Iconic Ina’s eatery to close at year’s end

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Chicago restaurateur Ina Pinkney is closing her namesake eatery on Dec. 31. | SUN-TIMES PHOTO

Say it ain’t so!

But it is.

Chicagoans will lose an iconic eatery on Dec. 31, as Ina Pinkney today announced that she is closing her namesake restaurant after 33 years in the food business.

“Life is like baking a cake. It’s raw for a long time. It’s perfectly baked for a short time, and it’s overbaked forever,” Pinkney said in a prepared statement. “I feel like we’re closing at the right time, before we’re ‘overbaked’.”

Pinkney’s first foray into the food business was “Dessert Kitchen,” which she opened in 1980, baking for private customers, restaurants and caterers. The first Ina’s opened in 1991 in Lincoln Park; the eatery moved to its current Randolph Street location in 2001. Ina’s menu is known for signature dishes such as the “Heavenly Hots” pancakes, and the “Scrapple” (two eggs and choice of meat cornmeal, corn kernels, black beans and cheddar).

Her love for Chicago went beyond the food industry. She ran as a write-in candidate for mayor of Chicago in 2007 and again for “short-order” senator in 2010. In 2005, she helped organize restaurant owners in support of Chicago’s smoking ban.

Pinkney is set to release her first cookbook/memoir/business advice guide at the end of September. “Feeding generations of Chicagoans has been an honor. You are my family so I’m leaving my recipes to you,” her statement continued.

The book will be available at the restaurant, 1235 W. Randolph, online at breakfastqueen.com and at Women and Children First bookstore, 5233 N. Clark.

Most recently, Pinkney was among the five finalists for hosting duties for the new season of “Check, Please!”

In 2007, the late Sun-Times’ restaurant critic Pat Bruno wrote in a review of Ina’s: “From the time of her first restaurant, circa 1991, on Webster Street, I was mostly locked into breakfast at Ina’s (after all her Web site is www.breakfastqueen.com) for more reasons than I can count on one hand. Reasons like a free parking lot, and a breakfast menu that is one of the most creative in the city. Like freshly squeezed juices. Like excellent coffee. Like friendly service. And like this note on the menu: ‘Please refrain from using your cell phone, as it interferes with the brewing of the coffee.’ Yes, indeed. Along with excellent food, eponymous owner Ina Pinkney has a wicked sense of humor.”

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