Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Three Styles, Two Sins, No Waiting

I have to admit it -- I've eaten in Beef and Brandy.  For those of you who have managed to avert your eyes all these years, here's the low-down:  It's a hard-core old-school Chicago lounge in the heart of State Street (127 South). It's a throw back to the days when classy businessmen in fedoras would down cocktails with their compatriots after work before catching the train home, and not just sip a beer from a paper bag on the L while snuggled in their hoodies and baseball caps ( I'm taking to you, Wrigleyville.)

The days of martini lunches are long gone, and while the food is still fine at Beef and Brandy, the place has a serious layer of funk that makes the Marquettes seem like white tablecloth establishments.

But in the six years I've been in Chicago, for some reason I only just recently looked "up" at the building that houses Beef and Bird.  Let me tell you -- I was surprised and annoyed.

The bottom of Beef and Brandy's facade is done up in something that resembles a suburban white clapboard home that the office workers of yore were intentionally avoiding.

Above that is a layer of white panels -- the kind that get slapped on buildings in the 1950's to make them look modern when all original thought is lost.

But the top three floors survive in what I can only hope is their original condition.  Delicate, elegant Chicago architecture emerges from the horrors bolted to the facade below.

The AIA Guide to Chicago skips this building entirely, but from what I can find elsewhere, it was built in 1920 and those upper floors actually have a handful of offices in them.  Let's hope that the ongoing renovation of State Street (including the Palmer House right next door) preserves this building and restores it to its 1920's look.


  1. I like to show friends this building as an example of the ways beautiful buildings can be totally butchered over time and various "remodelings".

    Beef and Brandy is still a great place to eat -- especially for Breakfast. Their service is extremely fast and the prices are pretty cheap. I wouldn't recommend the meatloaf, but the old "Greek diner" standbys on the menu are fine.

    The interior decor of the restaurant are dated and tasteless, yet for whatever reason, I like it. It just has a certain old-school feel about it.

    I hope the facade is restored someday, but it is one of the many buildings on State Street that just sit there looking ugly for now. And who knows what the upper floors are even like these days. I would LOVE to see up there!


  2. Not to mention that the B&B is one of the few joints in the Loop where you can immediately get a table in the middle of lunch hour during the week with a party of eight or more.

    The clapboard front above the awning always screamed to me wild west. All they needed were swinging doors, a tinny piano and Miss Kitty sitting at the bar.

    I sort of think of this building as urban archeology in reverse, to go back in time you have to look up instead of down!


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