RIVER WEST — OK, I admit it.
I secretly thought the "Three Little Pigs" sandwich — that delicious stack of breaded pork tenderloin, smoked ham and bacon topped with a fried egg, an onion ring and cheese on a hearty roll — was gone for good when The Silver Palm took its surprise winter hiatus.
But my heart was filled with joy when I got word that the tiny restaurant in the silver train car just off the corner of Milwaukee and Ogden had reopened — and, most importantly, the sandwich celebrity TV food critic Anthony Bourdain dubbed "The Greatest Sandwich in America" was still on the menu.
Always sassy Silver Palm manager Colleen Bush chastised me for foolishly doubting the Three Little Pigs' triumphant return.
"How dare you even think we would not come back," she said. "We reopened just like we said we would. And even if I had to serve only grilled cheese, we were going to be back because I had so many people asking me about it all winter long."
Matchbox owners David and Jackie Gervercer decided to close The Silver Palm over the winter because the addition of protected bike lanes and a Divvy bike station coupled with Milwaukee Avenue construction gobbled customer parking spots and had shooed diners away.
Even though most of the Milwaukee Avenue construction is complete and parking is still scarce, the Gervercers and Bush said that warmer weather, a tweaked menu with more gourmet munchies, and of course, a little time apart sparked a revival at their little restaurant that could.
The Silver Palm probably would have shut down for good years ago if Bourdain hadn't declared "Three Little Pigs" a must-eat for sandwich lovers.
But his endorsement couldn't carry the place forever.
Now, The Silver Palm's menu has two new salads, fancy burgers and a collection of munchies — including ceviche, mussels steamed in beer and pork belly, and a "nacho tots" — aimed to please drinkers at The Matchbox, especially when the tiny tavern next door opens its sidewalk patio. (Note to drinkers: Last week The Matchbox added a new "seasonal menu" of craft cocktails.)
The Silver Palm got spruced up a bit during Chicago's polar vortex — miniblinds replace the velvet curtains to brighten up the dining car and (most) of the restaurants pinup girl portraits were replaced with old-school train travel advertisements, for instance. But other than that, the joint is mostly the same.
"We're just hoping that some good summertime weather will help us beat the traffic problem and carry us," said Gervercer, who moved with his wife to Tankah Bay, Mexico, where they opened a tiny seaside bed and breakfast, Casa Jacqueline.
"We're still thinking about whether to shut down again next winter. Unless you know someone who's gonna fix the Milwaukee [Avenue] traffic problem, we'll just have to wait and see."
Thankfully, winter is a long way away — and the best sandwich in America has returned, even if it's only for a season.
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