Chicago’s Iconic Cape Cod Restaurant Closing! Lobster Thermidor! Bookbinder Soup! A Tasty Farewell At The Drake Hotel!

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Another Landmark Bites The Dust!

Chicago’s iconic seafood restaurant, The Cape Cod Room, announced that it will be closing its doors forever.

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The restaurant is located inside The Drake Hotel, which is located at the very north end of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Here is their announcement:

“As part of The Drake’s comprehensive renovation plan, the Cape Cod will be closing permanently after New Years’ Eve dinner service, December 31, 2016. Please join us for the remainder of 2016 to dine on traditional Land & Sea dishes. After the Cape Cod closing, its iconic dishes including Bookbinder soup, oysters Rockefeller, crab cakes, Cape Cod seafood boil and baked Alaska, will be featured menu items in the Coq d’Or Restaurant & Lounge to continue to enjoy. As well, the memorabilia will be preserved within the hotel.”

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The Closing Of The Cape Cod!

When iconic institutions close, people go thorugh a variety of responses: anger that our history is being demolished, sadness that a long-cherished memory is extinguished – and a mad dash to savor the place one more time.

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Farewell To New York’s Iconic Carnegie Deli!

Classic restaurants all across the country are closing down.

Foodies were stunned to find out that New York’s legendary Carnegie Deli is closing its door at the end of 2016…

The Carnegie Deli in NY was known as the place to drop in late at night and enjoy a massively stacked sandwich like this one:

carnegie-deli-woody-allen

Dominick's Hollywood landmark

LA’s Legendary Restaurants Are At Risk As Well!

Dominick’s in West Hollywood is another example of legendary restaurants closing down: this longtime Italian restaurant was a favorite of the Rat Pack – but it also closed in 2016 – here is a look at this classic Hollywood eatery, and the effort made by my friend Alison Martino to capture the stories of old-time Hollywood before they disappear forever:

https://johnrieber.com/2015/12/15/destroying-hollywoods-soul-goodbye-dominicks-vintage-los-angeles-alison-martino-fights-to-save-tinseltowns-iconic-past/

The latest closure is taking place in Chicago, as a classic restaurant serving seafood for 83 years will close up shop on New Years Eve 2016.

This is the sign that greets you:

the-cape-cod-room-closing-notice

This legendary, old-fashioned restaurant is housed on the first floor of The Drake Hotel, at the very northern end of Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile.”

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The cream-colored awning welcomes you into what isn’t a polished, high end restaurant but rather, a “Fisherman’s Wharf:” type of lounge that seems more suited for weary fishermen who need a stiff drink and a nice plate of seafood.

cape-cod-restaurant-the-drake-hotel-chicago

Here’s a great piece of trivia from Eater Chicago:

“The fine-dining restaurant, known for seafood inside the luxury hotel, has seen a plenty of celebrities and history over 83 years. The Trib pointed out that Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio carved their initials into the restaurant’s bar shortly after getting hitched in 1954.”

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My wife Alex encouraged me to take advantage of a night off to pop in and have my first, and last bite in The Cape Cod Room.

I had no idea what to expect, and certainly wasn’t anticipating being greeted by a giant greenish lobster.

cape-cod-restaurant-giant-lobster-the-drake-hotel-chicago

That is just part of the room’s small town, retro vibe…as you can see, it’s a bit of a mashup of classic old Hollywood AND small-town fish joint:

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I was able to grab the last seat in the bar, along with a dozen others who seemed to match my interest in a “Dirty Martini” – the seasoned Bartneder was serving them up like Sno-cones on a hot summer day.

chicago-cape-cod-restaurant-classic-martini

The design was what I assumed to be their original idea of what Cape Cod must be like: giant lobsters, lots of hanging pots, pans and mounted swordfish – and some classic dishes to go along with it:

bookbinder-soup-cape-cod-restaurant-recipe

Time For A Last Bowl Of “Bookbinder Soup!”

I began with a restaurant classic. Bookbinder’s soup was created in 1893 when Samuel Bookbinder created Old Original Bookbinder’s restaurant in Philadelphia. As wikipedia points out:

“The soup is served at some other restaurants including the Drake Hotel in Chicago.”

cape-cod-chicago-closing-bookbinder-soup

The soup is what I’ve always known as a Bermuda fish chowder: it’s tomato-based with carrots, celery, bell peppers, onions, leeks, mushrooms, garlic and lots of chunks of snapper. It is served with a small ramekin of Sherry Pepper sauce.

The Chicago Tribune once released a list of ingredients and directions on how to prepare the Drake’s version of the soup. According to wikipedia, the paper said the recipe was given to them by the executive Chef at the Cape Cod.

lobster-thermidor-cape-cod-chicago-recipe

Next Up: Lobster Thermidor!

There is probably no more “forgotten dish” in America culinary history than the “Lobster Thermidor”.

The recipe of Lobster Thermidor was created around 1880 by one of the most famous French Chefs of all, Auguste Escoffier, while he was working in a Paris restaurant.

chicago-cape-cod-lobster-thermidor

Mine was delicious, with moist chunks of lobster that was packed in a light cream sauce and diced onion, then stuffed back into the shell, with a nicely cooked french green beans on the side, which seem to have been glazed with just a bit of butter.

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I noticed that many of the people in the restaurant were older; it was as if I was in someone’s private club. Even the menu had that vibe:

cape-cod-room-menu-book

cape-cod-room-menu

I enjoyed the vibe of the place, and I’m sure fans will come back to enjoy the iconic Cape Cod dishes at The Drake, since they plan to offer some of them in their lounge.

That said, it’s just too bad that a classic place like this can’t stay “frozen in time” forever…here’s a toast to an iconic institution:

john-rieber-chardonnay



Categories: Art, Books / Media, chicago, Food, food blog, Food Review, Memoirs, Recipes, Restaurants, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir, Uncategorized, Wacky Food, wine

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8 replies

  1. Excellent photo of you behind the wine glass. Where’s your fireman’s mustache? That Lobster T. looked massive — I LOVE Chicago and eating there. Like you said, I’m in the “Oh, no!” category right now. What a pity. Also the Carnegie Deli! (As an aside, I find whenever I look at a photo of food, it looks like somebody barfed on the plate. Mine as well. This is meant to be funny and not a criticism of the lobster or your photographic abilities….)

  2. Obviously, I haven’t been to any of these, but the meals look delicious. Given the prices in Cape Cod, I might find that a bit of a stretch financially, but I would settle for that delicious salt beef sandwich instead!
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Let’s not forget the closing of Cafe Des Artistes in NYC. At least we still have Musso’s here in L.A.

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