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Restaurants & Bars 8

In search of...Salisbury Steak: Horwath's, Elmwood Park

David Hammond | Nov 19, 200203:09 PM

“Salisbury steak and the news of the student disorders
Parsnips and butter and armies patrolling our borders”

Tom Paxton knew of what he sang in 1968 (Summer of Love) – this stanza from “Victoria Dines Alone” crystallizes Salisbury steak’s high-comfort quotient, particularly during tumultuous times.

In the late 90s, I went to Horwath’s as much as possible. The Wife still rolls her eyes whenever I suggest we go again – so, I haven’t been there for two or more years.

This noon, Da’ Mare, QC, and I made an appearance at this Elmwood Park relic, and at least two of us were in search of Dr. Salisbury’s epitome of feel good food. I knew all would be well the second the sign came into view: a big bubbling martini glass with the words “GOOD FOOD,” all caps, right under the name, Horwath’s.

This is an old school mid-level supper club-type place with a checkered past. As reported in last week’s Wednesday Journal, it’s a former hangout for Momo and other River Forest Mafiosi. My favorite waitress, Patty (big, gap-toothed, gregarious Wyf of Bath), once regaled us with tales of a strong box being dynamited through the basement wall and out onto Harlem, as well as various nefarious après felony dinners that were enjoyed here not so long ago. Chuckie English got whacked in the Horwath parking lot – or perhaps it was a suicide (word on the street alleges that he shot himself in the head… three times).

My Sicilian grandmother long ago cautioned me that it’s never polite to come heavy to lunch with friends, but in Horwath’s spacious and sunlit dining room, I felt a little exposed. So I sat where I could see the door, figuring if we should happen to find ourselves in the crossfire of an early afternoon hit, I could flip the table and throw myself on Da’ Mare, a human shield protecting the Chowhound body politic.

For lunch or dinner, you can have the Jell-O course – which I always do, taking it with the Melba sauce, which is a light and creamy and contrasts nicely with transparent food.

VI and I had the Salisbury steak. Did it fail to satisfy? Hey, do cops use turn signals?! Of course, it didn’t fail – it was exactly what we were looking for: roughly textured, mingled with scallions and a little garlic, slopping around in a glistening deep brown mushroom sauce. A mini Devil’s Tower of mashed potato soaked up stray rivulets of gooey gravy, and to the side, a cord of green beans were the ideal complement to Dr. Salisbury’s prescription for health.

QC had the London Broil, and had very good things to say about it and the salad with bleu cheese dressing.

Walking out, we admired the dark wood bar, ringed with banquettes, studded with golden bowls of spreadable cheddar, and lined with elderly men and very white women gingerly sucking Scotch and Newports. I reflected that if VI or I had a single hair on our ass between us, we would have stopped for a cocktail before lunch (as we would have, in the day).

Past the cigarette machine and into the crisp, glistening gunmetal blue 9/11 brilliance of this autumn day, I realized that the Salisbury steak had bolstered me, shooting me up to a state usually inspired by a few stiff slugs of Jack Daniels: bulletproof.

1850 N. Harlem Avenue
Elmwood Park, IL 60707


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