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Get Into The Sauce at Twin Anchors
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Get Into The Sauce at Twin Anchors
An Old Haunt of Sinatra’s, Chicago Landmark Restaurant Remains As Zesty As Ever
by Mike Thomas
When “The Dark Knight” Batman flick filmed in Chicago this summer, it made its mark all over town. Most famously, the old Brach’s candy factory got blown to smithereens. Fortunately, Twin Anchors restaurant and tavern was spared a similar fate.
But it didn’t escape unscathed.
During a day of shooting at the legendary Old Town rib valhalla and former Prohibition-era speakeasy, actor Aaron Eckhart (as the villain Two-Face) repeatedly slammed down his shot glass on Anchors’ vintage Weiss-Sontag bar, leaving circular indentations. And the proprietors aren’t about to buff them out.
“It’s another story,” says Paul Tuzi, who co-owns the place with his sisters Mary Kay Cimarusti and Gina Manrique. Their late father, a straight-talking onetime insurance broker named Phil Tuzi, bought Anchors back in 1978.
Steeped in stories and lauded by legions of loyalists for its fall-off-the-bone baby backs and secret-recipe “Zesty” sauce, the joint that used to serve Sinatra celebrated its 75th anniversary last Thursday with an invite-only charity bash benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Housed in a tenant-occupied building constructed in 1881, Anchors has long been one of Chicago’s most trafficked taverns, beloved by locals and out-of-towners alike. Among the most devoted patrons, it’s a bastion of sorts. “I like to tell people only if I deem them worthy of admittance that it reminds me of a wondrous wood-paneled basement rec-room, circa 1965, where everything smells good and sounds happy and feels reassuring,” Chicago author and Anchors veteran Bill Zehme writes in his online ode “My Anchors, My Angst” (at www.twinanchorsribs.com).
Others, too, feel the love.
“I’m an old country boy from Iowa,” says 34-year-old Grant Graff on a moderately hopping Monday night, “so it’s like going back to a place at home.” Graff lives three houses away and has been bellying up for more than a decade. “It’s a comfortable neighborhood joint,” he says. “They haven’t tried to get too big.”
Seventy-year-old Patrick McKenna, an Anchors regular since 1956, agrees. “You’re not pushed, you’re not shoved, you’re not insulted,” he says, sipping a vodka rocks at the bar. “You’re only welcomed, and I like that.”
While its slow-cooked ribs draw lots of attention, they’re merely part of Anchors’ allure. Over the decades, true neighborhood taverns the kind where posing is scarce, where strangers converse, where at least some of the staffers know your name and your drink and maybe even your favorite song have died off in droves. Anchors, though, has managed to retain some of that old-time flavor.
As classic corner taverns go, “a large part of their character is the part that’s not bricks and mortar the intangible, the atmosphere,” says Chicago cultural historian Tim Samuelson. “So it’s hard to find a place that can survive over the years with both intact, and Twin Anchors certainly is one of the few that managed to make it through.”
In Anchors’ early days, many of the customers were boating types from the Belmont and Monroe Harbor yacht clubs and acquaintances of co-founder and Chicago sailing man Herb Eldean, who thought up the maritime handle. His business partner, Bob Walters, eventually bought him out.
During the 1950s and 60s, as Old Town saw an exodus of aging residents and an influx of younger artists who began renovating some of the area’s dilapidated dwellings, Anchors’ core constituency began to shift. Later on, options traders and other monied 20somethings began settling in, blowing copious dough on dining out. Anchors benefited from their free-spending ways.
With a growing reputation came celebrity adulation. Over the years, many Hollywood players (lots with Chicago roots) have made Anchors pilgrimages Joan Cusack, David Mamet and Chris O’Donnell among them. Before his untimely death in 1998, Chris Farley was a fan. And decades back, when he lived nearby, William Peterson of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” fame frequently planted himself on a bar stool for beers and ballgames.
In 1979, while “The Blues Brothers” was filming in town, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi wandered in for dinner wearing their now-iconic costumes: dark suits and skinny ties, but no shades. Tuzi also remembers when a certain famous actor dropped his cocaine spoon on the floor beneath a booth and left without realizing it.
