The Spirit of the Ramova Grill Lives On

By Casey Cora on January 23, 2013 4:33pm 

 Benton House executive director Mark Lennon and Chicagoist editor in chief Chuck Sudo discuss details of the Benton House "soup kitchen" fundraiser, scheduled for Jan. 24.
Benton House executive director Mark Lennon and Chicagoist editor in chief Chuck Sudo discuss details of the Benton House "soup kitchen" fundraiser, scheduled for Jan. 24.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

BRIDGEPORT — The Ramova Grill's 83-year-run on South Halsted Street came to an end in 2012, signifying the end of an era for the diner that doubled as a community listening post.

But the spirit of the shuttered diner lives on today.

Preservationists have rescued the eatery's furniture — complete with diner counter and booths — and turned it into a community room at Benton House, a Bridgeport-based social resource agency.

On Thursday, the "Ramova Room" will be the backdrop for a fundraiser benefiting the Benton House food pantry, which serves an estimated 100 local families each week at its Friday food pickups.

Modeled after the weekly “Soup & Bread” outings at the Hideout, the philanthropic get-together will take place from 6-9 p.m. Thursday on the ground floor of Benton House's Pearce Hall at 3034 S. Gratten Ave.

For a $10 suggested donation, guests can slurp gourmet soups created by an all-star roster of chefs with neighborhood ties, including acclaimed chef and restaurateur Bill Kim, Vera’s Mark Mendez, Allium’s Kevin Hickey, Pleasant House Bakery’s Art Jackson, Zaytune’s Daniel Sarkis, Bridgeport Pasty Company’s Jay Sebastian and Carrie Clark, and Nightwood’s Jason Vincent.

The event is hosted by the daily news and culture website, Chicagoist.

Chuck Sudo, editor in chief of Chicagoist and a longtime fan of the diner, a mainstay famous for its greasy spoon fare — including fried liver and onions and bowls of chili widely hailed as among the city’s best — said he wanted to create an event that would highlight Benton House's new community room, which he called "the new centerpiece for things happening in the neighborhood."

In addition to the all-star lineup of chefs, Benton House staffers will offer tours of the building, formerly a settlement house for the area's immigrant workers and their families.

Today, it's a nonprofit offering a range of social services and youth and adult programs.

 Built with diner furniture from the shuttered Ramova Grill and Healthy Foods restaurants, the "Ramova Room" at Benton House serves as the location for the social service agency's weekly food pantry pickup.
Built with diner furniture from the shuttered Ramova Grill and Healthy Foods restaurants, the "Ramova Room" at Benton House serves as the location for the social service agency's weekly food pantry pickup.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

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