This is one of those places that I have a soft spot for even if I am not always enamoured by the fare. When I first moved to Chicago in 2010 I found myself stepping off the El at Belmont on my way to the Chicago Apartment Finders office in hunt of somewhere to live. Right on the corner as I left the station was Clarkes and I popped in for some breakfast thus starting a love and hate affair of mixed choices and unhealthy breakfasts that has continued to this day. One of the best and worst things about Clarkes is that it is open 24hrs and if you are tempted in during the wee early morning hours, depending on your level of drunkedness you may or may not enjoy what you have.
On this occasion I was not too late in the day and was sober enough to spend my time reading the menu properly. I fancied a burger of some description but really I wanted something slightly healthier really (so what was I doing in a diner?) I decided to seek out the musings of the waitress who suggested I tried the Elk burger as it was low fat and one of her favorites. She wasn’t fat and appeared to be in good health so I went with her suggestion. The menu described the Elk burger as thus “Grass-fed, free-range elk meat is the healthiest of all meats; only 5g fat 389 calories per 8 ounces“. They conveniently omit the unhealthy slab of cheese and plate full of fat fries that come with it, but they didn’t mention it, and neither did I.
When it arrived it was not quite the gourmet feast I was hoping for, well actually it was pretty much as expected if I was to be honest, now low fat can be good if cooked properly, but this affair ended up being too dry and was hard to eat. The fat is the good part that makes the burger juicy and in this case it was sorely missed. I also did not think anyone could eat a whole slice of red onion in all good consience, so I just pulled a couple of strands off it and I did at least add the salad in to it this time. The Steak fries were a bit boring, you could only really eat them if you dipped them into the ketchup.
Overall it wasn’t the best choice that I have made here, and I guess you wonder why I am even bothering to add this place onto my El Stop list. The truth is that I have had enough good things here to make a trip worthwhile. In the burger sections I have had a pretty tasty Zorba burger which is “Freshly sliced Gyro on top of America cheese and a side of Taziki sauce” For those with late night English tastes that is basically a kebab on top of a burger, very bad for you and very good too. I have also sampled the Patty Melt on Rye which is a “1/3 lb. 100% fresh beef patty, smothered in grilled onions and American cheese“, it is a truly yummy greasy meatfest that covers your chin and fingers with greasy, meaty goodness and is not for the health consious.
I have had some pretty decent basic breakfasts here too, the hash brown is not too bad, and you cannot really go wrong with the eggs or with any of the omelettes. Don’t all rush at once to sample but don’t be afraid to walk in through the door either.
There are more than one Clarkes diners in the city, there are four other locations in Wicker Park, Hyde Park, Evanston and Lincoln Park details of these and the menu is on their website at http://clarkesdiner.com/index.html
The one at Belmont is at 930 W Belmont Ave right across the road from the red/brown/purple CTA el station at Belmont