Classic diner caters to every age group

CHICAGO The classic diner is a lost art. In fact, Madeline and Max are too young to even know what a real diner looks like. But a few weeks ago, their dad took them to a restaurant on the city's Far West Side where it kind of felt like going back in time -- and that means everything is homemade, the portions are hearty and it doesn't matter if you're a kid, or a kid-at-heart, no one leaves there hungry.

You'd think you stumbled into a frozen moment captured by Edward Hopper or Norman Rockwell. The Depot American Diner - named because it sits next to the turnaround for Roosevelt Road buses - is completely restored, paying homage to the diners who used to sit there.

"And when we designed the menu, we tried to make it authentic diner food, from phosphates to egg creams, to the red velvet cake and pot roast sandwiches and blue plate specials on blue plates, like that," said Robert Nava, The Depot American Diner.

Nava has a fine-dining background, but here, it's back-to-basics: BLTs, club sandwiches, chicken soup -- even a hearty plate of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy with cranberries.

"We make everything from scratch in house, roast the ham on the bone, do the pot roast, whole turkeys we roast, make all the pies, pancake batter, everything from scratch, right here," said Nava.

And that attention to detail isn't lost on younger diners. Both Madeline and Max found plenty to like here. "Well because they have a very creative menu and it also, they have uh, like good kids stuff that kids will like and good things that grown-ups will like, so both things," said Madeline Dolinsky, Hungry Puppy.

"Well, the cheeseburger was really good, it had, um, good melted cheese and the burger was good," said Max Dolinsky, Hungry Puppy.

Be sure to try the pot roast sandwich. It's overloaded with gravy and thinly-fried onions, while the accompanying fries get their own gravy bath. Blue Plate specials change daily, on the day we were there, it was pan-fried catfish.

Desserts are a real strong suit -- from decadent red velvet cake to super rich banana cream pie and cheesecake; toothsome pecan pie, sweet chocolate cream pie and the real star -- made-to-order doughnuts.

"We fry 'em to order, toss 'em in cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, and we serve 'em with mocha chocolate sauce with a little coffee infused in it," said Nava.

They get their Coca-Cola from Mexico, where they still use pure cane sugar to make it, instead of from the U.S., where corn syrup is used. That is just another example of his commitment to the classic flavors from the 1940s.

The Depot American Diner
5840 W. Roosevelt Rd.

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