1518 E. 53rd St.
Chicago, IL 60615
The Valois Restaurant these days is known for its most famous customer, President Barack Obama. The Valois is only a few blocks from the President’s house, and he has been eating here for years prior to becoming president.
Valois has been around a lot longer than Obama, however. It originally opened in 1921 and has been at it has been at the present location since the late 1950s. These days, the neighborhood around the restaurant is gentrified and seems to have people of every demographic. With college students, pensioners, and what looked like a secret service officer having breakfast on a quiet Tuesday, the place looked like a throwback to a much more peaceful time.
It’s a cafeteria style restaurant, which is a relief to a police officer. Most police officers like to see their food prepared. Police officers have a fear that in the kitchen of every restaurant is some guy that just got out of the lockup right before he came to work, and is pissed off at every cop. Spitting on your cheeseburger is the best case scenario here, so it’s comforting to be able to see the food while its getting prepared.
At Valois, you enter and walk to the starting point of the cafeteria line. There is a big sign displaying the favorites of the President. As a Republican, I was not surprised to find that I didn’t like any of the President’s favorites. I was smart enough not to mention this to the staff, who seemed really proud that the President came there when he was in town.
I ordered a Denver omelette with toast, sausage, and coffee. Let me just say, any restaurant that screws that order up wouldn’t stay in business long in Chicago. It was very good, with large portions. The toast was just singed, and not really toasted, but other than that, the food was fine. The coffee was great. I don’t understand what makes some coffee good and some bad, but the coffee at the Valois had whatever it is that makes it really good.
I spoke to some of the other patrons, who were all neighborhood people. They said that Valois is the best restaurant in the neighborhood. Jeff Jones told me he had been coming there for fifty years. His parents had started bringing him there for breakfast on Saturdays when he was a kid, and he still went at least once during most weeks. He was having an early lunch of the roast turkey sandwich. He said the turkey was better that what his mother makes at Thanksgiving. That comment earned him a smack from the woman he was with (presumably, his mother.)
All in all, it was very good. A bright, friendly restaurant with good comfort food, in a dynamic neighborhood undergoing interesting changes.