As Chicago rang in the new year, the world-famous Cape Cod Room in the Drake Hotel closed its doors for good, though an iconic part of the bar will be preserved at the hotel.
“The evening was full of nostalgia. There was some sadness, too. You wish it could go on. It was a wonderful feeling to be there with the people who loved the Cape Cod,” general manager Theodore Daskalopoulos said after a New Year’s champagne toast with staffers, a few of whom have been there for decades.
Lines formed out into the street in the days leading up to the closing. Reservations were difficult to secure even as Daskalopoulos and his team added tables to accommodate more than 200 guests each night. Georgie Anne Geyer, the syndicated foreign-affairs columnist, was among those who made it to the last seating on New Year’s Eve. She flew in from Washington and dined with her friend, true-crime author Gera-Lind Kolarik.
The restaurant, which opened in 1933 and has been virtually unchanged all those years, was famous for its celebrity clientele, quiet corner tables and Bookbinder soup — a red snapper/vegetable broth named after its Philadelphia creator. The Cape Cod is being gutted as part of a hotel renovation that also will affect 535 guest rooms. A yet-to-be-named retail outlet will take the place of the restaurant that now looks out onto Michigan Avenue and Oak Street Park.
The Cape Cod opened serving fresh seafood, an anomaly in meat-loving Chicago.
The restaurant is where actress Marilyn Monroe and baseball great Joe DiMaggio once carved their initials in the wooden bar. Their marriage didn’t last long but the initials remained. The bar will be preserved at the hotel for guests to continue to enjoy. The Drake is considering auctioning and/or donating other pieces from the restaurant.
Actresses Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor both dined at the Cape Cod. Table 4, just off the bar, was their favorite. And numerous presidents and world dignitaries stopped there too.
Local bigwigs also were regulars. Richard M. Daley, who liked to meet civic leaders there when he was mayor, dined there a few weeks ago for nostalgia’s sake. TV diva Oprah Winfrey was a regular when she lived in the neighborhood.
Michael Jordan favored a booth toward the back. Like so many notable names, he felt comfortable knowing he wouldn’t be inundated by autograph seekers.
Popular tables were 12, 14, 22 and 42. “They’re booths with windows — a lethal combination,” says Daskalopoulos.
The Captain’s Quarters Room — a private dining area hidden from the rest of the restaurant and bar — is where President Ronald Reagan once dined. Singer Aretha Franklin would request the room when she came to town. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his parents and brothers ate there a few years back.
In its final days, the top menu items were Bookbinder soup, dover sole and lobster thermidor.
Among the many notable names who stopped by for a last meal: politico Bill Daley, brother-sister actors John and Joan Cusack, Greek Orthodox leader Metropolitan Iakovos, businessman Neal Zucker and Chicago attorney Newt Minow.
Ringing in 2017 with Trump
Some Chicago faces popped up at President-elect Donald Trump‘s annual New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Rosemary Fanti, a nationally published illustrator, and her husband, Richard Koranda, and philanthropist Sue Carey, were spotted at the event that drew 800 guests.
Before the big bash, Fanti was seen sitting on a couch by a fireplace in the luxurious hotel when Trump walked in and said hello.
“I like your hair,” he was heard telling Fanti. She looked up, smiled and responded, “I like yours.”
There were laughs all around.
Among the celebrities who rang in the new year with Trump: Sylvester Stallone.
The “Rocky” actor’s name has popped up as a possible candidate for a position with the National Endowment for the Arts. Stallone reportedly has said he’d rather focus on veterans issues.
Lemonis’ $3 million challenge
Chicago businessman Marcus Lemonis donated $250,000 to the University of Miami to support its athletics department. And he threw in a challenge.
Lemonis, who grew up in Miami, will match half of every dollar raised, up to $2 million donated to UM athletics. That would result in a $1 million gift from Lemonis for a total of $3 million.
Last year he offered a similar challenge to Marquette University, his alma mater. If donors there could raise $700,000, he’d contribute $300,000. They exceeded the challenge.
Lemonis, who now lives in Chicago, is chairman and CEO of Camping World Holdings and hosts CNBC’s “The Profit.”
Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.