Film Photography, Road Trips, Travel

Landmark restaurants on Route 66 in Chicago

Route 66 begins — or ends, depending on your perspective — in Chicago, in the Loop. Two key landmark sites remain on old Route 66 in downtown Chicago. Both are restaurants with glorious neon signs: The Berghoff and Lou Mitchell’s.

First, some history about where old 66 ran in Chicago. When it was new in 1926, it began/ended at Jackson St. at Michigan Ave. In 1937, that terminus moved east two blocks to Lake Shore Drive. In 1955, Jackson St. was made one way eastbound at Michigan Ave. Westbound Route 66 moved north on Michigan Ave. for one block, and then onto one-way-west Adams St. So it remained until Illinois decommissioned its portion of Route 66 in about 1977. (Signs came down on the rest of the route state by state through 1985.)

The Berghoff

The Berghoff’s roots trace to about 1870 when German immigrant Herman Berghoff came to America and began brewing beer in Indiana. He moved to Chicago in 1893 and opened his beer hall’s doors in 1898. With Prohibition he converted the place to a restaurant. After Prohibition, the Berghoff won Chicago’s first ever liquor license and beer was back. The Berghoff has been at 17 W. Adams St. for all these years.

The Berghoff

My first experience with The Berghoff was in 1983, as a junior in high school. All of us who learned the German language — ich spreche immer noch genug Deutsch mich verstanden zu machen — made a field trip to Chicago. We capped the day with dinner at the Berghoff. It was the nicest restaurant I’d ever visited — and this blue-collar kid was not prepared for Chicago restaurant prices. The least-expensive meal on the menu was beef tips in gravy with potatoes. That and an insultingly thin tip tapped me out.

I visited it for a second time on a business trip in 2018 with a few of the engineers who worked for me. We stopped in here for dinner and a beer after our business was done. We lived a little higher on the hog than I did in 1983, especially since we could all expense our meals.

My wife and I had our Chicago getaway weekend in January. A bartender at the Palmer House Hilton, where we stayed, recommended a place called Lou Mitchell’s for breakfast the next morning. It’s on Jackson St., about a mile and a quarter west of Route 66’s beginning. You cross the Chicago River on the way.

Lou Mitchell's

Compared to The Berghoff, Lou Mitchell’s is a Johnny-come-lately to the scene, opening in 1923. That predates Route 66 by three years. But the restaurant plays up its Route 66 heritage, even posting a replica of an original Route 66 sign on a lamp post outside.

Lou Mitchell's

Our breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s was a wild ride. We were greeted with a donut hole as we entered — which neither of us took, as both of us must follow gluten-free diets. There was a small box of Milk Duds for my wife, too.

Our chatty, entertaining waitress at one point sat down next to me in our booth and talked with us for several minutes. She revealed that she’d worked at Lou Mitchell’s since the early 1990s! She also marveled in mock frustration at the rest of our dietary restrictions — my wife is allergic to egg whites, making breakfast a challenge. I have to avoid onions, garlic, and beans, which thankfully isn’t challenging at breakfast time.

Lou Mitchell's

I ordered the gluten-free pancakes and two scrambled eggs. While we waited, our waitress brought each of us a plate with a prune and an orange slice. What the heck; down they went.

I regretted it when breakfast came. The two pancakes looked to be a foot in diamater. The mass of eggs was as big as of both of my fists together. I couldn’t eat it all — and let me tell you, I can put away vast quantities of food. Our waitress told us that Lou Mitchell’s serves nothing but double-yolk eggs. I can’t imagine how they manage that! Then she revealed that when you order two eggs Lou Mitchell’s serves you four or five.

It’s a point of personal pride that I eat all of the food served me, but I just couldn’t manage it at Lou Mitchell’s. I left about half a fist’s worth of eggs and half of the pancakes behind.

May the Berghoff and Lou Mitchell’s prosper for many years to come. Being able to enjoy landmark places like these on Route 66 in Chicago or beyond is what makes following the Mother Road rewarding.

Olympus XA on Kodak T-Max 400.

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Film Photography

More adventures in home film developing

I’ve had the best results yet in developing black-and-white film. But all’s not perfect.

