Neighborhood: McKinley Park
Dishes to try: Loaded fries, onion rings, strawberry ice cream soda
At 10:15 on a Monday morning, we headed for Lindy’s Chili and Gertie’s Ice Cream. Lindy’s has been a standby on the southwest side, since 1924. They open early and close late, and even later on nights when the Bears play.
Lindy’s has an honest white facade, and despite a recent remodel, it boasts no shiny glass paneling, no rooftop beer garden. In classic Chicago fashion, it’s clear that we were in for a no-frills, no-nonsense meal. A dog walker across the street looks on, bemused, as we hunted for an entrance. We lapped the building and finally find our way in, where a little wooden sign welcomes us.
Lindy’s dining area is a kitschy, well-loved room, with a small bar and a collage of wooden signs and glowing placards on every wall. Black and white photos of the original counter hearken back to the early days of “Chicago’s Oldest Chili Parlor.” Our photographer, Kathryn, was reminded of the diners her family frequented on their road trip down Route 66.
We ordered coffee and settled in, emotionally preparing for our breakfast of champions. Much to our surprise, the room filled up—a mother and her young son headed to school, suits on an early lunch break, construction workers from down the block all perched on a bench to wait for their takeout.
We ordered a smorgasbord of greasy, starchy delights: onion rings, jalapeño poppers, tamales, and sticky loaded fries, as well as a crock of chili to share. Lindy’s also has a wide selection beyond appetizers including burgers, sausages, and sandwiches.
These were honestly the best onion rings I have ever had, and though I felt a little sick after inhaling four or five jalapeño poppers, I have no regrets. By the time we polished off our fried feast and stacked our plates, the chili was ready.
Chili is an ideal Chicago food—it’s hot, filling, and you can put it on anything. Lindy’s namesake chili is exactly what you want it to be: thick without being sticky, heavy enough to comfort you on the walk home in the wind and snow, and, most importantly, generously portioned. We ended up taking most of it home (it gets better if you heat it up the next day).
Gertie’s Ice Cream is well-known for elaborate sundaes and ice cream floats. Kathryn ordered a strawberry soda with vanilla ice cream. I decided on a Green River phosphate, which is like a regular soda, but sour (like a carbonated Gatorade). The strawberry ice cream soda is phenomenal—sweet and rich, with massive scoops of soft ice cream.
Loaded up with takeout that will feed us for the next week, lunchtime was only starting when we headed out. I almost can’t wait for winter—I will definitely be back for a crock of chili and a plate of onion rings to eat while watching the snow fall on McKinley Park.
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