Updated: Jun 4
DATE(S) VISITED: JULY 3, 2021
LOCATION: CHICAGO, IL
Whilst Team H were in Chicago staying at (and investigating) the haunted Congress Plaza Hotel, we thought it was only apt to go and check out some more gangster/mob related locations. Donning our most eloquent attire we set out to 226 South Wabash Ave which was only about a three block walk away, and it was so worth the visit.
The 226 Club was established during the roaring 20s and was apparently the first restaurant to appear on the street. Rumor has it that it was also a speakeasy patronized by notorious gangster Al Capone. After talking with our server, we were told that the door in the middle of the dining room was the escape door that lead to the basement (see photo below). Of course, we asked if we could go down there to take a look but alas we were not allowed. Apparently it had become a storage room and was full of furniture etc. Speaking of furniture, the old architecture from the secret lounge, which was originally located upstairs, still remains above the ceiling of the restaurant's front entrance and bar area, luxurious 1920’s art deco and chandeliers have been hanging for nearly a century.
Over the years the restaurant has changed owners and names. During the 30s and 40s, the restaurant was renamed The Wonder Bar. The focus was, as its name suggests, on the elaborate bar that was located in the back. The restaurant was renamed Browns in the 1950s, and it was reinvented in to a casual dining establishment. In 1969, Browns closed down and the restaurant was completely remodeled yet again.
In September of that year, the restaurant reopened as the Exchequer Pub, and although the menu was limited, it featured the Exchequer Deep Dish Pizza, which was an instant favorite, and has become one of the signature items on the menu still to this day. On our visit we had the God Father cocktail, Zombie Dust beer to wash down a Prohibition Burger with the secret speakeasy sauce, and a Capone’s rigatoni & meatballs!
It would be so awesome if they could open up more of the building for people to see, dine and drink in, the place just oozes character and history. Who knows what shady deals might have been made here by Capone and other mobsters? If these walls could talk. We kept telling our server that the owners should think about hosting themed nights in the original speakeasy upstairs, I mean how cool would that be! Not to mention the tourism and money they could bring in to help preserve the place. If you are ever in Chicago and want somewhere to go and eat, we highly recommend this place.
For more pictures of our visit, head on over to our Facebook page.