The restaurant’s most significant brush with showbiz came in the summer of 1999, when director and former Second City member Bonnie Hunt featured Anchors prominently in her romantic dramedy “Return to Me.”
Of all the notables to darken Anchors’ double doors, however, Frank Sinatra has always been and will always be its most lauded luminary. During Chicago stays in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, he held court and nursed his Jack Daniel’s in a booth by the side exit. Thereafter, during ChicagoFest in the early ’80s, he ordered up scores of slabs for his orchestra that were grilled on-site. Thanks to wall photos and jukebox tunes, his ring-a-ding-dinging spirit lives on.
But stars do not a true Chicago tavern make. Notwithstanding a valid liquor license and its prime placement on a bucolic block, comfort and familiarity have long been keys to Anchors’ success. Although it’s no longer the strictly local corner tap it once was, there’s been no drastic aesthetic transformation. Sure, the shufflebowl machine and a small bandstand are gone. The kitchen was redone and the restroom got a face-lift. The boxy televisions gave way to flat screens and the jukebox now links to cyberspace.
Even so, on the whole, Anchors looks much like it once did. Same red Formica tables in back. Same leatheresque booths transplanted from the shuttered Henrici’s restaurant on Randolph up front. Same hand-drawn “Positively No Dancing!” sign in conspicuous view at center. Same arm-worn and now movie-marred bar along the side. And, of course, there’s the secret sauce.
Like an old lover who seems so glad to see you like, in fact, Twin Anchors herself it’s still zesty after all these years.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Serving 75 Years of Memories
A wooden, horse-drawn cart pulled up to Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern (1655 N. Sedgwick) last summer from Louis Glunz Beers, reminiscent of beer deliveries in 1932, the year Twin Anchors opened. This was just one of the many tributes that siblings and Twin Anchors owners Paul Tuzi, Mary Kay Cimarusti and Gina Manrique paid to the restaurant and tavern’s storied past during its 75-year anniversary celebration.
Among other festivities, in September 2007 Twin Anchors hosted approximately 200 people, including children of previous owners, loyal customers and long-time vendors, at a fundraising gala featuring a full orchestra, and impersonators of Frank Sinatra, Twin Anchors’ most famous customer, and Dean Martin. The gala raised approximately $15,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Commenting on the success of the event, Paul says, “Twin Anchors is one of the oldest restaurants in Chicago, and has a lot of meaning to a lot of people.”
A Taste of Old Chicago
Paul, Mary Kay and Gina’s father, Phil, purchased Twin Anchors in June1978 from Cyril and Rose Gard, who had owned the restaurant since the mid-1950s. Phil served as the insurance manager for the building, and when Cyril and Rose put the restaurant up for sale, he jumped on the opportunity to make a career change.
“My father was tired of working for a large company,” Paul says. “He wanted a business that he could control and call his own.”
Recognizing the unique charm of Twin Anchors, the Tuzi family has by-and-large maintained the restaurant and tavern’s cozy, neighborhood ambiance. Customers can still sit at the 40-foot mahogany bar that the Schlitz Brewing Company donated to the tavern that existed on the premises during World War I and that remained in place during Prohibition, when the space was transformed into a speakeasy named “Tante Lee Soft Drinks.” Low ceilings, wood-paneled walls, dark brown leather booths and red Formica tables add to the historic appeal of the restaurant and tavern.
Many of Twin Anchors’ traditions date back to its original owners, Bob Walters and Herb Eldean. While Herb’s involvement in Twin Anchors lasted only a couple of years, as the harbor master of Monroe Harbor, he is credited with coming up with its nautical name. Bob Walters and his wife established Twin Anchors as a destination for delicious, comforting fare. Soon after opening the restaurant and tavern in 1932, the Walters began offering customers Sunday-night meals featuring items such as fried chicken, pot roast, pork chops and barbecue baby back ribs. Since Twin Anchors did not have a kitchen when it first opened, the Walters prepared the food from their apartment directly above the business. The slow-cooked, tender and juicy pork ribs became an instant hit, and the Walters soon began offering them every night of the week.
Ribs remain the most popular item on the menu, according to Paul, and Twin Anchors serves more than 1,400 slabs of ribs each week. Customers can still order the Walters’ original “mild” sauce or the tangier and more popular “zesty” sauce that Paul’s brother, Peter, developed in the 1980s.
