R.J. Grunts (Restaurant, Lincoln Park)
Location: 2056 Lincoln Park West
R.J. Grunts has been around longer than I’ve been alive, which I tend to take as a good sign when it comes to restaurants. Opened in 1971, the place has changed little since its beginnings. Black and white photos of all of the servers through the years hang on the walls, kitschy cartoons dot the menu, and great nostalgic tunes pump through the speakers. The first restaurant in the Lettuce Entertain You empire, this spot set the standard for all of the great restaurants to come from owner Rich Melman.
Home of a million fun facts and good stories, Grunts feels like home for many regulars. One of my favorite stories about the place is how it got its name. The “R” and the “J” come from the original owners names: Rich and Jerry. And the “Grunts” … well, that came from the sound that Jerry’s girlfriend supposedly made when she ate burgers. True story, people.
Another fun fact? R.J. Grunts is home of the first salad bar, and it’s a damn good one. Lots of options every day, and two homemade soups! You can also get a cup of “temperature soup,” which is simply the price of the temperature outside that day. Cup of broccoli cheddar on a 40 degree winter day? 40 cents. Yep. Only caveat: they won’t pay you to eat their soup in February.
As a recently hired Grunts employee, I’ve had the privilege of trying everything on the menu. (Freshman 15, anyone?) My recs: if you’re in the mood for a burger, go for the Green Chili Cheeseburger (green poblano pepper, pickles, raw onion, and unmelted shredded cheddar) or the Grunt Burger (blue cheese and fried onions) — both deeelish. The french dip and chili are great, as is anything with buffalo sauce. Their buffalo sauce is made in-house… mmm… buffalo chicken nachooosss…. mmm….
Ok, moving on. If you’re controlled enough to save room for dessert, try the cookie in a bowl or a hand-dipped milkshake — or better yet, a “big kids milkshake” with a little booze added. Chocolate shake with creme de menthe liqueur equals YUM.
My last piece of advice? Two words: elastic waistband.
R.J. Grunts (Restaurant, Lincoln Park) in a larger map
**Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises.