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Jeff Russell of Cross-Rhodes in Evanston has passed away

Jeff Russell of Cross-Rhodes in Evanston has passed away
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  • Jeff Russell of Cross-Rhodes in Evanston has passed away

    Post #1 - September 12th, 2012, 8:47 pm
    Post #1 - September 12th, 2012, 8:47 pm Post #1 - September 12th, 2012, 8:47 pm
    My brother told me about this the other day but I refused to believe it. But it's true. the Evanston Review is reporting the very sad news that Jeff Russell, owner of Cross-Rhodes, died from injuries he sustained from a fall on Monday night.

    I've always enjoyed Cross-Rhodes. Back in the late 1980's I lived right around the corner from it and ate there frequently. Jeff was a great guy and was always extremely kind to me. I'm really going to miss him.

    Owner of Cross~Rhodes restaurant in Evanston mourned by friends

    =R=
    Same planet, different world
  • Post #2 - September 12th, 2012, 8:55 pm
    Post #2 - September 12th, 2012, 8:55 pm Post #2 - September 12th, 2012, 8:55 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:My brother told me about this the other day but I refused to believe it. But it's true. the Evanston Review is reporting the very sad news that Jeff Russell, owner of Cross-Rhodes, died from injuries he sustained from a fall on Monday night.

    I've always enjoyed Cross-Rhodes. Back in the late 1980's I lived right around the corner from it and ate there frequently. Jeff was a great guy and was always extremely kind to me. I'm really going to miss him.

    Owner of Cross~Rhodes restaurant in Evanston mourned by friends

    =R=

    You aren't the only one. I knew yesterday from their Facebook page. This is horrible.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #3 - September 12th, 2012, 9:40 pm
    Post #3 - September 12th, 2012, 9:40 pm Post #3 - September 12th, 2012, 9:40 pm
    We walked past last night. It was closed, with a handwritten sign on the door saying the closure was due to a "death in the family." It's sad news.
  • Post #4 - September 14th, 2012, 11:02 am
    Post #4 - September 14th, 2012, 11:02 am Post #4 - September 14th, 2012, 11:02 am
    Very sad indeed. I began going to Cross-Rhodes when I moved to SE Evanston in the late 80s and returned when I could after we moved away. My memories are all very positive.

    I didn't know Jeff by name, but he was always up front greeting people, directing everything and often visiting / kibitzing with friends at the first table. Consistently reliable food with good service and great value. It was everything you wanted in a neighborhood place.

    Jeff Russell, RIP.
    Where there’s smoke, there may be salmon.
  • Post #5 - September 14th, 2012, 3:39 pm
    Post #5 - September 14th, 2012, 3:39 pm Post #5 - September 14th, 2012, 3:39 pm
    I heard about this Tuesday morning and have been in shock. I went to the memorial service last night and the outpouring of support for the Cross Rhodes family was wonderful to see. My deepest condolences to Maria and I wish her the best in whatever she chooses to do with the restaurant.

    I first went to CR sometime in 1987. We had moved to Evanston that year and had been regular customers at the Athenian Room when we lived in Chicago and my stepdad worked at DePaul. It was great to find both red and white sauce for our gyros without traveling to Lincoln Park! I lived near CR for many years after that and it was on my regular rotation. The gyros platter to go with the fries on the bottom was even better than the dine in version as the gyros juices mixed with the fries on the trip home.

    Later in my drinking years I got to know Jeff pretty well, first at Nevins' and later at the Celtic Knot. I was always sure to find a lively conversation when the Jeffs (Russell and Siegel) were at the back of that bar.

    RIP, Jeff, you will be sorely missed by a community that you served so well for so long and who loved you for it.
  • Post #6 - September 14th, 2012, 7:12 pm
    Post #6 - September 14th, 2012, 7:12 pm Post #6 - September 14th, 2012, 7:12 pm
    Very sad news. Jeff was a kind man. He always made a customer feel like a regular. I had an ongoing conversation with him in many installments about his Charburger. To me, it has always been the best burger in Chicagoland, but was little recognized in the early 90's. Fortunately, recognition finally came. Jeff was modest about this, but happy. Condolences to his lovely daughter.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #7 - September 14th, 2012, 7:50 pm
    Post #7 - September 14th, 2012, 7:50 pm Post #7 - September 14th, 2012, 7:50 pm
    Jeff was a natural. His customers loved him, and he love them. He could tell you how each of his regulars liked their burgers and what kind of toys their kids liked to play with, He was a little arrogant, but that arrogance was just enough to make him take pride in the quality of his ingredients and their exacting preparation. That arrogance drove him to get his meat fresh ground and buy his tomatoes vine ripened. His was one of the few establishments where I would risk buying a rare burger (or eat a tomato). I knew the meat would be fresh and the patty cooked to that elusive fine line that lies between raw and over cooked. The burgers would come charred on the outside. but bright red and just slightly warmed in the center, yet with juices that ran clear. in a word, prefect. I think the challenge of making a perfectly rare burger to my impossibly high standards excited him, he would smile whenever I placed my order . When I would express my amazement at his consistently exacting skills, he would sort of snicker, like saying "what did you expect?",

