Monday, March 05, 2007

Colonial Cafe, St. Charles

Colonial Cafe
2036 W. Lincoln Hwy (Rt. 38)
St. Charles, IL 60174

February 24, 2007


The website for the Colonial Cafe lists seven different locations across the Chicago suburbs. I'm kind of surprised that there aren't actually more than that, since it seems like there's always been one near me no matter where I've lived. I've been to four of them over the years and have never had any bad experiences with food or service. Then again, I've never visited Colonial on clown night. Nothing personal against clowns, really. I'm sure they're really good people and I'm sure that the discrimination and dangers of the life they've chosen have to be a constant source of pain in their life. I just don't want them at my table when I'm eating. That's all.

Colonial originally began as a dairy company, probably just delivering milk to people's homes. I feel like I should know the entire history of the company by now; every restaurant has at least one wall that's completely covered with old-time photos of their founders and nostalgic snapshots of old milktrucks and other images of the good old days. Yes, the history of Colonial goes back over a century; don't even try to forget this, every location is practically a museum inside so completely avoiding their corporate mythology is almost impossible. That said, with their devotion to staying true to their roots, I can't understand why they chose to close down their original ice cream shop in downtown St. Charles. That was a landmark, but apparently a few pictures on a wall (not to mention a few thousand bumper stickers on cars, too) are an acceptable substitute for the real thing.

But that's all in the past now. Colonial is still running the ice cream game in northern Illinois (is it just me or is Oberweis incredibly overrated?) but has also reinvented itself as an up-and-coming player in family restaurants as well. There's always a good choice of lunch and dinner specials, salads, sandwiches, and other standard fare that I won't go into right now. Colonial is always a really relaxed and casual place, but somehow it doesn't draw the kind of awful, awful customers that IHOP or Denny's does every night. At least not in my experience.


Anyway, breakfast at Colonial is a reliable but predictable experience. I usually spring for the blueberry pancakes, but today I chose the regular hot cakes combo. Actually, we both did, though I went with eggs over easy on the side. The pancakes themselves... I don't know. Nothing much to say. Some butter and hot syrup on top... yeah. Good stuff, but not great.


The western St. Charles Colonial location isn't the closest one to me, but it's the one that I've visited the most and especially enjoy returning to. Mornings and evenings are usually fairly busy, with afternoons being unusually quiet, even on weekends. Nowadays, I guess that could be said about the entire western edge of the city. But it wasn't always like this. The St. Charles Mall, once located in the empty field just across the parking lot (back when this location was once a Wag's and later a Shoney's), was the place to shop in St. Charles throughout the 1980's. It was closed over a decade ago and finally torn down five years ago. For a while there was talk of a new mall being built in its place, and then some kind of car dealership instead. As you can see, those ideas either fell through or were just rumors in the first place. The land has become a kind of suburban Chernobyl, seemingly abandoned for good and permanently tainted beyond any hope of future development. Look across the ground there and you'll still find pieces of old concrete from the original outer walls. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Thanks for the memories.

Think Colonial might want to hang some of these on their wall? Just wondering.

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