Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Manor Restaurant & Pancake House, St. Charles

Manor Restaurant & Pancake House
1 West Main Street
St. Charles, IL 60174

December 26, 2006


This was no great surprise; we'd visted the Manor Restaurant & Pancake House in St. Charles this past summer and found it mysteriously closed down, so we didn't expect any miracles when we dropped by the day after Christmas. Lights out, tables gone, and no signs of any renovation or remodeling to speak of. Looks like this really is the end of the Manor, but why? Why would a local fixture like the Manor, occupying the best piece of real estate in downtown St. Charles, suddenly pack up and leave?

Maybe I just answered my own question.

Still, it's hard to imagine that The Manor would have fallen on such hard times as of late. Even with shoppers and diners migrating further east to the Charlestowne Mall area, and residents in west St. Charles being tempted by the nearby offerings of the Geneva Commons, downtown St. Charles has enjoyed a quiet renaissance of its own, with the debut of local live theater and a variety of other bars and restaurants opening on both sides of the river. It's enough to make me wonder if the Manor's fate was tied to the Arcada Theatre, which gave up its run as the best bargain-priced theater in the state to instead embrace weekly appearances by cover bands and standup comedians, and to project Sunday football games on the big screen instead of actual movies. May they lose their liquor license and see the error of their ways!

As for the Manor, it will be missed. An almost-weekly tradition for my family for many years, the Manor was primarily a breakfast restaurant with great pancakes, but there were enough sandwiches and other specials to make it a great destination for lunch or dinner too. I know the sign in the picture says the closing time was 3:00, but most times I visited were in the evening, so I can only assume these new hours were instituted very recently, or at least in the past two years since I last visited.

I'll always remember the Manor, the glass case of candy and gum at the front register, the great view of the river and the downtown from the windowside booths in the nonsmoking section, and the old-fashioned coffeeshop feel of the smoking section. We'd grab rolls from the breadbaskets and toss them to ducks from the bridge afterwards, and I'd peer through the windows of the tavern located downstairs with dark fascination, wanting to lose myself in the neon-lit, seedy recesses of its dark confines. Nothing that was both literally underground and riverside like that could not intrigue my young imagination. Unfortunately, that bar is now closed as well.

So what happened to the Manor? I still don't know why they closed in April and left St. Charles, but they recently reopened in South Elgin on Randall Road. Meanwhile, I've read conflicting reports of a new Manor Restaurant reopening a few blocks west on Main Street, but have been unable to locate this new site. Unfortunately, I know my expectations and memories will overshadow any new improvements or offerings found at either. Maybe I wasn't as attached to the food at the Manor as I was to the building itself. Considering that I've devoted all of one sentence in this entry to their cuisine, that's probably the case.