Week 6, Day 0

All around Chitown, I’m gonna let it shine

All around Chitown, I’m gonna let it shine

All around Chitown, I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine

Let it shine

Let it shine

It is truly a pleasure and joy to bring two people who’ve travelled the world to a place which surprises and delights them, especially when you didn’t know what was coming.

I had thought, way back on Week 2, Day 3, that I had experienced the most unusual restaurant I’ve ever been to in my life: Kimski, the Korean-Polish fusion restaurant. Oh, how I underestimated Chicago. Completely, totally underestimated Chicago. Even more impressive, as close as I am to Kimski (0.3 miles – a six minute walk), the new bombshell was right across the street, in the form of the Polo Cafe.

I’ve been meaning to stop there for weeks, but it’s never been open when I have been seeking sustenance. I has unusual hours – 11 to 3 weekdays, open latish (9pm) on Fridays and Saturdays, and for brunch on weekends. We decided to stop by after church today.

The first sign that this would be a different sort of experience greeted us at the door as we stepped in: he was thirteen or fourteen years old, wearing a too-large, black button down shirt with the restaurant logo, a black apron, which despite being folded at the waist to shorten it, reached the ground. “Do you have reservations?” We didn’t, though there wasn’t much of a crowd – maybe a third of the restaurant was filled.

As we sat, our eyes met when we recognized the tune being played (live) on the Rodgers organ (though it sounded like a Wurlitzer to me) – “Here I am, Lord”. Though the sign outside said “Hallelujah! Bridgeport Gospel Brunch”, nothing could really have prepared us for what was about to happen. As the song ended, the organist asked us to open our hymnals to number 412 and sing along. Yes, there were hymnals at the table – there were hymnals at ALL the tables. Enough for everybody. This was not your average run of the mill Catholic hymnal. Heck no. It was none other than “Lead Me, Guide Me” , a  “complete hymnal and service book designed to give African-American Catholics a worship aid that draws from the music of the African-American religious tradition as well as past and contemporary music familiar to Catholics” from the late ‘80s.

We were entertained by hymns while we perused our menus, though the menus themselves were entertaining, with entries like:

  • St Joseph: Mayor’s Steak and Eggs
  • St Mary Magdalene: Creme  Brulee French Toast
  • St Benedict: Eggs Benedicto XVI
  • St Matthew: Bacon-Dicto

…and so on.

Dad and I ordered St Edward: Belgian Waffle and Homemade Chicken Tenders (it is not clear whether this meal’s sobriquet refers to Edward the Confessor or Edward the Martyr. My guess is Edward the Confessor, who is the patron saint of difficult marriages – isn’t waffles and fried chicken a difficult marriage? Well, in this case it wasn’t – especially with Fig Vodka Butter Syrup. My mom ordered (although she didn’t realize it until the waiter explained it) the St David: Combo Prix Fixe which included the Creme Brulee French Toast, Vegetable Frittata, Bridgeport Potatoes, bacon, grilled sausages and a fruit cup.  St David is the patron saint of Wales, and I fail to see the connection, unless it refers to the fact that that is a whale of a lot of food (mom shared).

The surprises continued as a waiter carrying a pair of lit red candles passed our table and placed them on another. We were at a loss to explain this until the table next to ours got the candles. They were placed on the table with a silver framed photo of Pope Benedict XVI as a result of ordering the St Benedict, and remained there through the meal or until another table placed (and received) that order.pope-benedict-1-sized

As we were eating our meals, the restaurant filled with patrons, and the excitement crescendoed when the owner/chef came out to sing hymns. He’s got a really good voice and presence. Nearly everybody in the restaurant was singing along hymn after hymn, but especially to his rendition of “This Little Light of Mine”  to which he added verses about our lights shining over local communities, Bridgeport, Bronzeville, Comiskey Park, and others, then he took suggestions from the audience, and made sure to include Canaryville at the end. A little boy, maybe four or five years old, who was familiar with the owner wanted to sing a song. After a shy start, we all sang “Take Me Out to the Ballpark”, and he sang along.

Throughout the meal the boy in the black shirt and several other wait staff kept our coffee hot and even offered to refill my orange juice. The food was excellent to boot! My waffle was among the tastiest I’ve ever had, and the tenders were good as well. I ate a portion of Mom’s frittata – the texture and flavor were sublime. The sausages were spicy, but not too, and flavorful.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the whole event were the wide smiles on nearly everyone’s face – they were LOVING all this, and it was FUN! What was a memorable meal.

A shoutout and thanks to Mom and Dad for travelling all the way to Chicagoland to see me! What a great weekend!

 

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2 thoughts on “Week 6, Day 0

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