Chicago Sun-Times columnist and longtime roadie Dave Hoekstra paid a visit to The Riviera restaurant and roadhouse bar on Route 66 in Gardner, Ill., before it closes after New Year’s Day. Longtime owners Bob and Peggy Kraft, both in their 80s, want to retire and haven’t yet found a buyer for the property.
Go read the whole thing, but I’m gleaning a few tidbits about the Riviera:
- Peggy will serve her usual spaghetti and fried chicken on New Year’s Eve, along with a holiday special of barbecued ribs. If any food is left, the Riviera will open again on New Year’s Day until it’s gone.
- Whisperin’ Joe will sing road songs starting at 8:05 p.m. New Year’s Eve.
- If a buyer isn’t found by April, the Riviera will be auctioned. One area restaurateur is looking at buying it (fingers crossed).
- The Riviera’s bar originally was a coal miners payroll office. A Methodist church building was moved in and converted into the restaurant.
- Peggy makes 32 quarts of her spaghetti sauce each week. I’ve heard it’s mighty tasty.
- If no buyer is found, the historic streetcar diner sitting next to the building will be moved to downtown Gardner.
And then there’s this oddity:
Over the years it has hosted Gene Kelly, cowboy Tom Mix and Al Capone, recognized in the funky men’s bathroom with a poster that reads: “Al Capone passed gas here in 1932.”
That sounds like a Bob Kraft joke. It is no joke, though, that former Gov. George Ryan dined with his family at the Riviera two weeks before he went to prison.
Perhaps current Gov. Rod Blagojevich should have a meal there, too. That way, he and Ryan could swap Riviera stories in their cell.