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A boost at any time of day: Pick-Me-Up Cafe

Pick-Me-Up Cafe We’d lived in Chicago a good 6 months before stumbling across this national treasure. Well, local treasure. We live on Addison, steps west of Wrigley, yes, wise decision for people who enjoy falling asleep at 11 and rising at 730, but I saw the big red sign and for a life-long baseball fan new to this wonderful city, the tractor beam sucked me right in. The life and energy the losers called the Cubs bring to this neighborhood is unmatched and at times it’s annoying, but mostly it’s just fun. On one of the annoying nights, the Saturday before St. Patty’s day, which fell on a fricken Thursday this year, so 5 days before the day, people are giving themselves permission to act like drunken idiots as early as 11 a.m. that day. Poor Ireland. I’ve been there. And yes they like their drink, but none of them acted like these American buffoons. What a beautiful, respectful way to pay homage to the Emerald Isle.

Anyhoo, back on message. You have the back-story. We deliberately walked around Addison and Clark, the ground zero of idiotic behavior and grouping, to find a place to eat on Broadway or Halsted, in a slightly more civilized, quiet drunk kind of area. We did that thing where you walk and walk and say “how about here?” Read the menu, hem and haw, then say “nah” and keep walking. So frustrating this custom, especially when you get rage hungry like I do. We stop in this awesome looking place in our shabby clothing, bulky coats, and overall shameful attire and attitude, all to be embarrassed when asked what time our reservation is for and ultimately made aware of not only the clientele but also the popularity of this establishment. Epic fail. Lesson learned.

Walking again. I decide we are going to the Chicago Diner, just a block west on Halsted, because it’s DElightful, its got a young hipster vibe, which I don’t have. As an old soul with little interest in style, I don’t belong anywhere but my friends and husband fit right in there and I at least have visible tattoos which will get me in the door. Oh and I experiment with vegetarianism, double rainbow. Naturally, 45 minute wait. Balls. The adorable, most-likely gay host tells us of a couple diners with a similar vibe, Pick Me Up being one of them. See how I finally bring it back to the task at hand? 30 second break to pat myself on back.............Ok. That’s better.

Soooo, we walk, again, this time back toward our neighborhood, to the very street we were avoiding in the first place, Clark street! Gah! Idiots. Pick Me Up is situated in this awesome flat-iron shaped building, nestled between an al’s italian beef (to be discussed soon) and some random store, probably a head shop. What am I a tour guide? Look it up! It’s got an cutesie large three dimensional coffee cup perched on top next to a sign with the restaurant’s very name. We walk in two separate doors that most mid-western folk could not squeeze into sideways and approach the host, wearing too cool for school scenester glasses who hands us our menus and tells us kindly to sit wherever we’d like. Yep, it’s that kind of place. The tables are all different, they have a diner look and vibe, plastic soft seats or booths, metal rimming edging the tables, but they take it up an artsy notch and make the tables strange shapes. Fuck the square and rectangles of yesteryear. No, we’re not even going round, we’re going full on what the fuck is this and how many people is this designed to sit? 5? It’s strangely awesome of course. You get cool points for being there, which helps me because I always feel parched and in need of those points.

We sit. In 10 minutes Winnie Cooper from the fricken Wonder Years!!! comes to wait on us. I swear! Derek says no, but I swear guys! She’s fricken A.DOR.ABLE. I love her, immediately. My angry hunger from the walk and rejection from previous eateries has surpassed and I’m in nostalgic heaven. Winnie Cooper looks the same, puppy dog brown eyes, long straight brown hair, bangs, sweet smile, but now she’s a regular badass because both of her arms are coated in tattoos, full on sleeves! Omg, I could not admire her more. I want you all to see her. Ok, anyway, I order a felafel pita. Derek orders their club sandwich. These sound like regular ole boring items but when you’re sitting at an irregular shaped table, with an uber-inked Winnie Cooper as your waitress you want a little normalcy. I enjoyed my wrap tremendously, particularly the generous helping of hummus inside said pita, as I’m a whore for hummus and I consume it on a daily basis, no matter what my gastrointestinal tract has to say about it. Or anyone else for that matter. Derek felt his club was the best thing since the sliced bread that surrounded the characters inside the sandwich and we left with a pep in our step and one of Pick me Up’s famous brownies. No they’re not some hippie dippie sweet one would find in Amsterdam. That’s the only thing that would have made it better. Just a regular ole brownie but it was tasty.

The bill was reasonable, the staff super cool, relaxed and friendly, and the combination of random shit on the walls and tables, mixed with the eclectic diner style menu made for a very pleasant experience. It’d be great with a group, lunch date with a friend, lunch date with a book, or a quick cup of soup, as I forgot to mention their soups are awesome! We’ve since been back multiple times and I may write about those experiences in a future blog when I’m struggling for material.

Enjoy. Eat. Live long and prosper. Thanks for reading.