The restaurant also happens to be located on Jackson Boulevard, and nearby is the starting point for the original Route 66.
All of this is irrelevant, however, because the star is really the breakfast and brunch, which this Loop greasy spoon has been serving up to locals and visitors since 1923.
Lou Mitchell's is a Chicago institution — Photo courtesy of Lou Mitchell's
During the weekends, Jackson Boulevard is usually quiet. The hustle and bustle from the nearby financial district is missing.
While the Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower) and The Art Institute are within walking distance, no one is rushing to their office or trying to make their commuter train.
Yet, a patient line of diners wait for a seat inside Lou Mitchell’s, where the scene is boisterous and one can smell the bacon sizzling.
As you pass the doors, women and children are handed a sample-sized package of Milk Duds, while everyone can enjoy a doughnut hole. It’s one of those things that regulars look forward to, while new diners wonder what’s going on.
The open kitchen lets diners watch eggs getting cracked and made into fluffy jumbo omelettes, and Belgian waffles are made from scratch.
The counter dining experience – all but extinct in most of the country – is especially fun for kids young and old. True to form, the appeal of Lou Mitchell’s isn’t just the food, it’s the experience.
It’s not the kind of place most people hear about when they think of Chicago and its gastropubs, deep-dish pizza and fine dining scene. Yet it’s exactly the kind of place you wish to stumble upon on a journey – the kind of place where you can easily strike up a conversation with the person seated next to you and learn their life history during the time it takes you to finish your breakfast.
Lou Mitchell's is also popular among local and visiting celebrities, as well as a host of politicians. Don't be surprised if you're seated at a table next to the governor, mayor or Chicago PD actor. They have to eat, too.
The restaurant uses organic produce, and its orange juice and grapefruit juice are both freshly squeezed. Their baked goods are all handmade using their proprietary recipes.
The coffee is straight up diner quality and delicious, served with pure cream. The hot chocolate is topped with a mountain of whipped cream.
Since Lou Mitchell’s is known for its breakfast and lunch, it’s not open past 3 p.m. on any day of the week (Lunch service begins after 10:30 a.m., but breakfast can be ordered anytime.).
It’s one of those places in Chicago that serves up a great meal with a healthy side of history.