Politicos to priests bid farewell to Cape Cod Room
January 1st, 2017
As Chicago rang in the new year, the world-famous Cape Cod Room located in the Drake Hotel closed its doors for good, though an iconic part of the bar will stay with the hotel for all to admire.
“The evening was full of nostalgia. There was some sadness, too. You wish it could go on. It was a wonderful feeling to be there with the people who loved the Cape Cod,” General Manager Theodore Daskalopoulos said after a New Year’s champagne toast with staffers, a few of whom have been there for decades.
Lines formed out into the street in the days leading up to the closing. Reservations were difficult to secure even as Daskalopoulos and his team added tables to accommodate more than 200 guests each night. Georgie Anne Geyer, the syndicated foreign-affairs columnist, was among those who made it to the last seating on New Year’s Eve. She flew in from Washington, D.C., and dined with her friend, true-crime author Gera-Lind Kolarik. Broadcasters Mark Giangreco and Janet Davies also toasted the restaurant as part of their ABC Channel 7 Countdown Chicago New Year’s Eve broadcast.
The restaurant, which opened in 1933 and has been virtually unchanged over all those years, was famous for its celebrity clientele, quiet corner tables and Bookbinder soup–a red snapper/vegetable broth named after its Philadelphia creator. The Cape Cod is being gutted as part of a hotel renovation that will affect 535 guestrooms. A yet-to-be-named retail outlet will take the place of the restaurant that now looks out onto Michigan Avenue and Oak Street Park.
The Cape Cod opened in 1933 and served fresh seafood–an anomaly in meat-loving Chicago, said Daskalopoulos. That’s all changed.
The restaurant is where actress Marilyn Monroe and baseball great Joe DiMaggio once carved their initials in the wooden bar. Their passionate love affair didn’t last long but the initials remained. The bar will stay preserved at the hotel for guests to continue to enjoy. The Drake is considering auctioning and/or donating other pieces from the restaurant.
Actresses Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor both dined at the Cape Cod. Table 4 just off the bar was their favorite. And numerous presidents and world dignitaries stopped there, too.
Local bigwigs also were regulars. Mayor Richard M. Daley liked to meet civic leaders there, and dined there a few weeks ago for nostalgia’s sake. TV diva Oprah Winfrey lived in the neighborhood and was a regular.
Michael Jordan often sat toward the back and by a window and like so many notable names felt comfortable because he wasn’t inundated with autograph seekers and didn’t have to see his picture plastered on a wall.
Popular tables were 12, 14, 22 and 42. “They’re booths with windows–a lethal combination,” says Daskalopoulos.
The Captain’s Quarters Room–a private dining area hidden from the rest of the restaurant and bar–is where President Ronald Reagan once ate alone. The room was a favorite of Aretha Franklin’s whenever she was in town. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his parents and brothers ate there a few years back.
Guests have returned in recent weeks to bid farewell to the place where they celebrated engagements, weddings and other happy (and sad) occasions.
In its final days, the top menu items were Bookbinder soup (you can try the recipe here), dover sole and lobster thermidor.
Among the many notable names who stopped by for a last meal: politico Bill Daley, brother-sister actors John and Joan Cusack, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos, businessman Neal Zucker and Chicago attorney Newt Minow and his wife.
“The Cape Cod Room was a trusted place to take clients for dinner,” says John Digles, vice president of MWWPR (a public relations firm) and Chicago-based independent film producer. “I closed some investors there over dover sole (and few rounds of scotch) for an independent film I was producing.” He dined there twice in recent weeks.
Members of the Benjamin Marshall Society dropped by a few weeks ago. Marshall is the architect who designed the Drake.
“Who would imagine such a rather secret and very romantic seaside upscale Nantucket -style ‘shanty’ tucked into a grand hotel?” said Jane Lepauw, a founder of the society.