7:32 am Post #19 - October 21st, 2008, 7:32 am
    AB turned me on to the Lawry's Lunch way back in the day. When I worked in Streeterville, it was a nice option.

    I am a Lawry's dinner detractor, but this lunch is a nice deal.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #20 - October 21st, 2008, 7:54 am
    Post #20 - October 21st, 2008, 7:54 am Post #20 - October 21st, 2008, 7:54 am
    eatchicago wrote:
    I am a Lawry's dinner detractor, but this lunch is a nice deal.

    Best,
    Michael


    Why the detraction? I haven't been in 15 years, but thought about taking the in-laws there.

    Do any of the top steakhouses have prime rib on the permanent menu? (not rib-eye steaks)
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #21 - October 21st, 2008, 7:57 am
    Post #21 - October 21st, 2008, 7:57 am Post #21 - October 21st, 2008, 7:57 am
    It was almost this time last year when I remarked about how pleased I was with the Lawry's sandwich bar. I've now been there a handful of times and each time I've thoroughly enjoyed the food and old school charm.
  • Post #22 - October 21st, 2008, 7:59 am
    Post #22 - October 21st, 2008, 7:59 am Post #22 - October 21st, 2008, 7:59 am
    Michael,

    Thanks for linking to the old thread, which I hadn't seen. It's got some interesting pieces of history about the building. It's also nice to see that since these descriptions 4+ years ago, very little has changed at Lawry's.

    This quote from the old thread...
    BumbleBee wrote:The bar area is very relaxing and the service is fast and friendly.
    ...is dead-on. You can easily be in an out for lunch at Lawry's in 15 minutes, but the option of lingering for awhile in the relaxing bar with much old-school charm is way more appealing.

    Kenny
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #23 - October 27th, 2008, 1:23 pm
    Post #23 - October 27th, 2008, 1:23 pm Post #23 - October 27th, 2008, 1:23 pm
    Never been there for lunch, but we went to Lawry's for Dinner on Sunday.

    I have walked by Lawry's for years and always wanted to stop in. I was a bit skeptical of a chain that essentially has one thing on the menu, but it's such an intimidating yet clubby looking building that I had visions of something more sublime happening within. Some friends felt the same and so we all went for a meal.

    In reality, what is happening inside is the barely controlled chaos of many many tourists, an overwhelmed host stand, and lots of warm meat.

    We looked on open table earlier in the day and the place was completely open, so didn't bother making reservations. Showed up and it was packed with big groups of both asians and beefy looking men, perhaps from Iowa, perhaps in town for a John Deere convention. Plus a swarm of smaller groups, few appearing to be actual Chicago residents.

    The host stand was staffed by one tall confused looking man in a grey suit and two girls, one of whom was maybe 18 and the other, I swear, was 12. 14 on a good day. We were told a 45 minute wait so we camped out on a sofa in the bar and waited...waited...waited...an hour and a half. Meanwhile the table at the bar where we sat was never cleaned of the glasses left there by the previous group, and on our one trip to the bar had to wait around 10 minutes to order a round of drinks while staring at other glasses that were never cleaned off the bar. What suprised me the most was how, given that almost everyone is ordering the same thing, they seemed unable to handle the crowds. You would think that they would have this all down pat by now.

    We finally got in to the huge, elaborate main dining room which was easily the most impressive site of the night. Wood panneling, mirrored walls, shiny parquet floor, chandeliers, and lots and lots of people, all eating warm meat.

    There is a peculiar way of doing things at Lawry's that betray its founding in Berverly Hills in the 30s, a time when people did not go out as much as they do now and apparently expected a bit of a show along with the food. The stars of the circus are the giant stainless steel carving stations carted around like personal Airstreams by large men dressed as chefs and wearing giant Gold medallions hanging around their necks from red velvet ribbons. The waitresses (I don't recall any waiters) all dressed in a kind of ill-fitting dark beige maid's uniform with a big white bow. All of this filtered through a chaos of runners and bussers sprinting around like crazy keeping the whole process moving along.

    Everyone is referred to as "Mr." or "Mrs." as in "Mr Jordan will be your carver"or "Mrs Smith will be your waitress." Just about everyone orders the same thing because they only have about four things on the menu and three of them are just different sizes of Prime Rib. After you order, they come out with the "spinning salad" which is a mix of lettuce, beets, egg, croutons, etc in a metal bowl perched atop another bowl full of ice. The spin the top bowl around and pour on the dressing. Why to they spin the salad? Showmanship! That's why. And it wouldn't be much of a spinning salad if you didn't spin it.

    So they serve the OK salad along with some OK sourdough bread and a few hunks of butter that look like they'd been cut off a giant block of butter with a hachet. The highlight of the whole experience was the croutons which were quite tasty.

