Historic Illinois US 66 Route sign and old brick buildings in Bloomington City, Illinois

Restaurant Review: A Century of Good Eating in the West Loop

Historic Illinois US 66 Route sign and old brick buildings in Bloomington City, Illinois

Opened since 1923 and located at the very beginning of historic Route 66, Michelin-listed Lou Mitchell’s is the gold standard for classic American diners.  

The award-winning diner, whose building is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings,  is home to many firsts in the business of feeding hungry Chicagoans, travelers, politicians, and celebrities. For example, according to their website, Lou Mitchell’s was the first place in Chicago to serve breakfast all day. (I bless them!) Additionally, they say many of the trademarks of the ‘American Breakfast Diner were invented here, from serving eggs in skillets, to having eggs with Greek bread.

“We just want to feed everybody, make them happy, make them want to come back, and they do,” owner Nick Thanas said to CBS recently. 

The “fun part” of Lou Mitchell’s magic formula was added, according to their website, in 1958, when the restaurant began offering breakfast diners donut holes. A tradition was set in place and since that day, millions of donut holes and boxes of Milk Duds have been given out. 

I’ve been a frequent visitor to this West Loop treasure since my career began. My earliest memories of Lou’s was standing in line, trying to wake up, while the late Lou would walk up to us, free Milk Duds in hand, and say “Good morning, beautiful ladies!” while handing us the sweet treats. And when we were seated, Krispy Kreme-like donut holes and fresh orange slices awaited us. 

It’s no wonder this restaurant is celebrating a century of impeccable service and food this year. 

My personal favorite is something I haven’t seen anywhere else…their Apple and Cheese Omelette– made with Michigan Sugar Sweet apples and Old English cheddar cheese, and  served with a choice of toast, home-made orange marmalade, and hash brown potatoes, it’s enough to make two meals, and the contrasting gooey cheddar and sweet apples make for an amazing bite. Paired with their Gold Cup award-winning coffee, it’s a memorable meal that will keep you coming back, time after time. 

Add malt to a Belgian Waffle or Pancake, and you’ve got something like Heaven coming your way. Pair it with fresh, pure whipped butter and Mitchell’s own Maple Syrup blend. 

Other exclusive items come from the Kid’s menu. Milk Dud Pancakes are chocolatey good. Other kids will enjoy their Mitchell Mouse Pancakes.

Lighter appetites will enjoy their healthy Organic Yogurt, Granola and Seasonal Fruit Parfait. 

After 10:30am, Lou Mitchell’s starts serving lunch. Try a creative Popeye Sandwich, which pairs a scrambled egg with bacon, spinach and swiss cheese on toasted ciabatta bread and served with hash browns. 

Monday through Friday, try their Baked Meat Loaf, with mushroom gravy and home-made fresh mashed potatoes and vegetables. On weekends, they serve the meatloaf with hand-cut fresh french fries, and homemade cole slaw.  Or, their Golden Brown English Filet of Sole, with homemade tartar sauce and lemon wedge. 

Other reviewers were equally impressed. 

“Wonderful experience and very affable atmosphere,” said one Google reviewer. “We had coffee cake that was more fluffy & light than decadent. I ordered the malted pecan & bacon waffle. It was so savory that syrup was unnecessary. My wife loved her cottage cheese omelet with ground beef! I had also ordered a delicious side of sausage. We were greeted with orange slices & fresh donut holes. Our first time and we’ll most definitely be back!!!”

Lou Mitchell’s is located at 565 W. Jackson Boulevard. They are open Wednesdays through Fridays from 6am-2pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 7am–2pm, and are closed Mondays and Tuesdays. No reservations that we’re aware of, hence the long lines. For more information, click here.  

Alison Moran-Powers and Dean’s Team Chicago