    Like I said, he was a natural. Over the years, we probably spent hours discussing the finer points of making a rare burger. I remember one time I ordered a rare burger to go (to begin with, he didn't like selling rare burgers "to-go"). I told him I needed to run next door to the pet store to get some things. He told me (very sternly) that he did not like customers who ordered rare burgers to leave the premises while the meat was cooking, and that if I was late returning, he was in no way responsible for my burger being past rare. I promised him that I would not be late, which of course I was (by about 2 minutes), He explained to me how the meat continued to cook even after it was removed form the grill, In fact, with rare burgers to-go, he carefully calculated the time the drive home would take. and adjusted the cook time to compensate for the the time the meat would spend in a styrofoam container (in which he carefully punched holes so the bread and fries would not get soggy). Of course, the burger, though very slightly better done than usual, was still awesome. Still, I felt his disappointment in me, and never did it again. He took his product very seriously. He even taught me that when ordering a rare burger to go, I should ask for the PATTY on the side, so the bread did not get mushy and the toppings did not get warm. In all my years of eating rare burgers, doing so had never crossed my mind. His menu was simple, but he personally had the preparation of every single item down with scientific precision. This made Cross Rhodes, if not the best, certainly the most consistently good establishment in its class. What is funny, is despite his exacting standards and persnickety ways, you could tell that his employees absolutely adored working for him. Again, he was a true natural. He will be missed,

    When the place reopens. I will have to get a rare burger on rye with feta cheese, lemon greek potato wedges and a glass of Retsina (the perfect foil for the juicy greasiness of a rare hamburger). I know that even though he is gone, his standard of perfection will carry-on.

    Hid epitaph should mention that he was " one of the few guys in history that could cook a perfectly rare hamburger".

    edited for spelling and grammar
    Last edited by d4v3 on September 15th, 2012, 8:16 pm, edited 3 times in total.
  • Post #8 - September 15th, 2012, 12:45 am
    Post #8 - September 15th, 2012, 12:45 am Post #8 - September 15th, 2012, 12:45 am
    Just horrible to read. I remember when he opened the place and his wife and baby daughter would be there at a table almost anytime I came in. When I first spotted it I assumed it was an outpost of Athenian Room. I asked him and he told me the whole story of how he ended up there and the considerable family drama behind it (most of which I can no longer recall).
    It was everything I loved about Athenian Room perfectly transplanted but with a new vibe of its own. I used to go in with work to do just to have an excuse to stay a bit longer because the atmosphere was so relaxed and welcoming, and eavesdrop on the various conversations. I loved equally listening to him kibbitz with regulars and introduce himself and the restaurant to first-timers. I loved the way he ran his business with such a clearly intense focus on standards and quality behind the counter and an equally genuine focus on customer experience in front. He was a great host and businessman.
    Such a terrible loss.
    All sympathy and respect and good thoughts to the family.
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #9 - September 15th, 2012, 6:55 am
    Post #9 - September 15th, 2012, 6:55 am Post #9 - September 15th, 2012, 6:55 am
    Shortly after Cross-Rhodes opened, our extended family went there for the first time, because we lived nearby. Our party of 11 people was their “first big group”, as Jeff liked to recount for years later. From then on, we were treated as part of his family, which we grew to learn was how he treated all of his regular customers. We watched him over the years, as he worked through all kinds of difficulties to make Cross-Rhodes into the go-to kind of place that you always knew would deliver on both the good food and the good feelings.

    Jeff was all of the wonderful things that people have mentioned above. We will remember him also as a great teller of raunchy jokes, who enjoyed nothing more than passing on the latest ribaldry. We will miss his great laugh and all of the good laughs that he gave to us.

    Good food. Good fun. Great guy.

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