“People really loved the ribs back then and, fortunately, they still do,” says Paul.
Twin Anchors comprises a bar that seats 20 people, a restaurant that seats 70 people and, in warmer months, an outdoor patio that seats 24 people. Every night locals from Chicago and the suburbs, and visitors from around the world fill the restaurant and tavern to capacity.
“We don’t take reservations, and on weekends it’s common to see folks settling in at the bar for an hour or so as they wait for tables to open up and their names to be called,” says Paul.
Twin Anchors’ roster of customers includes innumerable celebrities, including talk show host Conan O’Brien, comedian and actor John Belushi, and playwright David Mamet. Sinatra visited the restaurant and tavern on several occasions between the 1950s and 1980s.
“There’s just something about this place,” says Paul. “It’s very easy to imagine him feeling at home here.”
Paul recalls meeting Sinatra in 1981, when he was in town to perform at the ChicagoFest concert at Navy Pier. Sinatra ordered 60 slabs of ribs to share with his orchestra and crew, and invited the Tuzi family to watch the show from backstage. Paul describes the experience as “electric.”
In 1999, Bonnie Hunt chose Twin Anchors as the setting for “O’Reilly’s Italian Restaurant” in the romantic movie “Return to Me.” She co-wrote, directed and appeared in the film, and was familiar with the restaurant and tavern from her days at The Second City.
“She really wanted to film at Twin Anchors because she knew us and knew the place, and she thought it would be perfect,” says Paul. “‘Return to Me’ turned out to be a wonderful little film that people really liked.”
More recently, Aaron Eckhart filmed a scene in which he angrily questioned a corrupt police official for “The Dark Knight,” the sequel to “Batman Begins,” at Twin Anchors.
“We have never actively marketed Twin Anchors to celebrities,” Paul says. “Anyone that finds out about it does so independently.”
Destination Twin Anchors
Before taking charge of the restaurant and tavern in the early 1990s, Paul, Mary Kay and Gina learned the business from the ground up. Paul was 19 when their father purchased Twin Anchors, and he immediately began working in the kitchen. After graduating from DePaul University, he became Twin Anchors’ day manager and then one of its night mangers. Mary Kay, who was 16 at the time, began in the restaurant and tavern as a hostess. She also attended DePaul University and eventually became one of Twin Anchors’ bartenders. Gina was only nine when their father purchased Twin Anchors. She began bussing tables once she entered high school and eventually became a bartender.
Today, customers will find Paul, Mary Kay or Gina in the restaurant every night of the week, managing a staff of approximately 45 employees – some of whom have worked at Twin Anchors for more then 20 years.
“Having dedicated owners and employees who care about the restaurant and for whom it’s a top priority to keep the business successfully operating has been important to our success throughout the years,” says Paul. “It helps us maintain consistency in our operations and get to know our clientele.”
While remaining true to its roots, the Tuzi family has adapted Twin Anchors to the times. Most notably, according to Paul, Twin Anchors has transformed during the past 30 years from primarily serving as a neighborhood tavern to serving as a restaurant.
“Twin Anchors is now a destination restaurant – a place to go for a really great slab of ribs – rather than just a place to go for a cold beer.”
In addition to serving the historical items on the menu – barbecue ribs, fried and barbecue chicken, steaks, and burgers – the Tuzi family has added grilled chicken, grilled fish and pulled pork sandwiches, a vegetarian sloppy joe, and a grilled shrimp skewer to Twin Anchors’ offerings. They also now offer valet parking and accept credit cards.
Perhaps the most prominent change is the “Positively No Dancing” sign that the Tuzi family hung up in Twin Anchors in 1980.
“People were coming in, playing disco on the jukebox and dancing the Hustle,” says Paul. “They would knock into waitresses carrying beers or plates of ribs, and create a big mess.”
According to Paul, for the most part, people stopped dancing once the sign went up. Today, he says, “Positively No Dancing,” which the Tuzi family recently trademarked, has become an unofficial slogan for the restaurant.
“People sometimes come in and take pictures of themselves dancing in front of the sign,” he says. “It’s all part of the memories that are created here. When you’re in the restaurant business, you’re in the business of creating memories.”
