Back in 1971, this casual American eatery opened up as the flagship restaurant for Lettuce Entertain You, which would later become one of Chicago's favorite culinary chains. Grunts offered affordable comfort fare during a time when dining out between special occasions was largely a novelty reserved for those with expendable income. The culinary landscape has changed a lot in the past few decades; the raw fish, dim sum and falafel we consume every day would probably scare the hell out of those early diners. One thing has stayed the same through the years; call it the product of patriotism, our immature American palettes, or maybe just a general disconnect with the concept of a proper diet, but this nation's burger lust is just as strong today as it was back then. From the classic Gruntburger to an impressive homemade veggie burger, RJ Grunt's extensive menu reads like a wish list for the patty enthusiast. Don't forget to complement your burger with one of the trademark milkshakes, too.
The comfort-food selection includes classic diner sandwiches, an award-winning chili, and a "Chicken Wing Emporium." Despite a plethora of marquee menu items, people come here for the roughage; RJ Grunts claims to have invented the salad bar. With over 50 items ranging from the requisite fresh veggies to beloved sides like cream cheese chocolate chip pudding, there are plenty of reasons to make two (or three, or four) trips. Walls lined with pictures of retired RJ's waitress provide just the right amount of kitsch to play up the dated, wood-laden decor. Indeed, even the PA system seems to be caught in a time-bubble; a typical night sees 100+ happy souls bobbing their heads along to classic hits (played without a lick of irony) from the '70s.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: K. Tighe
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