Last night, La Grande Orange in Santa Monica brought back "Windy City West," a reunion party for Chicago transplants that began fifteen years ago at dearly departed 50's diner Ed Debevic's. LGO co-owner Bob Lynn and partners RJ and Jerrod Melman (owners of Chicago's Hub 51) introduced L.A. to a few famous Chi-Town locals while hosting the shindig, and we're not just talking Richard Roeper here. Guests, including Chicago ex-pats Jeff Garlin, Joe Mantegna, and Harold Ramis, were greeted by Fluky's hot dogs, giving Angelenos a glimpse at dark green traditional Chicago relish, and Italian beef sandwiches from Portillo's (you actually pronounce the L, like a Midwestern tourist ordering their first "que-sa-dill-a"). We wouldn't trade our French dips for Portillo's anytime soon, but we were thrilled by an endless supply of Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza, which caused waves of nostalgia amongst Windy City refugees who haven't tasted a slice since they flew back to LAX with one on their laps.
We hear so much about Chicago pizza that it's nice to finally taste one without a trip to B.J.'s, though our Chicago family tells us deep-dish is becoming tourist bait and going out of style. Grub Street Chicago also tells us we would have been better treated by the dogs from Hot Doug's, though L.A. still got a fairly classic "tourist experience" with Portillo's and Lou Malnati's in the house.
In the end though, nothing could have been more "Chicago Meets L.A." than the carefully coiffed crowd wondering who the oaf was under-dressed in a Dick Butkus jersey. Turns out it was the famous Chicago Bears linebacker himself. We overheard that his self-promotional shirt was just good branding, as Butkus has lived in Malibu for years while pursuing T.V. and film roles. Apparently, the pull of Hollywood's spotlight is even too strong for a Football Hall of Famer to resist.
For Santa Monica residents still hungering for a taste of Chicago, we've got our eyes on NY&C; Pizza, coming soon to Wilshire with deep-dish pizza and New York slices.