The Search for Food along the Chicago Elevated Railway is much more than just popping out for something to eat, it is a journey in itself, a quest to learn about the city, a need to get out there and find some sort of purpose, it started as an idea, then evolved into some sort of addiction.
In the beginning I started out on the premise that
“It’s simple, I like riding the train and I like eating food so I am combining the two. The plan is to find places to eat at every one of the 144 Chicago El Stations. Preferably without getting heartburn, shot, mugged or in the worse case scenario… even fatter. To make it easy I am going to try and source food within sight of the stations, but if there is somewhere really good that I cannot resist I may wander a little further afield.
I am not planning to write reviews, just an account of my feelings at the time, so don’t be too offended if I don’t like somewhere you love.
Gourmet may be good, but basically there may well be a theme of hot dogs, burgers, and sandwiches…anything between two buns or slices of bread.”
I first settled near to North Center / Ravenswood near to the Montrose Brown Line CTA El Stop and the first stages were to do the Red and Brown lines north of Fullerton. I then moved swiftly on to explore the Blue, Green, and Orange lines, and further North along the Purple lines into Evanston. It was a lot of fun and I found many new places to eat and many of them I continued to return to. Sadly over time some of them have shut down, but as with the circle of life, many new places keep on opening.
Back in 2011 when I started I wrote the following as I was riding the tram into the Loop, and from that moment I was hooked onto writing about my adventures.
Riding the El Train
“Flashes of white electric light, as the sparks from the track illuminate the night, the rattle and roll of the train as it hops and bumps its way over the elevated sleepers.
The Hancock looms into view, the tall buildings illuminated in pink, the brown line twists and turns its way south into the loop. Gentle chatter from the train is punctuated with the train announcer crisply designating our arrival at each station stop.
Orange street and platform lights glow and fade as we pass down the line ever closer to the city downtown district, ding dong “doors closing”, as we reach the sky scrapers the echo of the train bounces back from the closely packed buildings creating a rush and roar of wind, the wheels whistle as they slide around the bends of the looping track”
These days I have left Chicago and so I only get to search the tracks when I visit, which is usually about 3-4 times a year. Despite that the Project carries on and it continues to grow, somewhat more slowly these days. I would aliken it to matching at a pace that keeps up with the Brown Line El train as it trundles along the rickety tracks North of the Loop slowly stopping at each CTA station.
I really want to keep the Project alive so if you would like to contribute, even if it is just once, then drop me a line. It started of as just My Food Hunt, but it would be great if it was Your Food Hunt too. After all Chicago is our city, the tracks are ours, and that train just keeps on rolling to Flavour Town.