UPDATE: Ramova Grill is closing for good on 4/14/12. Happy trails, Tony and staff!!!
(Orginal post from 9/27/11)
Often, while out and about covering stories in Chicago, I meet fascinating people and see interesting places that I don't get to talk about at length while on the air. This morning, I headed for the Bridgeport neighborhood to gather fan reaction to the departure of White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen. Boy, am I glad ventured into Ramova Grill at 35th and Halsted.
Tony Dinos bought the place in 1963 and I'm pretty sure he hasn't changed much at all since then. He's also spent a lot of time over the past five decades at the grill, whipping up breakfast for all kinds of regulars who can walk in and get exactly what they want without saying a word.
I think I connected with Tony because I grew up in a Chinese restaurant. And I know the business is hard work. What I love about him is his insistence on keeping things just as they are. Credit cards are not accepted at Ramova Grill and the pay phone in a booth at the back of the restaurant is also the business line. It was amusing to see the waitress answer the pay phone and yell out, "Tony, it's the butcher calling!" A lot of regular customers will call the pay phone to see what the daily specials are. This has got to be one of the last working pay phones in all of Chicago.
But, like a lot of small business owners, Tony is concerned about the future of Ramova Grill. The economy has him seeing much less of his regulars. While those who spoke with me today didn't sound too sentimental about Ozzie Guillen, I think they would definitely miss having Tony around.