    Next lumbers over Mr Jordan with his magical steel meat cart. He opens it up and carves out a slice of Prime Rib for everyone, cooked to your liking, and to be honest, it was a pretty good hunk of meat. Problem was the sides. Reconstituted mashed potatoes glopped onto the plate with runny gravy from a jar with the aplomb of a junior high school lunch line server. I gagged down a few mouthfulls of potato before giving up. There is the Yorkshire pudding which I always imagined as a big puffy greasy popover, but in this case, and in every other one I saw in the room, was more like a fallen tasteless souffle. On the positive side was the horseradish condiment which was so potent that a taste felt like snorting raw wasabi. The mixed whipped-cream/horseradish condiment I found, in a word, revolting, but one of my dinner mates seemed to enjoy it, so maybe I had just lost my sense of taste after searing my nasal passage with horseradish vapor.

    The meal wrapped up with a "Trifle" or a layered spounge cake/whipped cream/strawberry syrup concoction that was not bad, and certainly quite large. A trifle not to be trifled with. I got through about half of it.

    A memorable experience, but not one I ever need to repeat. Although the meal was not entirely a loss, once you've been there once, you're not going to find anything new on the menu the next time. They been serving up the same unusual mix of foods, service quirks, and showmanship for 70 years. And given the hordes of tourists plying the hallways, it seems to work for them, if not for me.
    Last edited by wak on October 27th, 2008, 2:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #24 - October 27th, 2008, 2:07 pm
    Post #24 - October 27th, 2008, 2:07 pm Post #24 - October 27th, 2008, 2:07 pm
    Wow.

    Last night at Mado, someone brought up Don Roth's, which, of course, made me think of Lawry's. I have a huge soft spot for these kinda places, and would tend to think kindly of them regardless of the food. Still, my last supper here, about three years ago, was spot-on in all aspects. Then again, I'm the kinda guy that's charmed by a spinning salad bowl. The kinda guy who would otherwise cringe at Lawry's seasoning salt, but here loves it. Who knows what can happen in a few years, but I'm hoping your meal was an aberration.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #25 - November 5th, 2008, 12:45 pm
    Post #25 - November 5th, 2008, 12:45 pm Post #25 - November 5th, 2008, 12:45 pm
    In a misguided effort to eat healthily after Monday's pork fat extravaganza at Sun Wah, I hesitantly selected turkey over the usual pastrami or prime rib sandwich. Blech. Downright inedible, dry, skinless, tasteless styrofoam. I deserve most of the blame due to my poor ordering, but in case anyone finds themselves similarly inclined at Lawry's... it's not worth afew extra days of life expectancy to have to force down that gruel.

    I'm still a fan of lunch at Lawry's, but I won't be making this turkey mistake anymore.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #26 - January 30th, 2010, 7:51 pm
    Post #26 - January 30th, 2010, 7:51 pm Post #26 - January 30th, 2010, 7:51 pm
    I did a topic search on Lawry's as I'm going there tonight. Not because its a culinary destination, but because it brings back great memories of dinners I used to have at Lawry's when I lived in Los Angeles and went to the one in LA/Beverly Hills back in the '80's. Its so classic and even a bit kitsch; its fun.

    Once on one of our visits, we went to Lawry's in LA, forgetting it was Father's Day. The place was crammed full, with literally a line down the block. We were pining for their roast beef and yorkshire pudding so much that--though being in my late 20's I had never done this before--I slipped the hostess a $20 bill. To my shock, she took my name and whispered under her breath, "go stand in the bar for a minute." About 2 or 3 minutes later, on the PA system, she paged "Dr. van Gorp, you have a telephone call." When I came up to receive the "call," she directed my friends and me to our table. So funny.

    Its an institution; I'm really looking forward to going back tonight.
  • Post #27 - October 25th, 2013, 11:04 am
    Post #27 - October 25th, 2013, 11:04 am Post #27 - October 25th, 2013, 11:04 am
    Anyone report on the quality of the food recently?

    I order a prime rib dinner now and then up in northern Wisconsin, supper club heaven.

    Being pricey aside, is the prime rib still as good as one thinks it should be at a restaurant with prime rib in the name?

    I've never been so would like to have the Lawry's experience if still worthwhile.
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #28 - October 25th, 2013, 11:15 am
    Post #28 - October 25th, 2013, 11:15 am Post #28 - October 25th, 2013, 11:15 am
    My last time there (which was about two years ago IIRC), it was for dinner, and I recall thinking about the prime rib, "not bad, but not the best I've had; I remember it being better than this."
  • Post #29 - October 25th, 2013, 12:50 pm
    Post #29 - October 25th, 2013, 12:50 pm Post #29 - October 25th, 2013, 12:50 pm
    Sweet Willie,

    I've been three times in the past year. Food is consistently very good. Even though I am a big guy, I can't eat a lot at a sitting so with the salad, bread basket, popover and mashed potatoes, I can just barely finish the regular cut. One of the managers once told me that they use Choice beef. I like mine English cut, which is two thinner slices as opposed to a mini slab. I never leave without getting a bottle or two of their salad dressing, which I never see in stores or Amazon. We've never had room for dessert.

    The creamy horseradish sauce really packs a punch. I always ask for more.
    "Bass Trombone is the Lead Trumpet of the Deep."
    Rick Hammett

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