Fond childhood memories of old restaurants; stopping at White Fence Farms in Joliet (actually, it is in Romeoville) while driving US 66, and going to Phil Schmidt’s in Hammond while coming back from visiting Mom’s friends that had a house in Michiana. White Fence Farms still exists, serving fried chicken (1/2 chicken fried, served with cole slaw, bean salad, cottage cheese, and beets as “relishes”
I haven’t been there for many years, so I don’t know if the chicken is any good at this time.
Phil Schmidt’s closed in 2007 after 97 years of operations. It was famous for 3 things, fresh lake perch, fresh walleyed pike, and fresh frog legs. All could be prepared fried, or sauteed in butter. Starting with relishes of beets, cottage cheese, and cole slaw, the perch, walleye and frog legs could be replenished as desired (all you could eat). Sitting at the end of Calumet Avenue in Hammond Indiana, next to a giant Proctor and Gamble soap factory, the restaurant abutted up to the train tracks of the New York Central line, so the location was not anything special, but the food was outstanding, and the wait to get in (even though there were multiple rooms and lots of tables) could be a problem.
There was a Phil Schmidt’s restaurant in the Merchandise Mart for a very short time in the 1980’s (?), but it closed quickly.
Restaurants that serve lake perch can be found all over the lower end of Lake Michigan, but there has not been a replacement to Phil Schmidt’s in terms of quality or ambiance. Now, having said that, let me make a qualification: I love L. Woods. This Lettuce Entertain You restaurant in Lincolnwood, evocative of the old “northwoods” roadhouses in Wisconsin, serves wonderful walleyed pike, and has a Friday perch fry. No frog legs, however, but consistent good food. So, is there a place like Phil Schmidt’s left?
Our friend Judy posted on Facebook several months ago about visiting a restaurant in Schererville, Indiana, called Teibel’s. Open since 1929, the restaurant is at the corner of US 41 and US 30, and is a big sprawling place with multiple rooms, and serves, among other things, perch, walleyed pike, and frog legs.
So, I thought, maybe this is the place to refresh memories of good times. Well, sorry to tell you Judy, this is not Phil Schmidt’s replacement.
We went there Saturday night, driving home from Michigan City. The restaurant is very large, and has very poor signage, as we went into the coffee shop area and not the main entrance, and were not told about the difference until we sat down at a vinyl covered booth with laminate tables. Almost no one was in this area of the restaurant, but since the menu was the same as the main dining room, and we could get a lunch size portion for dinner, we didn’t switch to go the main dining room.
I had a dinner portion combination of walleyed pike and Indonesian fried frog legs, served with soup, a choice of tossed salad or relishes, choice of potato, and ice cream! The relishes were a scoop of cottage cheese, 4 red pickled beets (obviously from a can), and cole slaw. I will say that the pike sauteed in butter, and the frog legs were very good, but the baked potato was lukewarm and hard. My one scoop of chocolate ice cream was icy. My wife had the lunch portion of walleye, a nice filet about 7 ounces, with mashed potato and very over cooked green beans.
After we finished, we walked to the other entrance (facing the US 30 road) to look at the main dining rooms. The entrance, correctly described in one post as reminiscent of a funeral parlor, was large and stark, and the dining rooms had linen tablecloths and napkins, with a clientele that was average in the older age groups. Despite the fact that the food was not bad, we will not be back, as this is a place with lots of roots in the past, but not enough good things to keep it in the present.