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Thursday, May 23

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Do not go here to eat. The Golden Angel isn't a restaurant, it's a museum.

It isn't the only diner-cum-museum of its kind — there's one at Western and Montrose, another droopy tired place made out of an old rail car on Irving, and I'm sure there's plenty of others scattered across Chicago. Museum-quality diners share many features: extremely outdated colors, waitresses missing teeth, and a truly timeless menu that always offers "Breakfast All Day."

The Golden Angel is no different. Like all those other places, come here when you're drunk. Or don't want to be found for a few hours.

On a recent Sunday morning we got a table in the section nominally labeled "non-smoking." For the first time in the half-dozen times I've been here, I was stone sober. Before I had a chance to sit down, I was offered coffee with enthusiasm. After my second cup (just getting started in most diners) our waitress was so hard to find that we eventually just got up and poured our own. This characterized the service: there when you didn't need, not there when you did.

The food was equally unremarkable. My omelet was nearly tough and the "fresh" mushrooms were canned. The mush of potatoes I got were extra oily and the toast was closer in texture to oatmeal than wheat toast.

My girlfriend's meal was equally lackluster. The French Toast was orange like a traffic cone(?!?) and tasted like the plastic it resembled. The meaty products, bacon and such, were fine, but you have to try pretty hard to make bad bacon.

Other visits have had similar results: the French Fries are OK, but not great. The hamburgers are OK, but not great. The gyros are OK, but not great (then again, when have you ever had a great gyros?). This is the most mediocre of diner food.

But the decor!

The Golden Angel has a special something that most other archaic diners lack: could it be the odd colored blocks sticking out above the lunch counter? The subtle brown shading employed throughout the restaurant? The decor is a tour de force of what I imagine the 1960s to have been: not draped in splashes of psychedelic color, but dirty from so much smoking and monotony, and filled with brown everywhere.

The menu, with its total emphasis on pork, hamburgers and the occasional veal cutlet, hasn't changed with the times. Its pages are as weathered and tired as the food is, and probably as tired as you'll be after a packing in one of their meals: while not monstrous, they are big and salty and fattening, so a post-meal nap might be a consideration.

The highlights? It's open 24 hours, and is one of the only 24 hour places in Lincoln Square. They have some cool and cheesy tattoos you can buy which are great for drunken application while waiting for food. And there's parking if you need it.

Diners are rarely about food, I know that. Diners are a place to talk about break-ups, to sober-up, to drink coffee for hours with friends, or write the next Great American Novel. The Golden Angel fits the bill for any of these activities very well. But don't come for the food, come to stare at the setting and pretend it's your living room for awhile.

The Golden Angel is located at 4340 N. Lincoln. It's open 24 hours, seven days a week.

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About the Author(s)

Fork It Over is the result of weekly dinners with members of the Gapers Block staff. This week's review was written by Brian Sobolak.

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