A few years ago I noticed a hot dog stand was moving into a long-abandoned Chinese take-out joint on Kedzie in Irving Park. Normally this would be a happy development, but I was worried for the sign that hung over the street: a bright yellow marquee touting the "Good Stuff House, Chinese Food, Chop Suey." Not only was that a fabulous name for a restaurant but it was done in that retro Charlie Chan font which appears to actually be called Chinese Takeaway. I don't know if the Souled American side project Good Stuff House took its name from the sign, but I like to think others found it as inspiring as I did, a preservation-worthy piece of neighborhood color.
The owner of Fasano's Hot Dogs didn't think so. The day I noticed the sign had disappeared, I interrupted him as he was completing his build out. He'd taken the sign down the previous day and cut it up so it would fit in the Dumpster. The extremely short life span of Fasano's probably had more to do with his soggy dogs and limp fries than any karmic retribution for this thoughtless act of destruction. But it still haunts me (the address is now home to the excellent Tamales Garibay).
A similar sense of urgency came over me when I took on the Irving Park saloon roundup for last week's bar guide. For this, I was most excited to revisit Queen Albert's Diner and Lounge, a straight-out-of-Manila Filipino karaoke bar that always seemed packed with boisterous crowds belting out power ballads and chowing down on greasy good Pinoy food.*
It also happened to have a boss sign. So I was at first dismayed to see it had been taken over by a place called Bank Shots Bar and Grill, which turned out to be a decent little spot, with very good french fries. Aaron Jacobsen, frymaster and general manager, promised he'd alert me when they planned to take down the old Queen Albert's sign, but in the meantime, maybe I was interested in the sign from the bar that occupied the space before Queen Albert's, which was still stashed away in a storage room:
I know nothing about the Mayor's Office Lounge, but I knew I couldn't abandon that sign. When I went in to haul it out into the light an old-timer jumped from his stool, eyes lit up as he fondly recalled the days he could come in for an eye-opener at 7 AM. I have half of it in my garage, a little worse for the wear. The other half is still at Bank Shots. I'll give mine to anyone that who wants it that can assure me they'll give it a good home.
As for the Queen Albert's sign, I'm not too worried. It was damaged a bit when it was taken down, but Jacobsen says former owner Ate Belle plans to take repossession.
*I do my share of picking on Yelp, but I will admit that it often it serves as the only online historical record of places like Queen Albert's.
More Hangover Week on the Bleader.