eleven city dinerEleven City Diner started off in my good books when an Epstein-lookalike wearing a pork pie hat greeted us at the door.

A sign on each table explained how the owner grew up around Jewish delis in NYC and so wanted to recreate that here. The sleek diner has high ceilings, roomy booths and a long shiny counter. Unfortunately, that main area was full at 3 p.m. so we had to sit in one of two booths by the kitchen.

egg creamOur waitress was great, but from our position, we could hear a full-blown argument between two other staff, and another server complaining about how tired she was. Too bad.

We tried to focus on our fountain drinks, pulled by an in-house soda jerk. I know about soda fountains only from books and movies, so we went for what the kids back then would’ve ordered.

My egg cream tasted like a watery, less bubbly ice cream float. Despite the name, it’s actually made of chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer.

Jason got a chocolate phosphate – an original version of today’s soft drinks. It’s a mix of soda water, flavoured syrup and phosphoric acid that adds fizz. He says it tasted like “metal and chocolate,” slightly more fizzy than my egg cream but much less than a Coke.

Kids today, they don’t know how good they have it.

Eleven City Diner, Chicago

The food was good – especially the patty melt – half pound of lean ground beef with sauteed onions and cheddar on grilled rye. There’s a deli counter for take-out including pastrami and corned beef.

I liked the nostalgic drinks but the unprofessional behind-the-scenes disruptions ruined the atmosphere a little. Jerks.

Eleven City Diner, 1112 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago, (312) 212-1112. Open Mon-Thurs 7:30 am-11 pm, Fri 7:30 am-3 am, Sat 9 am-3 am, Sunday 9 am-9 pm.