This time I shot my last roll of original Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros in my Yashica-12 and developed it in Rodinal 1+50 for 10:30 at 23° (as that’s the temperature of my bathroom). I used the Massive Dev App and, thanks to a tip from a commenter, removed the Hypo Clear step that I don’t use. I agitated by twisting the agitator rod. As you can see from these phone photos I made of the negatives, one edge was washed out.

I think I know what happened. I didn’t push the reel to the bottom of the core I’m using, which is longer than the reel. 500ml of Rodinal solution in the tank was therefore not enough to cover the whole negative.

The well-developed part of each negative looks really good to me — neither dense nor thin. But my scanner tried to compensate for the washed-out edge of the film and I had to play with the exposure, highlights, and dehaze sliders in Photoshop to fix that. I also had to crop out the washed-out area. But all twelve photographs are usable.

I took this camera with me to Plymouth, Indiana, for a board meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association. I made photographs on the way home, in Plymouth and Logansport, at Sycamore Row near Deer Creek, and in Burlington and Kirklin.

Rees Theater, sign lit
All the sweaters you can buy!
Coffee shop
City Building
State Theater, Logansport
People's Winery, Logansport
Sycamore Row
Sycamore Row
Mercantile
For sale
Burlington Church of Christ
Kirklin and its Carnegie library

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Park

Park
Olympus OM-1, 50mm f/1.8 Olympus F.Zuiko
Kodak ColorPlus
2019

When I was a kid in the 1970s, downtown in my hometown was full of neon signs. Many of them, like this one, did mundane jobs like point people to parking. As a kid the neon helped me feel that downtown was alive and vital and important. The backlit plastic signs that slowly replaced them seemed so banal.

This old-style neon sign keeps doing its job on a parking garage in Downtown Indianapolis. I’ve parked in this garage before, many years ago. I had frequent business in the building next door, and they validated my parking. Unlike most Downtown garages, you don’t park your car yourself. You hand your keys to an attendant who gives you a receipt and parks your car for you.

Analogue Wonderland provided me this roll of Kodak ColorPlus in exchange for this mention. Buy yours from them here.

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Film Photography

single frame: Park

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All this week I’m sharing single-subject photo series I’ve made.

While I was married the first time, I broke a side-view mirror of my wife’s beloved Corolla coupe. Her aging sporty car’s bright red finish had gone chalky, so it didn’t make sense to buy a shiny new mirror. I called around to junkyards looking for a donor car, and only Wrecks, Inc., had one. When I got there, a gruff man behind a counter looked up the part in a book and grunted a price at me. When I accepted, a small, scruffy fellow appeared and led me to a beat-up little truck with no doors. “Get in,” he said, and we sped off. As the truck bounced its way through the yard, I clutched the dashboard just trying to stay inside the truck. Finally he found the car. He couldn’t figure out how to remove the mirror, but since I had just removed what was left of the one on my wife’s car I took his tools and did it myself. Then it was back to holding on for dear life as we drove back to the counter, where I paid for my prize.

Wrecks, Inc., went out of business several years ago, but its great sign still stands. It’s kind of a local landmark on old US 52 just northwest of Indianapolis. It used to light up at night in red and green neon, but today the tubes inside are broken and hanging loose.

The town of Whitestown has since annexed this land and plans to build a community campus here. I’m sure it’s a matter of time before the sign is removed. With any luck it will find its way into a private sign collection or perhaps to the American Sign Museum.

We Meet by Accident

Palm Pre

Wrecks Inc

Kodak Brownie No. 2 Model D, Kodak T-Max 400

Wrecks

Kodak EasyShare C613 Zoom

Wrecks Inc

Pentax Spotmatic F, 35mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar, Kodak Ektar 100

Wrecks

Canon A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Fujicolor 200

Wrecks

Canon A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Fujicolor 200

Drive Carefully

Pentax H3, 55mm f/2 Super Takumar, Kodak Gold 200

Wrecks

Yashica-12, Kodak Tri-X 400

Wrecks

Kodak Baby Brownie, Efke 100

Wrecks, Inc.

