Chicago: City on the make—#1
I was poking around on Chowhound website trying to find a substitute for one of my favorite restaurants that closed years ago, BUSY BEE. Somebody posted that we should all check out a place called:
Podhalanka (pronounced, poe-deh-lanka)
1549 W. Division St.
Unfortunately, this did not pacify my desire for Busy Bee pierogi. My wife had already taken me there about 8 years ago. She swore they had the best Borscht. She was right. I loved this place and I loved the feeling i had being there eating and just hanging out. It is not chic, hip, or expensive. It is a real place — not a stepping stone to a restaurant chain franchise, not a stop in a sequence of higher schemes. This was it. I REALLy enjoy finding places like this.
Podhalanka reminded me and many others of the Busy Bee restaurant—a peirogi joint at milwaukee, damen and north avenue.
Then something happened...Somebody else on Chowhound responded with this:
I saw the connection. When I think back, people actually used to talk about Nelson Algren at a places i used to frequent—-i confirmed this with my wife as she used to hang out at these places a great deal more than me.
One was Busy Bee the other is the Rainbow club (1150 N Damen Ave., between Haddon Ave & Division St). They serve $2 PBR on a friday night—that says a good deal about this dive bar.
I don't recall much more than the regulars saying that Algren was a regular at the Rainbow Club. I don't think busy bee was around when Algren was alive, but the folks there used to talk about him and they said he hung out at the Rainbow club.
Busy bee was an amazing place, too bad it closed down.
It was amazing in the sense that it was owned and operated by somebody who enjoyed serving people large portions of good, inexpensive food. Sophie, the owner, created a community dinning area - a giant rectangular bar/counter with the servers in the center. There were also tables in an other area.
Policemen would double park out front, jump out run in and pick up there order as the exchanged some happy talk with Sophie as hustlers, hoods, locals and travelers, killing time, ate at the bar. I went in there the first time to fill my belly. My very dear friend is Polish and his mother always had really great food available for me. I walked by Busy Bee, I saw people eating pierogi and rushed in.
It was a place rich with characters and it was a microcosm of the eclectic and strange city in which it resided. It was a place you could write about. It was a place where you could go to eat some great cheap food and write. I can picture Algren sitting there chowing away and getting into frank and curt discussions with the other diners.