By Chicago History, Wednesday at 5:26 pm
HOLY COW! The famous words of the late great baseball announcer Harry Caray. Recently the team at Chicago History sat down with the man who started it all with creating one of the best Chicago steak houses around, Harry Caray's Restaurant.
Grant DePorter is his name and he is the CEO of the Harry Caray Restaurant Group. He was nice enough to take us on a special tour of the first restaurant located 33 W. Kinzie Street, Chicago, Il. This particular restaurant was opened October 23, 1987. We began the morning walking into the iconic and historical restaurant just admiring all of the unique and amazing photos taken at the famous statue of Harry's head. Once greeted by staff we were quickly introduced to the man himself Grant DePorter.
The first leg of the tour was going down into the basement which was lined with photos as well as newspaper articles about none other than the famous 1920s Chicago mob member Frank Nitti. The importance of this man is that the building in which the restaurant stands was built in 1895 and has a built in hidden room which was a hideout for the mobster during the prohibition era. Along with a window to look through into this room, the basement also holds a safe which Frank Nitti himself used during that time. It's definitely a must see attracation.
Going forward with the tour Mr. DePorter acted as a true Chicago historian telling amazing stories of the building in which we were touring through as well as the importance it held to the city. As you walk through the main lobby you will notice a few glass cases which include different Chicago sports artifacts which Mr. DePorter has been able to collect over the years. One interesting piece is the extremely famous and actually one of a kind "Bartman ball" that Mr. DePorter took the initiative to blow up in 2004. As we proceeded upstairs to our suprise, we had our interview in Harry Carays office that is located on the top floor of the restaurant. Mr. DePorter mentioned that Harry did not spend an extreme amount of time in the beautiful and luxurious room because he wanted to be downstairs at the bar with the fans; with CHICAGO!
Interesting facts and information came to the mind of Grant DePorter in a fashion that just seemed normal and completely comfortable for the CEO to tell us. It really was truly amazing how much he has been able to enjoy of the city and of course the late great Harry Caray. One of the most interesting points that was brought up was in 1997 when the Cubs were in a serious losing streak and at that time the restaurant decided to give Budweiser beer for the small price of 45-cents a beer. The neat significance of this was that in 1945 Harry began broadcasting for the Cubs as well as it being their last season to be in the World Series. From the start of the season until the Cubs won their first game that year the restaurant served approximately 50,000 45-cent Budweiser's. From there we went onto talking about the different artifacts which he had received from Harry and his family, including Harry's own personal diaries which included the findings that he most likely went to around 1300 bars a year averaging 6 bars a night. They have figured that Harry himself consumed around 73000 Budweiser's in his time in Chicago.
From there we went more into the history of the restaurant chain. We were interested in who decided to open the different locations and to find out how many locations they had actually. Mr. DePorter is the CEO and has a board of many different investors and people who back up the projects. We found out they have a total of 7 locations including its newest location in Water Tower Place "The Seventh Inning Stretch", which includes a very cool Chicago sports museum that is open for the public to view. With sitting down with the man who started it all we learned how the restaurant group became a true Chicago Legend. Not only being based on Harry Caray himself, but also holding so many stories and so much historical information that one can only find by dining in the restaurant themselves.
Don' forget to take your picture next to the famous Harry Caray bust that sits in the lobby of the restaurant on Kinzie. One last neat bit of information to close with was a story Mr. DePorter told us that was quiet unusual. In 2009 when the Ricketts family purchased the Chicago Cubs, the statue began making a strange jingle noise which had never been heard before in the past. No one could explain the sound or how it was coming from a solid piece of metal, but it didn't stop for 24 hours and then it was suddenly quiet again. Was it Harry trying to tell everyone he was happy or something different, you decide.
Harry Caray's restaurant is not only known for their delectable steaks but also their phenomenal Chicken Vesuvio. Since we were there, we nailed down a couple plays or two, or three. Heck, we lost count. Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune named it "The Best Chicken Vesuvio In The City." We can vouch for Phil, he's absolutely spot on.
It's hard not to go into a lengthy book long of a story on why we believe Harry Caray's to be Chicago History at it's finest. If you've never been there, this story hopefully will get you en route. Harry's was named best sports restaurant in the United States.
While their may not be ivy on the walls, Harry's definitely has a friendly confines feel to it. It's a Downtown joint where once you walk in you may never want to leave. The place just has an overwhelming feeling of hope locked inside it's historic walls. If you can't be at Wrigley Field, there's no better place to sit amongst your fellow Chicagoans and root, root, root the Cubbies.
The actual baseball Hall Of Fame is in Cooperstown, New York. However, Harry Caray's on Kinzie definitely feels like you have walked in to baseball Heaven.
Thank you again Mr. DePorter & Thank you for delivering us Chicago History. Harry is looking down with a big smile on his face and Budweiser in hand, due to you and Chicago as a whole keeping his legacy stronger than ever.
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