The Dark Knight
‘The Dark Night’
Sunday, August 3, 2008
‘The Dark Night’
Where Did They Shoot That Fantastic Scene?
by Robert K. Elder
“Dark Tours” anyone?
With all the buzz accompanying “The Dark Knight,” it’s only a matter of time before some entrepreneur (in a plastic Batman mask, no less) will start conducting tours of Chicago as Gotham City.
May we offer the following map as an alternative.
“The Dark Knight” shot 65 days in Chicago, with additional studio and stunt work in Hong Kong and England. Below, a complete Chicago location list, provided by the Chicago Film Office.
1. 500 N. Franklin St.
Street scene, Lamborghini driving shots
2. 100 N. Wells St.
Street scene, Lamborghini driving shots
3. 200 E. Wacker Drive/Chicago River
Helicopter shots of the city
4. 200 N. Post Pl.
Street scene, chase sequence (Joker tries to rub out Harvey Dent.)
5. 200 S. LaSalle St.
Street scene, police procession and nighttime chase sequence
6. 4700 W. Lake St.
Street scene, Lamborghini driving shots
7. 401 N. Cicero Ave.
This former Brach’s Candy factory doubles as a Gotham City hospital, which the Joker (Heath Ledger) blows up.
8. 505 N. McClurg Ct. (a condo construction site) and 401 N. Wabash Ave. (Trump Tower)
These two locations combine to set the stage for a final showdown between Batman (Christian Bale) and the Joker.
9. 200 W. Randolph
Batman takes down the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) and his gang in this parking garage.
10. 500 S. Lower Wacker Drive
Batman (in the Batmobile) races to rescue Gotham’s attorney general, who is under fire from the Joker and his goons.
11. 200 E. Lower Randolph St. (Metra entrance)
Batman, on the motorcyclelike Batpod, races through Gotham’s underground.
12. 200 S. Wacker Drive
Chase sequence (Joker tries to rub out Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart.)
13. 71 E. Wacker Drive (Hotel 71)
Bruce Wayne’s (Bale) penthouse bedroom
14. 300 E. Wacker Drive
Chase sequence (Joker tries to rub out Dent.)
15. 50 W. Washington St. (Daley Plaza)
Dent tries a case in a courtroom.
16. LaSalle and Monroe Streets
An 18-wheeler flips ? end over end during a showdown between Batman and the Joker.
17. 200 N. Wabash
Crowd evacuates Gotham.
18. 111 E. Wacker Driver (Illinois Center Buildings, Building 2)
The Joker crashes a party in Wayne’s penthouse and gets slapped by Rachel Dawes (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal).
19. 1500 S. Lumber St.
Batman’s secret underground lair, as Wayne Manor is being rebuilt.
20. 404 W. Harrison St.
The old Chicago Post Office doubles as Gotham City Bank in an opening heist sequence.
21. 17 W. Adams St. (The Berghoff)
Gotham cops arrest gangsters galore.
22. 1660 N. Sedgwick St. (Twin Anchors)
Two-Face appears at a bar.
23. 200 S. Canal St.
24. 525 W. Monroe St.
25. LaSalle Street
A funeral procession for Gotham’s police commissioner.
26. 175 N. State St. (Chicago Theatre)
Gyllenhaal and Eckhart’s characters attempt to attend a ballet.
27. Lake Michigan just off Iroquois
Landing (near 87th Street) Bruce Wayne meets a seaplane from his yacht (digital island added later).
28. 10100 S. Avenue G
Non-shooting, but rehearsals of stunts held here.
29. 2301 S. Indiana Ave. (McCormick Place)
Interior of Wayne Enterprises.
30. 700 E. Grand Ave. (Navy Pier)
Gotham citizens board ferryboats.
31. 233 S. Wacker Drive (Sears Tower)
Batman surveys his city from a sweeping rooftop aerial shot.
32. 226 W. Ontario St. (Sound Bar)
Batman bashes skulls to get to a Gotham crime lord.
33. 330 N. Wabash Ave.
Various locations, including the mayor’s office, Harvey Dent’s office and the boardroom of Wayne Enterprises.