Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Fri July 22 2016

Opinion Home | Far-Sighted Field Notes

  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | July 22, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    Classic Chicago Eats: The Silver Palm

    Classic Chicago Eats: The Silver Palm

    Photo courtesy of the Silver Palm

    Yes, deep-dish pizza, hot dogs and Italian beef qualify as sacred Chi-town dishes but there are other, more rarified dining experiences to sample as well. You’ll never run out of good things to eat in Chicago, which is why an exceptional restaurant delivers more than just food. One of my favorite, classic Chicago restaurants manages to serve up great food (America’s best sandwich) in an unforgettable setting that mixes history and fun.

    The Silver Palm sits in the middle of the trendy River West Town neighborhood, surrounded by a brewery, galleries, cafes and bars. It’s actually easy to miss the street entrance if you’re searching for the obvious details of a railroad car. The restaurant is located inside a 1947 railroad dining car that was once part of an Atlantic Coast Line train called the Silver Palm but the dining car is obscured by the red brick building of the Milwaukee street entrance.

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    Step through the door with a metal Silver Palm sign hanging over it and you’ll find yourself in another world. Tiny cocktail tables are clustered near the bar, which bears a sign stating “No preaching or peddling.” Walk past the bar into a brief portal that leads into the Silver Palm railroad dining car.

    The original tables with padded gray chairs line the narrow aisle and twinkling lights and vintage train travel posters cover the walls. 60s top 40 classics blast from speakers and an air of excitement from giddy customers float through the train.

    Photo by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

    The best seats are toward the back, on the right side, which offer views of Chicago Avenue and the diner’s sidewalk cafe but really, any seat is a good seat at the Silver Palm. The service is great, the atmosphere is great and the food is impeccable.

    The menu lists a good selection of salads, soups, sandwiches and burgers and everything is prepared fresh in the tiny train car kitchen, including homemade tortilla chips for guac, slow cooked baby back ribs and chicken fried steak. Of course, the menu’s claim to fame is the 3 Piggy, declared “America’s Best Sandwich” by Anthony Bourdain and it is indeed, a mind-blowing, gut-busting, culinary highlight. Piled high with smoked ham, pork tenderloin, bacon, Gruyere cheese, an egg and an onion ring, the sandwich is a meat lover’s dream.

    And by that I mean it is my husband’s dream because I don’t eat meat.  According to him, the flavors blend together for a salty, slightly sweet taste sensation.

    PHOTO: The 3 Piggy. (photo by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates)

    But it’s not just the food and train car setting that makes the Silver Palm so essential, it’s also the fact that it’s right next door to another Chicago classic, The Matchbox. Owned by the same couple that run the Silver Palm, The Matchbox is a teeny, tiny, 460 square foot Chicago institution. For over 75 years, the old school bar has hosted quirky characters and finely crafted cocktails.

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    It’s not only the city’s smallest bar but it’s hard to spot because there is no sign, only small white lettering at the bottom of two windows. Enter gingerly, because when you push through the red door, there will probably be someone behind it. The space is triangular shaped, with a small, candle lit wooden bar and just a smattering of barstools. It’s open every day and always crowded — meaning about 20 people, so plan to either squeeze between other bodies or just hang out on the sidewalk cafe.

    Between the Silver Palm and The Matchbox, you can grab one of the city’s best neighborhood dining and drinking options all on one corner.

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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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