Okay, so youve been living up to your reputation as Elmwood Parks premier bon vivant cum boulevardier, and youve closed down Horans, then Healys, and finally Doc Ryans, and for a while now youve been sitting with some staggering, swaggering sidekicks in front of the Shell station at Harlem and Madison, watching the morning dew coalesce as diamonds on the windshields of cars parked out back. Your eye is caught by a golden shimmer in the distance. At first you figure its just that old bloodshot moon staring you down from a burgundy sky
but no, its a hamburger. Its glowing. Its the over-the-door sign at Als Grill, a beacon in the predawn darkness, open at 5:00 AM, and ready to take your order, sir.
Using parking meters as walking sticks, you wend your way east on Madison, toward the light, which is the warmest thing youve seen all night (warmer even than some of those beers youve had). Inside, the staff of short order chefs is at the ready. The waitress, though she may not have a full mouth of teeth, has a heart thats as full of goodness as one of Als patty melts, says hi, pushing a stray grey curl out of her eye (along with the shadow of a melancholy tear).
Stepping into the fry-humid warmth, you hear a rising hungry mans halleluiah chorus, led by gypsy hacks and insomniacs, overdriven and underpaid, a day late and a dollar short, and theyre singing out, Eggs and Sausage, Side of Toast, Coffee and a Roll, Hash Browns Over Easy, Chili in a Bowl, Burgers, Fries, and What Type of Pies ?
Behind the chromium counter (with faux marble sides, oh yeah) a sign with Betty Boops image, suggesting, Try the Julienne Salad you see, Betty is a classy lady, and she goes for the French cuisine. Of course, Als offers the full quadrivium of diner salads, including also dinner, chef and Greek.
Another sign assures, Ill be back in a flash with your hash. Theres a number of other corned beef preparations, and the menu offers no surprises. Its just what youd expect and if you were born with a greasy spoon in your mouth, its just what you want. Eggs any way, a line-up of melts and clubs, liver with onions or bacon, veal cutlets, bologna and cotto salami sandwiches, steaks and an obligatory fish (perch) everything under $5.50 and most under $4.50, so you can afford to want to tip, generously, and you should.
The sink in the back, no door, is getting some heavy use as regulars wash the night off their hands and prepare to tuck in. Theres a stack of complementary Sun-Times on the backwall, in case you dont feel like chatting it up with your fellow stool sitters.
You go with the patty melt (of course!) and take it delux with the fries and pickles. Just what you wanted.
Outside, its still dark. No need to check the Sun-Times for the weather report: High tonight, low tomorrow, and precipitation is expected.
1053 W. Madison
Oak Park, IL 60302
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