Miranda Sensorex II, 50mm f/1.8 Auto Miranda, Kodak Ektar 100

Wrecks, Inc. and the Lafayette Road

Canon PowerShot S95

Wrecks, Inc.

Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200

Wrecks

Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Kodak 400 High Definition (x-2007)

Wrecks

Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Kodak 400 High Definition (x-2007)

Wrecks

Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Kodak 400 High Definition (x-2007)

Wrecks

Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model F, Kodak Ektar 100

Wrecks

Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model F, Kodak Ektar 100

Wrecks

Olympus XA2, Agfa Vista 200

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Photography

Wrecks, Inc.

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Photography

When the camera is just a tool

I got out my Pentax K10D because I was running behind on the blog and wanted some fresh photos to share. I had two film SLRs loaded, but I wouldn’t get the film processed and scanned fast enough. Shooting digital, I can use the photos almost immediately.

Indiana War Memorial

The K10D remains a competent enough camera despite being ancient of days: it was introduced in 2006. Thanks to poor performance at ISOs 800 and above, it’s best used outdoors in good light. Many of my old film cameras require the same conditions, so at least I’m used to it.

Iron

Margaret suggested a date night, and not a moment too soon. We took our cameras Downtown (we spell it with a capital D in Indianapolis for some reason) and went for a stroll.

Balconies

I showed her where I work now, a couple blocks from the heart of Downtown. These balconies are the view from one of our conference rooms.

On the circle

The heart of Downtown is Monument Circle. The Columbia Club is on it. The K10D is heavy, at least compared to Margaret’s featherweight Nikon D3200. Seriously, what did they make the K10D out of that it’s so heavy — and the D3200 that it’s so light? But the K10D wasn’t fatiguing on this walk.

On the circle

The monument itself is hard to photograph, as tall as it is. So I tend to go for its details. The 18-55mm lens (that came in a kit with the camera) does a credible enough job. Distortion is fairly well managed, but is of course most noticeable at the wide end.

Wheeler Mission

There’s plenty to photograph around Downtown and the K10D was up to the task, handling the shift from mostly cloudy to mostly sunny with no trouble. I shot JPEG+RAW and with only a couple exceptions where the JPEG was great as is, edited the RAW a little bit to get the look I want. It was easy enough to do. That’s big: if I have to spend more than a few minutes editing a digital photo to get the look I want, I start to think the camera isn’t for me.

Firestone

The Wheeler Mission sign and this Firestone sign are the two neon signs I know about Downtown. Maybe I’ll find others now that I work Downtown and have more time to explore.

Rain

I don’t love using the K10D. I don’t know why exactly. There’s a je ne sais quoi about any camera that puts into the love or don’t-love category for me, and the K10D lacks it. However, it works well enough and returns fine results, thus keeping its place among my cameras. If it didn’t, it’d be gone.

On the circle

At some point during our stroll we realized we were hungry, so we stopped at the Rathskeller, a German restaurant, for some wurst. It was a lovely evening and a tonic for our spirits. It’s nice to have these photos to remember it by.

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Preservation, Road Trips

Restored: Terre Haute’s 1930s Clabber Girl billboard

If you ever drive US 40 westbound into Terre Haute, you’ll find a great old billboard for Clabber Girl Baking Powder at the edge of town. Clabber Girl has been made in Terre Haute since 1899. The billboard dates to the 1930s. Here’s a photo I made of it way back in 2007.

Clabber Girl

It was in pretty good shape then, but time and the elements are not kind to anything left outside. Here are some more photographs I’ve made of it over the years, showing its slow deterioration. 2009:

Clabber Girl

2013, and notice the clock is different:

Five Minutes to Terre Haute

2014:

Clabber Girl
Clabber Girl

This billboard is on what was the property of Mary Fendrich Hulman, whose family owns the makers of Clabber Girl. Mary died a few years ago, and her sprawling horse farm was sold to neighboring Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, expanding its campus. Rose-Hulman got the billboard in the deal, and decided to have this Terre Haute landmark restored. The Terre Haute Tribune-Star tells the restoration story and shares a photograph of the refreshed billboard. Read it here.

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